[Editor's Note: This is part 2 of a multi-part series of articles on the County Commission work session on Feb. 13, 2018.]
The second presentation at the Grant County Commission work session on Feb. 13, 2018 was given by former District Attorney Mary Lynne Newell asking for the County Commission to join her and the Great Old Broads for the Wilderness in approving a resolution opposing President Trump's Executive Order 13767 on the proposed construction of a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and declaring the resolution an emergency.
She said the Great Old Broads for Wilderness is a national women-led organization of activists to protect wilderness and wildlife.
"I'm co-leader of the Silver City Broad Band," Newell said. "We help to repair stream damage and I went and worked last summer in Redland, California, on projects. We protect and repair habitat for diversity of wildlife. The border wall is of great concern to us. It would be destructive to wildlife connections. The New Mexico congressional delegation, including Steve Pearce, is opposed to a wall."
She provided maps to the commissioners, which showed the Western Wildway through Mexico to Canada. "The wildlife corridors depend on a diversity of habitat for wildlife to survive and thrive. It is also important to the land to prevent it from destruction. Walking through many areas of our desert habitat destroys them. What happens on the border that impacts Grant County? There will be construction that will make a permanent scar. Arroyos and ephemeral water ways are important to wildlife."
"The idea of putting something between New Mexico and Mexico for one purpose will have a permanent and long-lasting impact," Newell alleged. "The process is already underway in other states. San Diego has filed suit against a wall."
She held up a recent Sunset magazine that talked about a border wall.
"The important voices of opposition need to be heard before the process starts," Newell said. "It can't be undone. The desert area doesn't have the restoration capabilities to recover quickly."
She said the resolution she provided comes from other entities. "People may be opposed for different reasons. A reason might be financial. If the wall costs $25 billion, it means that money is cut to other services, including those to New Mexico citizens. The idea to spent money on a wall is destructive."
"Pearce has said that people can go over, under and around walls," Newell said. "He thinks border security can be done in other ways."
"What about cultural antiquities that will be impacted?" she asked. "We ask that you approve the resolution opposing a border wall. I think other things should be considered for border security. Protect the Western Wildway and the Sky Islands for our own recreation and for hunting. We have a stake in this decision."
Commissioner Harry Browne said the emergency clause in the resolution looks like something that is put into state legislation.
County Attorney Abigail Burgess said resolutions are statements. "They don't actually do anything. I think you don't need an emergency clause."
Browne said the $25 billion, in his understanding, would just cover the about 300 miles of extensions to existing walls.
Newell said it costs $12.5 million a mile. "A New York Times article shows where the wall already exists. The other billions on top of that are for personnel and security. For the same amount, Homeland Security could have staff working 24 hours a day. Pearce suggests personnel and drones."
"I believe the costs are much higher," Browne said. "l'm not sure Congress and I would agree, but I think the options are great."
Commission Vice Chair Alicia Edwards was managing the meeting in the absence of Chairman Billy Billings. "Are the Old Broads working with Luna and Hidalgo County?" she asked.
"If Grant County passes the resolution, we will reach out to them," Newell said. "The ranchers have great concern. I first lived in Hidalgo County when we moved to the area. At that time, the ranchers would put little houses and food out for those moving through. That was in the 1990s and early 2000s. But so many are coming across on foot now that it's damaging the grazing for their cattle. I don't know if attitudes have changed. As pressures increase, it impacts everyone."
Edwards said she doesn't see the urgency of the proposal and suggested it be tabled until March for the commissioners to do research and get a commissioner sponsor for the resolution.
The next article will cover a commissioners' discussion on the proposed Holloman Air Force Base training flyovers.