Revised December, 2010
COALITION OF ARIZONA/NEW MEXICO COUNTIES
WHO WE ARE AND ACTIONS TAKEN TO FULFILL OUR MISSION
The Coalition of Counties, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, is made up of four Counties in Arizona: Cochise, Gila, Graham and Greenlee; and ten Counties in New Mexico: Catron, Chaves, Eddy, Harding, Hidalgo, Lincoln, McKinley, Sierra, and Rio Arriba, and, along with representation from the timber, livestock, mining, small business, farming, sportsman, trapping and outfitter industries, our representation currently exceeds 425,167 in population.
The Directors currently on the Coalition’s Board are:
Endangered Species Act Activities
In 2010 & 2011 The Coalition has entered comments on the listing and critical habitats for the Sonoran Destert Tortise, Spikedace and Loach Minnows, Jaguar, Dunes Lizard, and Lepard Frog. These comments will be used in the future to gain standing in court to challenge any listing or declaration of critical habitat for failure to properly address the biological science or social, cultural and economic impacts.
We are awaitng the issuance of the economic impact analysis and NEPA documents on these species and will be working with other individuals and organizations to insure that the Fish & Wildlife Service properly discloses the impacts.
In January of 2005, we successfully concluded our litigation against the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service over the Designation of Critical Habitat for the Spikedace and Loach Minnow. This resulted in the withdrawal of the designation. This year, we again submitted comments on the redesignation and accompanying environmental assessment and economic impact analysis. In anticipation of another faulty designation, we are preparing to file yet another suit to compel the Service to do the proper analyses.
The same month, we intervened in a lawsuit designed to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to declare critical habitat for the Jaguar. We were able to have the court recognize local governments as legitimate participants in these types of decisions. The Coalition, its members and affiliate organizations mounted an effort to gather the most recent scientific information on the Jaguar and its habitat requirements. The recent outcome was the finding by the Service that designation of critical habitat for the Jaguar was unwarranted. We are now awaiting legal action again, as proponents of the designation have indicated they intend to file suit.
We would like to thank Judy Keeler for all of her hard work on this issue, representing the Coalition, as well as the member counties, Soil and Water Conservation Districts in New Mexico, and Natural Resource Conservation Districts in Arizona, by participating on the Jaguar Conservation Team.
In 2005, the Federal Court again rejected our arguments against the wolf reintroduction. The Court dismissed the suit on the basis of failure to show harm to the livestock industry and counties, and to demonstrate ESA violations due to hybridization with domestic and feral dogs. Unfortunately, the reality of these impacts have manifested themselves 10-fold since the decision. The Coalition and local ranchers and industry partners have been actively working with the Service to develop mitigation for wolf impacts on livestock operators, outfitters and guides, and hunters.
Member counties have actively participated on the Wolf Management Team in the two states with our respective State Game and Fish Departments. In addition, the Coalition has submitted comments for the update of the Wolf Management Program and the Five Year Review. The Coalition now has representation on the wolf recovery planning team and wolf commpensation fund working group.
Following the removal of critical habitat for the Mexican Spotted Owl, due to litigation brought by the New Mexico Cattle Growers and the Coalition, critical habitat was again designated. Environmental groups challenged that, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made another designation. The Coalition submitted additional comments challenging the sufficiency of the environmental and economic impact analyses. The Coalition Board of Directors, at our August 18, 2006 meeting, decided to join in a suit being brought by the Arizona Cattle Growers, challenging the recent redesignation of critical habitat for the owl.
The Coalition has had representation on the Mexican Spotted Owl Upper Gila Recovery Unit Team since 1995.
The Coalition worked to secure the first ever Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for county governments to be active participants in the preparation of the Mexican wolf environmental impact statement for a species recovery plan.
Legislation & Regulation
Since the Coalition's origin more than 21 years ago, we have pursued meaningful reform of the Endangered Species Act through legislation and regulatory reform. 2005 marked the first year we got passage of legislation out of the House of Representatives. House members representing Coalition member counties from both states, not only supported the legislation, but got substantive amendments adopted that were proposed and supported by the Coalition. The Coalition received special recognition and thanks from the House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo for our efforts in support of the Endangered Species Recovery Act.
The Coalition worked with the Under Secretary of Interior for Fish and Wildlife to reform the process of designation of critical habitat. With the change of personnel both at the Secretary level and Under Secretary, we will have to renew those efforts. However, case law precedent in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, established by the Coalition and litigation partners, has set a strong foundation and reasoning for the changes and we feel that the change will eventually come. These changes will create efficiency for the Fish and Wildlife Service and help them to better recognize the impacts being imposed on state, Tribal and local governments.
The Coalition participated in the proposed cap and trade of greenhouse gas regulation hearings in New Mexico. We submitted testimony and cross examined the witnesses of proponants.
National Environmental Policy Act Activities
For many years, but especially the last year and half, the Coalition has been actively engaged in increasing the recognition of state, Tribal and local governments in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. We have conducted five training presentations to counties, and assisted and advised many member counties on NEPA site-specific, and land planning documents.
The Coalition presented testimony to the House Resources Committee NEPA Task Force. Most of those recommendations were incorporated into the recently released recommendations from the task force. We again received special recognition and commendation from the NEPA Task Force Committee staff and the Chief Council of CEQ for our input.
We are in regular communication with the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), and have been successful in getting CEQ guidance written, to insure a place at the table for state, Tribal and local governments in the planning process, as joint lead or cooperating agencies in the NEPA process.
State and Federal Lobbying
The Coalition has contributed to drafting legislation in both Arizona and New Mexico on reform of the eminent domain laws. Due to the more restrictive and costly lobbying registration in Arizona, most of the state level work is done through Arizona board members. In New Mexico, the Coalition maintains an almost full time presence at the 30-day and 60-day sessions of the Legislature.
For eight years the Coalition was represented on New Mexico Governor Richardson's Blue Ribbon Water Task Force, that meets monthly to formulate water policy recommendations to the Governor.
The Coalition sends representation to Washington, D.C., at least annually, to meet with other grassroots leadership and meet and lobby members of Congress and federal agencies.
The Coalition maintains membership in West Won, a group of timber interest representatives from the western states. The West Won group was a primary advisor in developing the Healthy Forest Restoration Act campaign that we were successful in getting passed and signed by the president. The group also was active in the development of the campaign to get House passage of the previously mentioned Endangered Species Recovery Act. We are actively working on restoring the timber industry infrastructure in both Arizona and New Mexico.
The Coalition worked with Western Counties Alliance on drafting and getting R.S. 2477 legislation drafted, to enact into Federal law the 10th Circuit Court's 2005 decision. For 2011 we are working to have this legislation again introduced.
The Coalition has participated in the development of Forest and Watershed plans and policies in both states.
Assisting Counties and Members
During our 21 years, the Coalition has given countless major training sessions on land use planning, the NEPA, ESA, Forest and BLM land use planning. In addition, the Coalition provides regular assistance to member counties, when requested, for ordinance drafting, land planning, federal and state agency actions, and lobbying efforts.