Thursday, February 4, 2010

Protecting lands protects our way of life-Santa Fe New Mexican

Letter to the Editor by John Olivas
Posted: Saturday, January 30, 2010 - 1/31/10

As a guide, outfitter, sportsman, recreationalist, land grant heir, and norteño, I depend on the nearby wild and undeveloped public lands for the welfare of my business and my family's well-being here in Northern New Mexico. Having public land available to hunt, fish and hike on is the foundation of my livelihood. That's one reason I feel strongly about the need to protect Whites Peak from the land swap that is taking place just north of Ocaté in Mora County.

State Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons has been working with ranchers in the area on a Whites Peak land exchange. Whites Peak is a mixed bag of private and state trust lands just north of Ocaté. Sportsmen are once again angered by the actions that our state land commissioner is proposing. The trade involves transferring thousands of acres of mountainous public trust land to a few large private ranches in exchange for thousands of acres of lower-elevation parcels, mostly grasslands.

Through my outfitting business, I was able to move my family back home to rural Northern New Mexico, where my business has flourished. Because of the clean industry of outfitting, I am able to make a good living, and there is no better place than Northern New Mexico for keeping my family and raising my children. That is why we as a community and as sportsmen must protect the resources we have available to us.

More than nine in 10 people in this state hunt on public lands, and New Mexico's hunters spend more than $150 million annually pursuing this sport. Our anglers contribute another $176 million to the state's bank account, and together with hunters support some 8,000 jobs. They help keep small businesses like mine thriving as well as bringing in the dollars that help the local restaurants, motels and grocery stores. These revenues are crucial to the well being of the small business owners in rural communities throughout New Mexico.

For more information about the Whites Peak land swap, visit

John Olivas owns and operates JACO Outfitters, LLC ( in Holman, N.M., and is the northern director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance.