Exposing the Big Game

Forget Hunters' Feeble Rationalizations and Trust Your Gut Feelings: Making Sport of Killing Is Not Healthy Human Behavior

Exposing the Big Game

Who will enforce Roxy’s Law?

by Marc

The New Mexico Legislature (barely) passed the Wildlife Conservation and Public Safety Act, better known as Roxy’s Law, making some forms of trapping on public land a misdemeanor, effective April 1, 2022. That’s no April Fool’s joke: the law will not take effect for a year.

Any law outlawing any form of trapping is a step forward for wildlife, however small. But in a state with a poor history of law enforcement and a game department which promotes hunting and trapping, one might wonder whether this law will provide any real protection for dogs on hiking trails, the main motivation for passing the law, not to mention (as legislators and lobbyists rarely do) wildlife. The answer may be found in an obscure 1912 state law still on the books.

According to Section 17-2-20 NMSA 1978: “Every net, trap, explosive, poisonous or stupefying substance, or device used or intended for use in taking or killing game or fish in violation of this chapter is declared to be a public nuisance and may be abated and summarily destroyed by any person and it shall be the duty of every officer authorized to enforce this chapter to seize and summarily destroy the same and no prosecution or suit shall be maintained for such destruction.”

I am not an attorney, but my reading of this century-old law is that once Roxy’s Law takes effect, anyone has the legal right to seize or destroy a trap (such as a steel-jawed leghold trap) or a poisonous device (such as an M-44) found on public land. Moreover, conservation officers now have a legal duty to seize and destroy traps and poisons found on public land. Or to put it simply, New Mexicans will soon have the legal right to “steal traps.”

New Mexico Trapping Ban Clears First Legislative Hurdle

Legislation to prohibit traps, snares and wildlife poisons from being used on public lands across New Mexico has cleared its first legislative hurdle.

By Associated Press, Wire Service ContentFeb. 2, 2021, at 8:26 p.m.More

U.S. News & World Report

New Mexico Trapping Ban Clears First Legislative HurdleMore


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Legislation to prohibit traps, snares and wildlife poisons from being used on public lands across New Mexico cleared its first legislative hurdle Tuesday.Recommended VideosPowered by AnyClipThis 250-Pound Bear Somehow Got Trapped In A Water Tank2KPlay Videohttps://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.438.0_en.html#goog_1034702787NOW PLAYINGThis 250-Pound Bear Somehow Got Trapped In A Water TankWatch: Cops Save Hawk Trapped In A NetCamera Traps In One Of The World’s Most Remote Areas Capture Dazzling AnimalsThis Gecko Has Been Trapped In Amber For 54 Million YearsHummingbird-Sized Dinosaur Found Trapped In Amber For 99 Million Years

Environmentalists and animal advocacy groups testified on behalf of the measure during a Senate committee meeting Tuesday, saying that New Mexico needs to join neighboring states and ban what they described as a cruel and outdated practice.

Rural residents and wildlife conservation officers said trapping remains an important tool for managing wildlife and protecting livestock. They pointed to changes adopted last year by the state Game Commission after a lengthy public process, saying lawmakers should give the trapping rules a chance to work before imposing a sweeping ban.

Under the rules, trappers have to complete an education course and restrictions were imposed on setting traps and snares around designated trailheads and on select tracts of public lands in New Mexico.

Designed largely to reduce the hazard of traps to hikers and their dogs, the prohibitions include mountainous areas east of Albuquerque, along with swaths of national forest along highways leading to ski areas near Santa Fe and Taos. In the southern part of the state, it includes the eastern portion of the Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks National Monument.

“The concerns that have been expressed over the years by the Legislature and by members of the urban public have actually already been resolved,” said Kerrie Cox Romero with the New Mexico Council of Outfitters and Guides. “This bill provides no recognition of that effort.”

Cox Romero said much of the land that would be affected by the bill is remote and rarely sees human activity other than trappers.

Supporters of the legislation argued that several pet dogs have been injured despite last year’s rule changes and that more needs to be done to ensure public safety given New Mexico’s push to increase outdoor recreation.

Kevin Bixby, executive director of the Southwest Environmental Center in Las Cruces, said he was hiking over the weekend and saw many others doing the same.

“Traps on public lands pose a threat to our members and all public land users,” he told lawmakers. “They’re like land mines basically waiting to harm whatever unfortunate creature happens to step on them — whether it’s a wild animal or pet dog or a horse carrying a rider or god forbid a human being.”

Supporters also raised concerns about traps hampering efforts in southwestern New Mexico to restore the endangered Mexican gray wolf.

