America’s Worst Congressman is back at his favorite pastime, turning chicken salad into chicken s—t.
Stevan Edward Pearce (R-N.M.), the multimillionaire who voted against feeding starving children, health care for the poor and improved education for members of minority communities, really gets off on giving away public lands to rich corporations. His latest such ploy is called the “Luna and Hildalgo Counties Wilderness Study Area Release Act of 2015.” It would wipe out the last vestiges of protection of landscape and wildlife habitat for nine Wilderness Study Areas on public land in New Mexico. This would enable developers to bulldoze and build, extraction industry rapists to drill and frack and new industrial sites to pollute and plunder.
The Wilderness Study Area designation calls for wild lands to be managed for their wilderness characteristics, a period of evaluation designed ultimately to lead to greater and immutable protection under the Wilderness Act of 1964. This process has already led to full protection of such remarkable New Mexico sites as the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument, the Prehistoric Trackways National Monument and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.
Pearce fought tooth and nail against the Organ Mountains and Prehistoric Trackways protections in his district. Thanks especially to New Mexico’s two U.S. Senators, Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, President Obama paid heed to ten years of citizen input and environmental study by designating them national monuments.
America’s Worst Congressman isn’t about to let his profiteering friends in the extraction industries be shut out again. Hence the stealthy “Release Act,” designed to cut the public out of the decision-making process so that his rich pals can quietly suck their obscene profits out of our land, yours and mine. One thing about Pearce, he’s consistent. If it will fatten the profits of a one-percenter, he’s for it. If it will enhance the quality of life of the commoners, he’s agin’ it.
One of the WSA’s he wants to give over to his rich pals is in the Florida Mountains outside of Deming. Almost 20 years ago, my wife and I were wandering around in those mountains looking for a trail up to a prominent feature called the Needle’s Eye. A bear of a man in motorcyclist’s gear appeared in the rocks above us. “If you’re lookin’ for a trail,” he called out, “there ain’t none.”
This was Big John, long-haul trucker for six months every year, citizen of the wild for the other six. Steve Pearce had better hope that he never runs into Big John in the wilderness areas he wants to degrade. Big John could skish the Congressperson with one hand. And Big John knows the areas targeted in Pearce’s legislation like the back of that hand.
Big John, whose conversational style is as rough-hewn as his appearance, became a poet as he described to us the beauty of the wild lands in the part of New Mexico he had adopted as home. Big Hatchet Mountain, the Floridas, the Peloncillo Mountains, Gila Lower Box, Alamo Hueco Mountains, Blue Creek, the Cedar Mountains, Cook’s Range and Guadalupe Canyon — these and other places, including a large array of magnificently preserved petroglyphs, he knew well. The hand-drawn maps he sketched for us on paper napkins were remarkably accurate in their detail. They led us to places that convinced us we wanted to become New Mexicans when we retired from our jobs Back East. Which we did.
We never saw Big John again. I’d like to think that he’s still around, for at least six months every year, soaking up the richness and wonder of life in the last of the wild places. I’d like to think that he’d fight like hell, and prevail, against the perverse legislation Stevan Edward Pearce wants to sneak past us into the law books.
We need more Big Johns in these parts. And fewer Steve Pearces in Congress.