Editor's Note: This is the concluding article about the Nov. 28 meeting of the Southwest County Commission Alliance.
After presentations, the next item on the agenda was a letter of request to be sent to the Gila National Forest to request information on the restoration of the Catwalk.
"The closure of the Catwalk has created immeasurable hardship to the town of Glenwood," Darr Shannon, alliance secretary, said.
She read the proposed letter, which asked when the Forest Service plans to reconstruct the 1.1 miles taken down to prevent catastrophic flooding of Glenwood, following the destructive Whitewater-Baldy Fire this past summer.
Russell Ward, Silver City District ranger, said: "As far as I know, the infrastructure taken out is still out."
Alex Thal, area resident, said, as of last Wednesday, the sign in Glenwood still said the Catwalk was closed.
According to Catron County Commissioner Hugh B. McKeen, on the morning of the meeting when he was traveling to Silver City, the sign said the Catwalk was open. "I know the campground and picnic area are open, and part of the trail is open. The Catwalk is extremely important to the economic health of Glenwood.
The alliance members approved sending the letter seeking information.
The next agenda item addressed sending a letter to the Interstate Stream Commission, regarding the importance of keeping water in southwest New Mexico. Shannon read the short letter.
Walter "Ski" Szymanski, area resident asked that Ramos what was menat by "keeping the water in New Mexico." Ramos replied that the letter needed to be revisited and Szymanski said he could support that.
Mary Alice Murphy of the Beat asked that the Arizona Water Settlements Act be mentioned in the letter
A man, whose name was unintelligible to this reporter, said he wanted to point out that southwest New Mexico included Doña Ana County, and he did not think that was the intent of the alliance.
Approval of the letter died from a tie vote. The letter will be revised.
A resolution to support the National Sheriff's Association Resolution opposing expansion of the U.S. Forest Service law enforcement, was read by Randy Hernandez, Grant County executive assistant to the manager. The resolution petitions federal agencies to comply with federal requirements to address possible health, safety and welfare impacts from federal proposed actions.
Alex Thal, area resident, gave some background to the proposed resolution. The alliance was formed to provide planning and management discussion among federal agencies, state agencies and local governments.
"Very little attention is given to humans in environmental impact statements," Thal said. "Little attention is given to municipalities, counties, Native American tribes and other entities by federal actions. We also want to engage the state Legislature and the governor to get federal agencies to comply with their own rules."
Marta Green, area resident, asked if the county commission had approved the resolution.
"This item is for discussion today," Chairman Gabriel Ramos said. "I will present it to the commission at our next meeting. This is an alliance representing county commissions."
"How can you represent the residents?" Green continued. "What problem is this seeking to resolve?"
McKeen said: "Little by little, the federal government has taken away the powers of county commissions. The federal government comes in and buys private land, which takes it off the tax rolls."
Thal mentioned several examples of federal government activities out of compliance with its own regulations.
"The proposal to increase the environmental impact statement to expand the Gila River critical habitat designation from Redrock to the Lower Box had no economic analysis of the economic or social impacts to residents," Thal said. "The Forest Service Travel Management Plan personnel didn't sit with local governments to discuss the impacts on the residents of the area. It is missing consistency of review and analysis. In the Fish and Wildlife's own National Environmental Policy Act analysis, there is nothing about the human environment."
Lois Fuller of Glenwood asked if the resolution could be read anywhere. Hernandez said he would make copies available at 25 cents a page.
During county requests and comments, Ramos answered several allegations. "I heard a claim that we need more public input. We always have it on our agenda.
"A rancher can get a permit to use roads that may be closed, but I can't?" Ramos asked. "That is ridiculous. I hear from constituents all the time. There is an outrage out there."
McKeen said: "Regarding the Organ Mountains and more wilderness and that there will still be ranching: that is untrue. When the federal government wanted to put in the national forests, they had to get approval from the ranchers. The federal government told them they would still have grazing. It was a lie. Don't give me that there will still be ranching and grazing. It's a lie."
Richard McGuire, Catron County commissioner, said working with the BLM, "we had a road going into Canyon Seboyeta. We had a spring that was private property. The Forest Service traded Gov. King for land, which blocked off our road to the spring as well as our escape from fire. The government did work in there and now there is no more wildlife where there used to be ducks and other waterfowl. They get you by saying: 'You can always go through.'"
Shannon said that on the water issue, it was a shame people didn't understand where "we were going on the issue. I wish we could have understanding. It's OK for your group to get mad, but not for us to get mad."
In other comments, McGuire said Catron County had lost its manager, Sarah Merklein, who died last Friday morning. "She will be sorely missed. It will take a while to get someone as efficient as she was."
Ramos said he had talked to Sen. Howie Morales about using the Hidalgo County jail as a juvenile detention center. "It will be expensive."
"This county commission alliance is beneficial for us to come together on many issues. It is an honor and pleasure to work with you," Ramos said to the other commissioners.
Sierra County had requested the next meeting, but as the date falls the day after Christmas, the alliance decided not to have a December meeting. The next meeting will take place in Santa Fe in January during the legislative session, with the February meeting, taking place in Sierra County.
Shannon thanked McKeen for his many years of service to Catron County, upon his retirement from the commission. "You are of the greatest generation. You have great integrity and use common sense."
"As commissioners, we serve on lots of boards," McKeen explained. "The commission appoints you and you make decisions on their behalf."
Shannon concurred, saying each commission has approved the members of the alliance and is fully aware of the decisions made at the meetings.
Hernandez said he would publicize in the Silver City Daily Press the date and place of the January meeting.