Not only has the federal government’s Forest Service fenced off 23 acres of grazing land, blocking cattle access to water, but the Department of Justice has also barred the area’s congressional representative from attending a mediation meeting scheduled for today.
The jumping mouse in this area of New Mexico is not even officially listed for endangered protection but in anticipation of a June designation that includes 193 miles of “critical habitat” across three states, the forest service has installed fences. The county commissioners and sheriff responded with an order to remove the barriers and the feds convened a May 15 mediation meeting.
One would expect that first on the invite list for a meeting to resolve a dispute between the executive branch and state-based officials would be the area’s elected congressional representative. But no. Not according to the U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez who represents the Department of Justice in New Mexico. Rep. Pearce’s chief of staff is responding to inquiries on this matter saying that “[t]he U.S. District Attorney and U.S. Forest Service have refused his request” to attend the conflict resolution meeting. Rep. Pearce also says he “is disappointed the Department of Justice decided that no elected federal officials who represent the citizens of Otero County should participate in efforts to resolve the conflict between the U.S. Forest Service and cattle ranchers.”
“This is part of a larger issue,” the county’s attorney, Blair Dunn, explained. “There’s a big, strong push, which comes from the White House, to push grazing and oil and gas uses off federal ground. This incident here is just another example.”