Government should return forest lands to Hispanics: Op-ed

Here’s the link to an op-ed in the ABQ Journal.

Here is an excerpt:

The recent decision by the U.S. Forest Service to ban motorized vehicles on 100,000 acres in the Carson National Forest (mostly in Taos County) is going to hurt tens of thousands of Hispanic families in northern New Mexico who rely on cutting their firewood each winter in these same lands to keep their families warm during the cold winters.
This Forest Service ban will effectively put all this land off-limits to the Hispanic families and communities of northern New Mexico starting immediately and will make it very difficult – if not impossible – for Hispanic families to cut their firewood for next winter and all future winters, unless this decision is reversed soon.

In addition to firewood cutting, this ban will effectively make it impossible for Hispanic families in northern New Mexico to use these lands for our traditional cultural uses as we have for 400 years.
These traditional Hispano cultural uses include grazing our small cattle herds in these lands, hunting, fishing, and piñon and herb gathering, among other traditional uses.

It seems the Forest Service is now allowing the anti-Hispanic environmentalists to ban the Hispanic families from using these lands controlled by the Forest Service. The anti-Hispanic agenda of the environmentalists and their movement is well-known in northern New Mexico, where Hispanic families, individuals and communities – along with our Hispano culture – have been under attack by this anti-Hispanic movement for many years now.

These anti-Hispanic environmentalists have been running a campaign of lies for many years, falsely claiming their movement is so diverse and so helpful to the Hispanic communities. The reality is the environmentalists have a selfish, elitist and anti-Hispanic agenda whose goal seems to be the destruction of the Hispanic communities and culture in northern New Mexico

I’m assuming that the road closure is for environmental protection or to save money. If that were the case, I think it’s really hard to argue that something happening all over the country is anti-Hispanic. People of all races, and from the Native Americans to this decades’ immigrants use public lands. Note to readers: I disagree with Mr. Martinez that environmental groups are specifically anti-Hispanic. Closing roads may well have different impacts to different ethnic groups and social classes, though. Hopefully that’s addressed in the environmental justice part of the social analysis in the environmental documentation.

What is different for Native Americans, is that they have treaty rights are in a “government to government” relationship, so it’s fundamentally a legal difference compared to run-of-the-mill forest neighbors.

Considering that more than 90 percent of the lands claimed by the Carson and Santa Fe National Forests were stolen from the Hispanic land grant communities by corrupt and racist U.S. government officials, this latest ban is further proof that our government should return the land grant lands to the Hispanic land grant communities in northern New Mexico, who remain the legal owners of these lands.

Our Hispano families, communities and culture in northern New Mexico have a right to exist and a right to survive, just as the Native Americans and other group enjoys that right. Our Hispano communities’ right to exist and survive includes the return of our land grant lands.

If Mr. Martinez’s claim about the origin of the national forests in New Mexico is accurate, then Hispano families also have a unique property right to that land.

However, I hope that all “National forest neighbor” communities have some “a right to exist and a right to survive,” and their traditional uses should be respected.

9 Comments

  1. I would question whether motorized travel is a very longstanding ‘traditional cultural use’ by anyone. How long does it have to occur to be considered something that should receive special emphasis in a public planning process?

    • Jon, ATV’s or pickups are a substitute for horses, which weren’t on this continent that long, either, unless you believe the delusions of the equine activists.
      And don’t you traditionally travel in a motorized manner yourself?

      • I do, of course, though not as traditionally on FS roads. I think the question is how broad and how long does a tradition need to be before it is something more persuasive than my individual opinions and preferences at an open house.

        The 2012 planning rule actually takes a stab at this question (a different topic from the travel planning that was the subject of this post, but related). It requires coordination with ‘federally recognized Indian Tribes’ and Alaska Native Corporations (which are legal distinctions more than racial ones). It also requires the responsible official to ‘encourage’ participation by minority populations. During the planning process the Forest Service must request from Tribes and Alaska Natives (and could obtain from others) information about ‘native knowledge, land ethics, cultural issues, and sacred and culturally significant sites.’ ‘Native knowledge is ‘accumulated over successive generations,’ and though ‘cultural’ is not defined, I would assume the same intent. It’s hard to think of motorized use in this context. (Travel planning would not normally prohibit horses.)