Jessica Johnson, chief government affairs officer for Animal Protection Voters, said there was an effort to consider the concerns of ranchers and sportsmen when drafting the legislation and exceptions were included for private and tribal land. The bill also would allow federal and state wildlife managers to use nonlethal traps to deal with problem predators.

Violating provisions of the proposed trapping ban would amount to a misdemeanor.

The measure must be considered by another committee before reaching the full Senate for a vote.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Rural New Mexicans oppose trapping, too

Las Cruces Sun-News


This Feb. 20, 2019, file photo, shows a foothold trap intended for bobcats, set by licensed trapper Tom Fisher, on the outskirts of Tierra Amarilla, N.M.

It’s come to our attention that a few prominent voices from the trapping community feel like they can speak for all rural New Mexicans in their quest to continue their grip on safe public lands. We are rural New Mexicans from across the state and we oppose the use of cruel, dangerous traps on public lands.

We have all chosen to live more rural lifestyles for a variety of reasons. Some of us want to be more connected to the land and nature. Some of us want a quieter, slower routine. Some of us want wide open spaces, including safe access to public lands. Some of us are in the country for our livelihood. Among us are educators, artists, authors, farmers and veterans. We come from all walks of life. Some of us are relatively new to New Mexico, some of us have been here for decades, raised our families here and some of us were born here. All of us revere and respect wildlife. And setting indiscriminate leghold traps to kill native animals for fun or money is just as foreign to us as it is to the nearly 70% of New Mexican voters who oppose trapping across the board.

The idea that we support trapping because we live in rural areas is like saying city-dwellers don’t drive trucks. It is preposterous.

One thing that does set us apart from a lot of urban and suburban residents is that we have the unfortunate fate of encountering traps more frequently. Traps are often closer to home for us, quite literally. They lie in wait for unsuspecting paws on state and federal lands that are sometimes adjacent to our homes. Many of us have had awful experiences encountering traps, from our own dogs being caught to finding brutally injured wildlife. If you look at a map of where people like us have had these experiences, the majority are away from the big cities. Rural residents face greater risk of being harmed and traumatized by a trap because we live closer to public lands. We want safe access to those lands, and traps put that safety at risk.https://1991c441286826fe16e9dfbea563a362.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

And, most traps aren’t even necessarily set by rural New Mexicans. The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish sells more trapping licenses to urban New Mexicans than to those who live in rural areas. The notion that trapping is done by rural people and opposed by urban people is laughable.

Rural New Mexicans are a diverse set of folks. And there are plenty of us who do not trap, don’t want anything to do with trapping, and want traps off of public lands. Just like some city-dwellers support trapping (though probably not many since only 22% of voters approve of traps at all), some rural people do too. But don’t let trappers fool you by claiming to speak for all of us.

Mexican wolf killings expose a dark underbelly of western culture


*Trigger warning: Animal cruelty and wolf abuse discussed below

Photo courtesy the awesome Wolf Conservation Center, nywolf.org

For over a year, my colleague at Western Watersheds Project and I have been paging through gory reports of dead livestock, most of them (questionably) attributed to Mexican wolf predation. I’ve gotten somewhat inured to seeing the bloody corpses of cattle, decapitated calves, and dissection necropsies. It’s unpleasant work, but it’s turned up some very interesting results: Namely, many of the confirmed Mexican wolf depredations are unsubstantiated based on the evidence in the reports, and some are so full-scale bogus as to call into question how, exactly, Wildlife Services is making these decisions.

Still, all the mangled livestock in those color photos didn’t prepare me for looking at photos of dead Mexican wolves. I have recently been poring through law enforcement reports of lobo deaths that were provided to me by the Center for Biological Diversity who obtained them under the Freedom of Information Act and, let me tell you, there are some real sickos out there killing wolves. Like, really sick.

I recently uncovered some evidence that Craig Thiessen, already known as a brutal wolf-hating rancher who whacked a trapped young wolf #1385 (named “Mia Tuk”) with a shovel so hard that it broke loose the lobo’s jaw, actually admitted to beating trapped wolves twice. He apparently confessed that he beat two trapped lobos into submission, and in a later declaration, he claims he let Mia Tuk go free afterwards and “sadly, it was later killed by other wolves.” The “sadly” of that sentence really ices the cake of this guy’s crime, given that he’s the same person who was investigated for leaving out poisoned meatballs near cow carcasses on the public lands that he rents from the American public to graze his cattle.

