Sticky Fingers in New Mexico

The Lyin King

Public Lands Advocate
Sticky Fingers in New Mexico
The budget crunch is being felt in cities and states throughout the country. Legislators, governors and mayors are looking for any "free" cash they can get their hands on in order to fund new and existing programs. Strange things happen during difficult economic times and we only need to look to New Mexico for an interesting, but disturbing development.

OHV riders in New Mexico were sounding the alarm a few days ago when they discovered that the New Mexico State Legislature was getting ready to dip into the New Mexico OHV sticker fund to the tune of $500,000. Rather than use the money to provide public education on safe OHV practices and trail construction and maintenance, as it was originally intended, legislative language in House Bill 2 would direct the funds to an "eco-tourism initiative" by the State Tourism Department. Apparently, Governor Richardson wants to use the eco-tourism initiative as a way to promote "a nature-based form of specialty travel that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of the local community." I'm not sure what that means, but that is the legislative language and one has to assume that the Governor has a clue.

Governor Richardson, as you will recall, was nominated by President Obama to be the Secretary of the U. S. Department of Commerce. Richardson later had to withdraw his nomination because he is under investigation by federal authorities for possible violations of political fundraising laws. As far as we can tell, the investigation is ongoing and Richardson still has not been given the signal that he no longer has to worry about pending legal issues. Perhaps the federal investigators should expand their investigation to include "eco-tourism" and the potential misuse of the OHV sticker fund.

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