  2. Someday I want it explained to me why Hispanics are not considered “native Americans.” Our President is African American, albeit with a European ancestry white mother, but a true blue African father. What part of “Hispanic” in the indigenous population of New Mexico is European Spanish and what part is Native American? For centuries, the Spaniards in the New World sent their pregnant wives to Spain so the baby would be born in Spain, and not be “creole”, born in the New World. The names are Hispanic but where do they fall in the dna? It just appears to me, on the surface, that a preponderance of “Mexicans”, “Hispanics”, or pre Statehood New Mexico residents, are by dna mostly Native American.

    Far back in my family tree, there was an Irish Connelly who was a US citizen who moved to Mexico to trade for ten years, took Mexican citizenship, married in Mexico, and then moved back to Columbus, N.M. and once again was an American citizen. His Mexican wives both died, and the children were sent back “East” to be educated in the U.S., sort of like Richardson the former Governor. There has always been the question in my mind of who is Mexican, Hispanic, Native American, or just plain American in the discussion. From my life in a town that is half Hispanic, by official census figures, “Indio” is a derisive term for someone who has the physical features of Native Americans, and not those of some Spanish grandee, the “Indio” term freely subscribed to by “Mexican Americans” who are pretty sensitive to matters of discrimination. And of course, the lightness your skin, and green or blue eyes, is evidence of superior family background in “Mexican Americans.” Hispanic racism is as entrenched as any, as is my experience. From all this, I have to believe the USFS is just applying the insanity of their management schemes fairly and will continue to discriminate against, harm if you might, any who are not in the field as part of some scientific inquiry or documentation of aesthetics. Government for government, with dominion over all that it might claim, in the interests of “the public good.” Cod save us from their zeal. OK, then, Flounder save us.

    This issue is recognition of “the customs and culture of the local population”, which the USFS is artfully dodging due to the incessant litigations of their minders in the NGOs who move freely between congressional committee jobs, the Administration agency jobs, and the NGOs, their ideology and political mantras never changing. Promotions and job security are determined by those nomads of the environmental creed, and USFS personnel from the Chief’s Office on down, pay close attention to politics and less to the laws and administrative rules. Or why else would they be constantly in court? The strands of political kelp wave to and fro as the winds and tides of politics change, and only storms dislodge them.

    The USFS, et al, do their damnedest not to create storms. This will not be a storm, much to the dislike of the Hispanic lobby. Better they work with the USFS to create a firewood program based on a fuels reducing formula, with access opening and closing as fuel reduction is achieved, and firewood availability is moved around to serve silviculture and fuel removal goals.

  3. We have to admit that the Hispanic community of New Mexico and Southern Colorado have long history of Spanish land grants that I believe have never been settled. They have lived there a long time and I imagine would like to continue living there. Decisions made by federal land managers do have immediate effects upon the well being of the local people.
    I can understand the frustration in this article. Its not much different in Southern Oregon or possible anywhere that has large areas of federal land.
    Often when a study is made that effects on the local people is statistically small compared to the “larger good” and that it is, it seems, easy to ignore.
    These programs of road closure and banning motorized vehicles is currently very popular and is happening on all our federal lands.
    It is sad to see all these gates on FS and BLM roads restricting access. (of course they have keys, so they can ride, even if they think you should walk, that is unless they have sent taxpayer money on destroying the roads.)
    And under what “science” are these road closures implemented? I can tell you animals don’t care if there is a road there or not, or if someone drives down it. Seems like there are all these assumptions controlling our public lands as if they are irrefutable facts. (who ever decided that you can’t log a hour after sunrise because it might effect the marbled murrlet? The bird could actually care less what you are doing as long as you aren’t shooting it.)
    But the bigger problem is that these actions are really perceived in the rural communities as more curtailment by the elite to limit their ability to survive and prosper.(and enjoy the forests)
    That is why there is such a interests in returning the land to the Native Americans, Hispanics, States, anybody and anyway to gain some local control.

  4. So what does this closure actually mean? Any actual “road” will still be open, as will many 4X4 tracks which will be signed, what this likely restricts is “off road” travel. I am sympathetic to both sides in this, and would not be against a seasonal window allowing for off road fuel gathering-up to a point but I do not like 4 wheelies tearing up the place all year long.