Other wolves from the same pack went missing the same year, and many of these disappearances look pretty darned suspicious. There’s the skull of Mia Tuk’s mother, AF1279, that was recovered a few months later in the vicinity of Mia Tuk’s body. The lower jaw had been cut with a handsaw, meaning (maybe?) that someone knew something about this wolf’s death and went back to try to… I don’t know… retrieve some wolf teeth? Why does someone take a saw to a wolf skull?

I wish that I could put these reports into a file called “Isolated Incidents,” and close that box. But then there’s female pup fp1389 who was shot with a projectile twice, hit in the head with a hammer-like object, and didn’t die until several days later when she developed a secondary infection. There’s adult female wolf #1212 who was caught in a snare trap by a rancher who knew there were wolves in the area but went ahead and set up traps for “coyotes.” (And yes, I’m just as horrified that coyotes are treated this way, but lobos are a highly endangered species, already at high risk of a second wild extinction, and every loss of an individual wolf puts the recovery of the entire species at risk). Then there are the poisoned meatballs, the high-powered rifles, the people who intentionally ran over a wolf with their truck, all the various ways that people kill wolves simply out of hatred and stupidity.

Somehow, even after years of hearing about “Shoot, Shovel, and Shut Up” from ranchers and trophy hunters, and seeing social media posts that boast about acts of extreme cruelty, the existence of these sick people still shocks me. I’m shocked at the maliciousness, the remorselessness, and the sheer spite it would require to torture or kill these creatures, and it enrages me how so many of them get away with it. My outrage alone doesn’t change anything; 96 wolves were known to have been killed illegally and missing under suspicious circumstances between 1998 and 2018.

So how do we change this? How do we get state law enforcement interested in prosecuting under the Animal Cruelty laws? How do we get federal prosecutors to actually go after these bastards? How do we get rid of the McKittrick policy that allows liars to claim they “thought it was a coyote” despite the brightly colored collars and the knowledge that there are lobos in the area? How do we solve the problem of entitled sickos who think it’s OK to rob wolf packs of family members and ecosystems of essential predators? I sure don’t know, but I know that by burying the crimes deep in the agency files isn’t helping, but maybe bringing some of these horrible stories to light will. Maybe with enough public pressure, we’ll see more interest in pursuing and prosecuting these crimes.

Mexican Wolf Recovery Tool Kit


Mexican Wolf Recovery Tool Kit

It’s a critical time for recovery of endangered Mexican gray wolves, so raise your voice to protect and defend lobos

Speak up for Wolves: Sign the Petition!

The Mexican gray wolf, or lobo, is one of the most endangered carnivores in the world. After lobos were nearly wiped out, reintroduction began in 1998 in remote areas of New Mexico and Arizona. Since then, recovery has been slow and turbulent. In 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) decided that the only wild population of Mexican gray wolves in the U.S. was not essential to the recovery of Mexican gray wolves as a species. Guardians and our allies sued, and in 2018, a U.S. district judge told USFWS to go back to the drawing board to write a new management rule for the lobo. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently seeking comments on that new Mexican wolf management rule. This is our chance to make sure the agency gets recovery right, so please sign the petition!

Tweet for Lobos! 

We’ve assembled nine ready-to-go tweets, complete with inspiring images and a link to the petition. All you have to do is “grab-n-go” to help raise awareness and make a big difference in the defense of the lobos! P.S. These work great on Facebook, too!

Tweet #1

#Wolves keep the Gila wild! Celebrate the 96th anniversary of the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico by urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Gila’s most iconic resident—the critically endangered Mexican #wolf: https://guardiansaction.org/mexicanwolves #KeepItWild #StopExtinction

Tweet #2

Lobos are essential! Mexican gray #wolves are critical ecosystem influencers in the desert Southwest. They keep prey populations healthy and in balance, protect riparian and aquatic resources, and indicate the health of entire ecosystems. Take action: https://guardiansaction.org/mexicanwolves

Tweet #3

Humans are the largest obstacle to recovering Mexican #wolves. Along with illegal trapping, poaching and vehicular mortalities, politically motivated ‘recovery’ plans have put lobos in a precarious position. Take action to help get #wolf recovery right: https://guardiansaction.org/mexicanwolves

Tweet #4

Real recovery for Mexican #wolves would include three distinct, but connected populations. Along with lobos‘ current range in the Greater Gila Bioregion, the Grand Canyon area and the Southern Rockies are identified as prime habitat. Help make it happen: https://guardiansaction.org/mexicanwolves

Tweet #5

Mexican #wolves in the wild are, on average, as related as brothers and sisters. Though lobos numbers are slowly increasing, the greatest indicator of a successful #wolf recovery effort is the genetic health of the wild population. Support real recovery: https://guardiansaction.org/mexicanwolves

Tweet #6

Recovery of wild Mexican gray #wolves is at a critical juncture as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a draft #wolf management rule for the Southwest. Help defend lobos! Submit your comment: https://guardiansaction.org/mexicanwolves Register for our webinar: https://guardiansaction.org/wolf-webinar

Tweet #7

To truly recover Mexican gray #wolves a new management rule should be based on the best available science and prioritize enhancing the genetic diversity of the wild lobo population. Raise your voice to make sure Mexican #wolf recovery is done right: https://guardiansaction.org/mexicanwolves

Tweet #8

Did you know that the Mexican gray wolf, or lobo, is the most endangered gray #wolf in North America and one of the most endangered carnivores in the world? Tell the @USFWS we need a new management rule that will actually recover Mexican #wolves: https://guardiansaction.org/mexicanwolves

Tweet #9

Almost a century after Aldo Leopold shot a Mexican #wolf in the Gila, only 163 of these wolves exist in the wild. The fierce green fire he saw in the wolf’s eyes still flickers in the #wolves who roam the Greater Gila today. Help support full recovery: https://guardiansaction.org/mexicanwolves

Amplify YOUR Voice for Wolves: Write a Letter to the Editor

Letters to the editor (LTE) are a great way to share your perspective and encourage others to speak up for lobos. It’s easy, fast, and effective—all you have to do is write your short perspective on why wolves deserve more protections and why the southwest needs more wolves. Be sure to mention that U.S. Fish and Wildlife is taking public comments on wolf management right now and comments can be submitted here: https://guardiansaction.org/mexicanwolf

You can submit your letter to your local outlet, or if you are not from the region, submit it to a statewide outlet. Here are direct links to submission forms, note that different papers have different word count limits.

New Mexico


LTE Talking Points: Here are key elements of a new lobo management rule that will help truly recover and restore Mexican wolves to their historic range. Please use these talking points as a guideline for drafting your individual LTE, but what’s most important is that your voice and your reason for wanting lobo recovery come through. So, please speak in your own words, but make sure to emphasis the fact that a new Mexican wolf management rule must achieve the following:

Release more wolves into the wild

  • Releasing adult wolf pairs with pups is the only way to help diversify the genetics of wild wolves.

Limit the removal of wild wolves

  • Wolf removal, whether for crossing arbitrary political boundaries or being accused of livestock depredation when ranchers are reckless, is unacceptable.

Protect lobos from poaching

  • Lobos’ greatest threat is human-caused mortality. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs to do better to protect wolves from illegal killings.

Reduce wolf-livestock conflict

  • Wolves are native carnivores highly adapted to the desert southwest. They should not bear the burden of livestock-wildlife conflict when non-native cows are grazing on public lands without protection.

Wolves need to be designated as “essential” to the recovery of the species in the wild

The Impacts of Climate Change and the Trump Administration’s Anti-Environmental Agenda in New Mexico

Rising temperatures associated with global warming have worsened drought conditions and intensified water shortages for the Navajo Nation in Thoreau, New Mexico, June 2019.

Getty/Spencer PlattRising temperatures associated with global warming have worsened drought conditions and intensified water shortages for the Navajo Nation in Thoreau, New Mexico, June 2019.

Just in the past three years, the Trump administration has attempted to roll back at least 95 environmental rules and regulations to the detriment of the environment and Americans’ public health. Moreover, the administration refuses to act to mitigate the effects of climate change—instead loosening requirements for polluters emitting the greenhouse gases that fuel the climate crisis. This dangerous agenda is affecting the lives of Americans across all 50 states.

Between 2017 and 2019, New Mexico experienced one drought and two severe storms.  The damages of each event led to losses of at least $1 billion.

Impacts of climate change

Extreme weather


Impacts of the Trump administration’s anti-environmental policies


  • In March 2020, the Trump administration announced its final rule to overturn Obama-era fuel efficiency standards for cars. These weakened fuel standards will lead to higher greenhouse gas and particulate matter emissions and will cost New Mexico residents $215 million
  • The Permian Basin—the largest oil- and gas-producing area in the United States, stretching across parts of New Mexico and Texas—was found to be emitting methane at three times the national rate. Methane is responsible for one-quarter of greenhouse gas-driven global warming. In August 2019, the Trump administration proposed rolling back methane limits at oil and gas operations like those in the Permian Basin.
  • The Trump administration is attempting to gut climate considerations from major infrastructure projects by eliminating the “cumulative impact” requirement of the National Environmental Policy Act. This is concerning because New Mexico’s economy relies heavily on its agriculture, tourism, and outdoor recreation industries—all of which are highly dependent on climate and weather conditions.
    • Agriculture: Agriculture and food processing accounted for more than $10 billion of New Mexico’s gross state product and supported more than 50,000 jobs in 2012.
    • Tourism: In 2018, tourism in New Mexico generated nearly $10 billion in economic impact and supported more than 94,000 jobs.
    • Outdoor recreation: The outdoor recreation industry in New Mexico generates 99,000 direct jobs and nearly $10 billion in consumer spending.

Air quality

  • Mercury emissions in New Mexico decreased by nearly 84 percent from 2011 to 2017, yet the Trump administration just undermined limits on the amount of mercury and other toxic emissions that are allowed from power plants.

Arizona bans hunting contests for killing wildlife predators

Posted: 6:14 AM, Sep 05, 2019


Updated: 6:14 AM, Sep 05, 2019

PHOENIX (AP) – Arizona has banned organized contests where hunters try to kill the most coyotes or other wildlife predators for prizes such as cash or hunting equipment.

The Governor’s Regulatory Review Council voted 6-0 Wednesday to approve a rule initiated by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission.

The measure will take effect in 60 days.

The commission voted unanimously in June to ban contests that require registration and a fee and award prizes for killing the most coyotes or other fur-bearing animals or predators.

The Arizona ban doesn’t apply to lawful hunting of predators or other fur-bearing animals.

Wildlife-killing contests have drawn the ire of activists in recent years.

New Mexico banned the contests in April and several other states reportedly are considering similar rules or legislation.

Forest service revokes grazing permit, fines man who killed a wolf with a shovel

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

By KSL.com Staff, KSL.com | Posted – Jul 11th, 2019 @ 12:16pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The southwest regional forester with the U.S. Department of Agriculture has decided to revoke a grazing permit from Craig Theissen in the Canyon del Buey area near Datil, New Mexico, in addition to fines charged by federal courts.

Thiessen originally pleaded guilty to the killing of a young Mexican wolf through intentionally trapping and bludgeoning it with a shovel in 2015 on public lands, according to Thiessen’s court documents, in which he pleaded guilty. In explanation, Thiessen said that he had caught the wolf in a leg hold trap on his grazing allotment and killed it because he was worried that if he didn’t hit it with the shovel it would kill him as soon as he released it.

“I knew the animal I caught in the leg hold trap was a Mexican gray wolf because it wore a tracking collar affixed to all Mexican gray wolves in the area,” Thiessen explained in the court documents. Further, he acknowledged that Mexican gray wolves are a threatened species.

The U.S. Forest Service has said that failing to comply with federal laws protecting wildlife, especially with those protected by the Endangered Species Act, gives the Southwest regional forester the authorization to revoke a person’s grazing permits, according to the press release. The case was submitted for review by Calvin N. Joyner, the regional forester.

Joyner gave his official decision on the appeal on July 2nd, deciding to revoke Theissen’s grazing permit. He added that this is a situation where the cancellation is appropriate, as Thiessen “admitted to taking an illegal action and violating federal law. He pleaded guilty and he was convicted by a federal court. His conviction is a violation of the grazing permit.”

Joyner added in his official decision that the Endangered Species Act states that criminal conviction under that statute should result in the immediate cancellation of a grazing permit.

“When ranchers violate federal law or break the terms of their grazing permits, the forest service is absolutely right to revoke their permission to graze on public land,” Erik Molvar, executive director of Western Watersheds Project, said in the press release. “Mr. Thiessen’s actions violated one of our bedrock environmental laws, shocked and horrified members of the public who want to see wolves recovered, and dealt a blow to New Mexico’s wild [wolf] population.”

Theissen’s livestock will need to be removed from the Canyon del Buey area by the end of August.

New Mexico Is Divided Over The ‘Perfect Site’ To Store Nation’s Nuclear Waste

A 1,000-acre patch of southeast New Mexico desert may offer a temporary solution to the nation’s longstanding nuclear waste problem.

Nathan Rott/NPR

Thirty-five miles out of Carlsbad, in the pancake-flat desert of southeast New Mexico, there’s a patch of scrub-covered dirt that may offer a fix — albeit temporarily — to one of the nation’s most vexing and expensive environmental problems: What to do with our nuclear waste?

Despite more than 50 years of searching and billions of dollars spent, the federal government still hasn’t been able to identify a permanent repository for nuclear material. No state seems to want it.

So instead, dozens of states are stuck with it. More than 80,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel, a still-radioactive byproduct of nuclear power generation, is spread across the country at power plants and sites in 35 states.

The issue has dogged politicians for decades. Energy Secretary Rick Perry recently described the situation as a “logjam.” But some hope that this remote, rural corner of New Mexico may present a breakthrough.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is considering a proposal by Holtec International, a private U.S.-based company, to build a massive consolidated interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel on that patch of desert. It could eventually hold up to 100,000 metric tons of the material, storing it until a permanent repository is found.

An artist’s rendering of the proposed interim nuclear storage facility in southeast New Mexico.

Courtesy of Holtec International

The bid has support from a group of local officials, drawn by the promise of tax revenues, high-paying jobs and a stable source of income.

The same appears to be true in Washington, D.C., where lawmakers are anxious to find a solution and have indicated an openness to change laws, making it easier for private companies to manage nuclear fuel.

But familiar challenges persist.

A broad coalition of local and national groups opposes the plan, as does the state’s new governor. They’re worried about transporting the nuclear waste and the environmental impacts of storing it.

“Why should we be the ones to take this negative project on and put up with the consequences?” says Rose Gardner, a florist who lives 35 miles from the proposed site. “We didn’t get any of the nuclear generated electricity. We’re not even involved.”

Rose Gardner, a vocal opponent of Holtec’s proposal, doesn’t see why her small, rural corner of New Mexico should take on the nation’s nuclear waste.

Nathan Rott/NPR

An expensive and expansive problem

The question of what to do with spent nuclear fuel has plagued the U.S. since before the nation’s first commercial nuclear power plant was even running.

In 1982 Congress got involved, passing the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, which called for the development of repositories for the nation’s high-level nuclear waste and spent nuclear fuel.

Five years later, it narrowed those efforts, focusing on a single area 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas: Yucca Mountain.

The federal government has spent billions of dollars assessing the viability of a deep underground storage facility there. For decades, Yucca looked like the destination for nuclear waste.

A map of current storage sites for high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel in the U.S.

Department of Energy

But efforts to move that project forward were stifled by local opposition. Stuck at an impasse, and under pressure from then-Senate Majority Leader and Nevadan Harry Reid, the Obama administration scrapped funding for the site in 2009.

The Trump administration has called for funding to revive the Yucca Mountain project, but local resistance remains and Nevada lawmakers have dug in their heels.

In the meantime, spent nuclear fuel continues to build up at scores of power plants around the country, at facilities that weren’t designed to store it.

The problem with this is two-fold.

For one, it’s expensive. The Nuclear Waste Policy Act said that the Department of Energy would find a permanent home for utilities’ nuclear waste by 1998. It didn’t. So now, the Department of Energy pays utility companies more than $2 million a day to store that nuclear waste on-site. That’s taxpayer money.

The other problem is public safety.

More than 1 in 3 Americans lives within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant, according to Columbia University. Many of those plants are now storing spent nuclear fuel on coastlines or near rivers, areas that are more prone to flooding and natural disasters.

The shuttered San Onofre power plant is one of California’s two nuclear power plants located near active earthquake faults. Spent nuclear fuel is being stored there currently.

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

“There’s no question, from a safety perspective, from a risk perspective, from an economic perspective, consolidated interim storage makes a lot of sense,” says John Heaton, a former New Mexico state legislator who’s part of a group trying to bring the facility to the state. “We’re in a seismically stable, dry place. It’s more or less a perfect site.”

A “consent-based” approach

In 2010, fresh off its decision to end funding for Yucca Mountain, the Obama administration commissioned a blue ribbon panel to look at America’s nuclear waste problem.

One of its top recommendations was to authorize and establish consolidated interim storage facilities. But to avoid another-Yucca like impasse, it also recommended using a new “consent-based approach” when finding a location.

“We believe this type of approach can provide the flexibility and sustain the public trust and confidence needed to see controversial facilities through to completion,” the report said.

But figuring out how to define that consent, and then getting it from various communities, industries and interests, will be difficult.

Ranchers and dairy producers in New Mexico worryabout what impact the Holtec facility would have on their industry, real or perceived. There’s a fear that consumers wouldn’t want to buy beef or milk from a place that’s also home to the nation’s biggest collection of nuclear material.

There are also concerns from some in the region’s biggest industry: oil and gas. The proposed site is in the Permian Basin, one of the busiest oil fields in the world.

Drilling rigs and pump-jacks dot the desert of the Permian Basin, where Holtec is proposing to build the interim nuclear storage facility.

Nathan Rott/NPR

“I understand we have to solve this problem,” says Tommy Taylor, director of oil and gas development at Fasken Oil and Ranch, a Texas-based company with wells near the proposed site. “[But] don’t put this in an oil field. That’s a bad idea. Certainly not the biggest oil field the United States has.”

Taylor feels the same way about another proposed interim storage facility in the Permian Basin, near the Texas-New Mexico border. That proposal, by Texas-based Waste Control and Storage Services, is also being considered by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“My specialty is drilling wells,” Taylor says. “We use the best technology we have, the best materials we can get, and the best tools. And even though you’re trying to do the best you can — still, things happen.”

The companies behind both proposals insist that the projects would be safe. Advocates for the Holtec proposal say that the amount of radiation coming off of one of the storage containers the company plans to use is about the same as a microwave.

“This isn’t some Homer Simpson green sludge that’s going to leak out and who know’s what’s going to happen, people with three-eyes and that sort of thing,” says Jason Shirley, a Carlsbad City Council member, who was skeptical himself before seeing a video of a Holtec storage container surviving a mock missile strike. “When I’m able to explain this and educate people, they support it.”

A “missile test” of Holtec’s storage canisters.

Nuclear Energy Institute via YouTube

“It won’t go.”

Thirty-five miles from the patch of desert Holtec wants to turn into an interim storage facility, and about 5 miles from a Texas company’s proposed site, is the boom-or-bust town of Eunice, N.M.

Pump-jacks bob among the houses, and the streets are jammed with traffic from the surrounding oil fields.

Down a quiet side street, Rose Gardner, an opponent of both proposals, is taking three grandchildren for a walk.

“We know it’s supposed to be consent-based,” she says. “They’re not getting consent. The actual people aren’t for it. And without community support, it won’t go.”

“I’ve got three little babies here and nobody’s speaking up for them,” says Rose Gardner, who’s worried about what the proposed facility would mean for her grandchildren’s future.

Nathan Rott/NPR

There is a history here, though, of nuclear projects that she’s well aware of.

Twenty years ago, nearby, the U.S. government built the country’s only deep-underground storage facility for radioactive material, the Waste Isolation Pilot Project. It’s designed to store lower-level nuclear waste from research laboratories and weapons facilities around the country.

A similar debate played out before the construction of that facility. Supporters touted the jobs and income it would bring. Opponents worried about safety. And there havebeen issues.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is mindful of those and is unequivocal in her feelings about Holtec’s proposal.

“There’s nobody that’s been able to demonstrate to me that there isn’t risk here,” she says. “There is risk. We need to be clear about that. I don’t think it’s the right decision for the state.”

Back at the proposed site for Holtec’s interim storage facility, a sign lies on its side, uprooted from the ground and punctured with bullet holes.

Asked if it should be seen as an indication of the plan’s local support, former state legislator John Heaton laughs.

“You know how it is in the Wild West,” he says. “People with guns can’t resist putting holes in any sign anywhere.”

A sign at the proposed interim nuclear storage site lies on its side and is riddled with bullet holes.

Nathan Rott/NPR

Indiscriminate Traps Harm Endangered Mexican Wolves

on February 15, 2019 – 9:47am

WEG News:

