The Lizard of Oz: Texas beats enviornmentalists

From - Commentary by Marita Noon - On September 30, District of Columbia District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras ruled against the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Defenders of Wildlife. The groups brought litigation in the hopes of requiring the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to reverse its 2012 decision not to list the lizard as endangered.
      The 2012 decision was the first time that community engagement beat back a proposed ESA listing—a stinging defeat to a movement that has historically used lawsuits as an effective weapon.
      In August 2013, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs was granted intervenor status in the case. In October, several regional and national oil and gas associations joined Combs.
      The DSL story represents a new chapter in ESA compliance that allows conservation and productive activity to coexist. Previously, presence of an ESA-listed species would shut down activity with harsh consequences for landowners and communities.
      The spotted owl stands as the posterbird for bad ESA policy. More than 20 years ago, the spotted owl was listed under the ESA. As a result, much of the logging industry in the Pacific Northwest is gone—leaving thousands unemployed and hundreds of communities decimated. Fifty percent of the nation’s forestry jobs lost from 1990 to 2009 were in just two states: Oregon and Washington. Yet, the listing did not stop the decline of the spotted owl. And, as a result of the listing, forest management in the West changed—leaving thousands of acres overgrown and unhealthy, resulting in the devastating wildfires we see today.
      Texas decided to do it differently. Aware that the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard was an ESA target, conservation efforts started in 2008. Private land in the Permian Basin of West Texas and Southeastern New Mexico—an area that produces 15 percent of U.S. oil and 5 percent of natural gas, as well as a prime ranching and farming region—makes up about half of the DSL habitat. The locals were very worried that if the lizard were listed, the regulations would seriously impact their operations and impose substantial costs. Read full column

Lawsuit filed against NM hotel chain

A federal agency is accusing a hotel chain of breaking the law by subjecting minority employees in New Mexico, Texas and South Carolina to a hostile work environment and firing those who complained.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced Friday that it had filed suit against four Whitten Inn hotels and is seeking back pay, lost benefits and damages for workers.
Federal officials say employees endured racial slurs and derogatory comments.
Businessman Larry Whiten created a firestorm in 2009 when workers at his Taos hotel say they were forbidden to speak Spanish and told to change their Spanish first names.
A receptionist at the Taos inn said Sunday that Whitten was no longer the owner.
Information from The AP. 


Immigration center drawing criticism

Trailers have been set up for a school at a federal immigration detention center in an isolated New Mexico desert town. A basketball court and a soccer field have been installed. And detainees are pleading their cases over a video link with judges in Denver.
Officials say that the facility could remain open until next summer to house women and children from Central America who were among a wave of immigrants who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally this year.
The detainees at the Artesia Family Residential Center are growing increasingly frustrated that they are being held with no end in sight while earlier border-crossers were released with orders to contact immigration officials later.
The center opened as federal officials realized that the border-crossers had disappeared into the nation's interior.
Information from The AP. 


Martinez and King to spar in Spanish language debate

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and Democratic challenger Gary King are set to spar off in a Spanish-language debate aimed at the state's Hispanic voters. The pair is scheduled today to meet in a KLUZ-TV Univision-sponsored forum in their second debate. A spokesman for Martinez say the governor will answer her questions in Spanish. King will participate through an interpreter. Political observers say the debate in unique since only one of the candidates in fluent in Spanish. According to the U.S. Census, around 47 percent of the state's population in Latino — the largest percentage of any state. Absentee voting begins Tuesday by mail and at county clerks' offices. Early in-person voting expands to more locations on Oct. 18.
Information from the AP.