    I know that some or many of the plague of logging tracks will likely be closed and how such recent features can be considered traditional use, I do not understand.

    And yes, by any objective analysis, many SW Hispanics could be considered native americans due to the amount of native blood in many of them versus some very white person with but 1/18 native blood.

    And also note that some Jewish people fled the Spanish inquisition to settle in NM where some maintain elements of Jewish culture to this day, often without understanding the origins.

  5. In my office, we used to say that if you had been in the RO for two years, you lost your “street cred” as a forest person. So this comment is in the spirit of having been retired physically (I used a bunch of leave before the official date) for about a year and a half.

    I think what this decision is (although it would have been helpful for Mr. Martinez to be more specific) is off road travel. So Greg’s idea seems like a possibility. However, my understanding is that the national travel management rule did not leave any openings for this kind of thing. Maybe some of our readers know more about this than I do.

    Now, you could probably look at the social and environmental justice aspects of the travel management rule and see if you thought they were sufficient. If not, not sure you could litigate (too many years? only environmental issues can be litigated?).

    Perhaps the most direct way to resolve the issue would be a surgical legislative effort based on the land rights claims.

    Jon, to my mind “traditional uses” are the uses, not the technology. Some technologies are more environmentally destructive than others and may need to be regulated more on public lands. Seems to me that that could be done without the blanket approach in the rule (which I think is generally good, but nothing national is perfect for each area).

    Finally, my recent foray into the groves of academe has led me to the conclusion that there is much fuzzy thinking around ethnicity. That’s why I think it’s important to be clear.. are some people today special because of land rights claims, or solely due to the ethnicity (?), or due to being local inhabitants who have a longstanding history with the land.

    Or is it the idea that all governments, Tribal, local, state and federal should be working together collaboratively, as in the “all lands” policies of this Administration?

  6. This appears to be about travel management planning, which is as much about roads as off-road use. It is probably this decision from September: http://a123.g.akamai.net/7/123/11558/abc123/forestservic.download.akamai.com/11558/www/nepa/50578_FSPLT3_1460326.pdf

    A little background on the process from the decision notice:
    “On November 9, 2005, the Forest Service published a final Travel Management Rule1 (TMR; also referred to as “rule” or “regulations”) for use of motor vehicles on NFS lands (70 FR 68264- 68291)…
    “The regulations require designated roads, trails, and areas to be identified on a motor vehicle use map (MVUM), which will be available free of charge to the public. Once designated roads, trails, and areas have been identified on the MVUM, motor vehicle use off designated roads and trails and outside designated areas will be prohibited. Roads, trails, and areas provided on the MVUM can be reviewed and designations revised as needed (36 CFR 212.54).”

    Among the existing uses:
    “Many locals use roads for non-commercial activities, such as gathering firewood, digging up seedlings and saplings, and collecting plants or other forest products. Local members of federally recognized tribes use roads to access traditional areas of cultural or spiritual significance, while landowners use roads on the Camino Real RD to access private property.”

    The key parts of this decision:
     Eliminate cross-country motorized travel on 100,672 acres of the Camino Real RD where it is currently permitted.
     Restrict motor vehicle use to administrative use only on approximately 32 miles of existing designated road in the La Jara, Valle Escondido, Bear Wallow Ridge, La Presa, Maestas Ridge, Hondo Canyon, a portion of the historic Camino Real near Ojo Sarco, Entrañas, and upper Alamitos areas.

  7. I am always overwhelmed by the amount of study, comments, evaluations, consultation, that goes into any FS decision. Amazing they get anything done. Bottom line is, more gates on some of the roads and more restricted access for the public. Why have we decided that we need to limited motorize access? So we don’t disturbed the elk? Are they currently being disturbed? This is based on what science? Was it necessary? I don’t know, but it is definitely a trend across our public lands. Nobody, or hardly anyone, like to see the ground torn up, but I think this trend of closing our roads is counter to the purpose of use of pubic lands. We have had hundreds of miles of pubic roads that are now gated and decommissioned here in Western Oregon. I personally like to have access to our pubic lands and if there is a road there I like to be able to use it.

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