Who (Hoo) Counts?
New Mexico relies on its natural resources. Oil and gas power our state government. Mining is a major industry in New Mexico. Our forests and our lumber mills provide the building materials for our homes, home furnishings and fuel for heating those homes...Unless there’s a spotted owl.
For almost a month New Mexicans were at the mercy of an Arizona Judge, Ninth District Judge Raner C. Collins. Judge Collins shut down New Mexico National Forests because two federal agencies, Fish and WildLife Services and the Forest Services, failed to count the number of spotted owls in those forests. All five national forests in New Mexico were shut down.
Winter firewood, logging and lumber were all affected, leaving 400 industry employees without work. During that same time period, with livelihoods on the line, nothing was said by New Mexico’s public officials.
Judge Collins has rescinded most of his restrictions except in areas of spotted owl habitat and activity, but a number of questions remain:
Where were our state officials in defense of New Mexicans and families?
Why were all New Mexico forests shut down and only one in Arizona, none in Colorado or Utah?
Why was the initial order not nuanced, as the rescinding of the order was?
Why is a third of New Mexico at the mercy of one out-of-state federal judge without state intervention?
Lastly, who is being held accountable for the debacle?
We are left to wonder if the spotted owl catastrophe ended because Washington requested a Christmas tree from New Mexico, or started because a bird species outweighs any of New Mexico’s concerns. The question remains, Who (hoo) counts?