SANTA FE — As a bill to ban recreational and commercial trapping works its way through the New Mexico legislature, indiscriminate trapping is proving an enormous impediment for endangered Mexican gray wolves’ already uphill battle toward recovery.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reports that, since Nov. 2018, five lobos have fallen victim to traps in New Mexico. One of the wolves, female 1565 died in veterinary care. Another, male 1669 lost a leg. Male 1556 was treated and released but was later observed limping. Two other wolves were captured and released without injury.
New Mexico House Bill 366, called “Roxy’s Law” in honor of a dog who died in a trap on public lands in November, would prohibit traps across public lands in New Mexico with exemptions for human health and safety, ecosystem management, and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish depredation trapping. In an 8-4 vote the bill passed the House Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources Committee Saturday.
“Trapping take a tremendous toll on New Mexico—companion animals, native furbearers, and our most imperiled species pay the price for these indiscriminate killing devices,” said Chris Smith, southern Rockies wildlife advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “Public lands and our desert ecosystems cannot bear this burden any longer and it’s time for our elected officials to take action.”
“We are grateful for the state legislature’s thoughtful consideration of House Bill 366 to strike a better balance among diverse interests on New Mexico’s public lands—toward improved public safety, animal welfare, and ecosystem health—that would protect endangered species from dangerous, indiscriminate traps,” said Jessica Johnson, chief legislative officer for Animal Protection Voters.
“Trapping serves no viable wildlife management purpose and is ethically indefensible,” said Camilla Fox, executive director of Project Coyote. “Body-gripping traps, which are inherently indiscriminate, pose a danger not only to pets, but also to threatened and endangered species including Mexican wolves.”
“Banning leghold traps on public lands will save the lives of all types of animals, including endangered Mexican wolves,” said Michael Robinson, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Traps are inhumane, sometimes fatal, and the smelly bait intended to attract coyotes is just as likely to draw curious wolves.”
“This is yet another chilling example of the grave threats lobos face, on top of an already dire genetic crisis,” said Kelly Nokes, shared Earth wildlife attorney at Western Environmental Law Center. “Mexican wolves are among our nation’s most critically imperiled species and they need proper protection if they are ever to recover as the law demands. Already threatened by an illegal management rule we’re challenging in court that banishes them from necessary habitat and caps their population at a number too low for recovery, lobos should not be further exposed to the lethal grip of indiscriminate traps strewn across New Mexico’s public lands –– the Mexican wolf population is simply too fragile as it is.”
The annual official count of wild Mexican wolves is ongoing currently. As of last February, there were 114 lobos in the wilds of New Mexico and Arizona. The past year has seen a large number of Mexican wolf mortalities. During the 2017-2018 trapping season, at least four lobos were caught in traps. Two subsequently died.
Domestic dogs are also caught in traps on public lands. Along with Roxy, Ranger died from trap wounds this year. Kekoa lost a leg to a trap in December.
Trapping on public lands is legal in New Mexico. No bag limits exist for furbearer species. The law does not require trap locations to be marked, signed, or for any warnings to be present. No gross receipts tax is levied on fur and pelts sold by trappers. No penalties exist for trappers who unintentionally trap non-target species including endangered species, protected species, domestic animals, pets, humans, or livestock.
No database or official record is kept by any public entity and no requirement exists that trappers report when they have captured a dog in their traps. The pattern these incidents follow are usually similar; dogs screaming and frantically biting at the person desperately trying to rescue them. Veterinary and even human medical treatment along with associated expenses can result, as can long-lasting psychological trauma. Neither New Mexico Game and Fish nor trappers are liable for the damages that are caused by traps.
The true toll that trapping takes on native wildlife is difficult to know. Reporting requirements exist for some species, but not for often-trapped so-called “unprotected furbearers” like coyotes and skunks. The accuracy of reporting is unverifiable, and numbers do not adequately articulate the suffering and carnage that traps wreak on bobcats, foxes, critically imperiled Mexican gray wolves, coyotes, and other animals.
The almost singular excuse for the above-mentioned incidents is that trapping is necessary to control carnivore populations, but scientific studies do not support this assertion. In fact, scientific studies show that trapping and lethally removing carnivore species, like coyotes, often exacerbate conflicts such as those with livestock (see Using Coyotes to Protect Livestock. Wait. What?, Randy Comeleo, Oregon Small Farm News, Vol. XIII No. 2, p. 2, (Spring 2018)).
The existence of trapping by a minuscule subset of the population using New Mexico’s public lands is in direct conflict with one of the state’s most valuable economic strengths: outdoor recreation. Highlighted by the recent New Mexico Outdoor Economics Conference in Las Cruces, the outdoor recreation economy in New Mexico is a current and future boon—diversifying and stabilizing the state’s economy while creating 99,000 direct jobs in the process. Outdoor recreation includes hiking, camping, wildlife viewing, photography, hunting, horseback riding, angling, trail running, and bicycling. This economy is not bolstered by piles of dead animals discarded by public roadways or by the thousands of wild animals taken from New Mexico’s diverse public landscapes for personal profit.
The lobo, or Mexican wolf, is the smallest, most genetically distinct, and one of the rarest subspecies of gray wolf. The species was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1976, but recovery efforts have largely foundered because the Service has yet to implement scientifically recommended recovery actions.
Although lobos once widely roamed across the southwestern United States and Mexico, the Mexican wolf was purposefully eradicated from the U.S. on behalf of American livestock, hunting, and trapping interests. Recognizing the Mexican gray wolf’s extreme imperilment, the Service listed it on the federal endangered species list in 1976, but recovery efforts have largely foundered because the Service has yet to take the actions science shows is necessary to restore the species.
In 1998, after the few remaining wolves were put into captivity in an attempt to save the species, the Service released 11 Mexican wolves to a small area on the border of Arizona and New Mexico now known as the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area. The program has limped along ever since, with illegal killings and sanctioned removals subverting recovery.
Mexican wolves are at tremendous risk due to their small population size, limited gene pool, threats from trapping, Wildlife Services’ activities, and illegal killings.