As standoffs between citizens and federal agents continue to spread across the American West, representatives in one rural New Mexico county decided to take a decisive step in advancing local governance.
After the U.S. Forest Service fenced off a portion of land in Otero County, commissioners voted unanimously to authorize the sheriff to open the gate, allowing cattle access to a watering hole on the other side.
“We are reacting to the infringement of the U.S. Forest Service on the water rights of our land-allotment owners,” Commissioner Tommie Herrell explained, noting that locals have allowed their livestock to graze on the 23-acre plot for nearly 60 years.
A spokesperson for the federal agency explained the fence was erected a number of years ago to protect an endangered species of mouse. The reasoning hearkens to the recent stalemate between the Bundy family in Nevada and the Bureau of Land Management, which restricted ranch access to protect a local tortoise habitat.
While the USFS’s Mark Chavez explained that a new fence was put up in accordance with the affected rancher and allowed access to other water sources, Herrell disagreed. He explained the rancher complained to him about the situation.
The local legislator also explained that he is unfamiliar with the rodent ostensibly being protected behind the fence.
“I’ve never seen one of these mice,” he said, “and the Forest Service claims they caught one last year.”
The authority granted to Sheriff Benny House is a first step in defying the federal action. According to Herrell, local authorities will meet with the state’s U.S. Attorney this week; and from there, the state House would consider additional action.
Regardless of the outcome, this is yet another clear message being sent to Washington, D.C. by local officials tired of the constant encroachment of federal bureaucracy.
As Western Journalism recently reported, many protesters left the Bundy Ranch demonstration last week to join a similar rally in Utah. Like the New Mexico initiative, that event was also spearheaded by a county commissioner.
Photo Credit: Famartin (Creative Commons)
This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom