Monday, September 19, 2011



Note: Mostly for us SW locals, somewhat familiar with the area. It
has been a weak point for a very long time. Like the locals, can't
figure out this one, the BLM site makes a lot more sense. . Unless
TNC gets a lot of rent money? Also 19 miles not very forward,
especially given the terrain. There is a maze of dirt roads all
through the valley, and of course, the hills, Peloncillos, along the
AZ-NM line are a smugglers paradise. Have personally encountered our
friends from the south several miles in on occasion. One more thing,
the "wilderness study areas" are a major problem also. Klump very
correct about the storms in the area, been in a few of them. The
area to the east through the Hatchets is a problem also.

New Mexico Bootheel residents want Border Patrol base to move
By Diana M. Alba \ Las Cruces sun-News
Posted: 09/19/2011 12:00:00 AM MDT

ANIMAS, N.M. -- A caravan of vehicles wound its way along the
ranchland dirt roads of Southern New Mexico's Bootheel region,
stirring up clouds of dust amid desert grasslands and otherwise clear
turquoise sky.
The dirt routes aren't usually as well-traveled. But on this recent
day, a convoy of curious and concerned Borderland residents -- a few
of whom traveled two or three hours to arrive -- were on a mission to
see firsthand the source of an ongoing border controversy.

The debate revolves around where exactly to build a new U.S. Border
Patrol substation of sorts -- called a forward operating base --
Êsomewhere in the Animas Valley. The project, which gained serious
momentum after the 2010 murder of a southeastern Arizona rancher,
is aimed at curbing illegal immigration, including drug and human
traffickers, that was pushed to the remote area, as border security
has tightened in adjacent sections.

The two sites at the heart of the commotion are just 13 miles apart,
as the crow flies.
But to a vocal group of ranchers and other Hidalgo County residents,
there's a world of difference.
The tour -- spearheaded by a few ranchers who live closest to the
proposed locations -- headed first to the spot that's favored by the
U.S. Border Patrol.

South from Animas on County Road 001, with the low horizon of the
Peloncillo Mountains to the right and the towering Animas Peak to the
left, the pavement ended. But the 20 vehicles continued on, past
yuccas and desert scrub, through a few verdant washes, finally
turning west at a lonely sign marking the entrance to the Klump Ranch
and onto Horse Camp Drive, a dirt track that wound west into a broad,
dry wash.

The caravan of vehicles eventually stopped at parcel just west of
land that's part of Levi Klump's ranch, and people filed out. Just
past a barbed-wire fence, small plastic surveying flags mark the 10
acres identified as the "preferred alternative" in a draft
environmental review released in July. The site is located on land
owned by the Diamond "A" Ranch, a major landholder in southern
Hidalgo County. The Border Patrol would lease land from the ranch, if
the site is selected.

Klump pointed out a concern he's cited previously: that the preferred
site is in a draw, which is fed by two other arroyos. He said each
can carry significant amounts of water during a storm. And though
he's never seen both flow at the same time, it's a possibility, he said.
Border residents are quick to point out the locale is not as visible
as the second location under consideration, located seven miles from
the border off Battalion Road, another dirt path.
"There are specific items material to the placement of the FOB that
have not been adequately considered," he said.

Border Patrol officials have said the base is needed because now,
agents must drive about two hours, one-way, from the nearest Border
Patrol headquarters in Lordsburg to reach the border, which cuts into
their daily patrol time.

The base, regardless of which site is selected, will hold a heliport,
horse corrals and modular buildings capable of housing up to 16
federal agents, who'll stay for short-term spans, according to the
environmental review.

Back on the tour, participants filed back into their vehicles for a
trip farther south to Cloverdale, a border community from the history
books that's now marked by a single dilapidated schoolhouse. The path
of a Mexican highway, which parallels the border, and its cut through
a mountain range were visible in the distance to the southeast. A few
miles north was the second proposed site, located on federal land at
the base of a small peak. It overlooked a broad plain, which ranchers
said makes it ideal as an outlook spot. It's also visible to
traffickers and would act as a deterrent, they said.

Despite other differences between the two locations, the biggest is
the proximity of the Battalion Road site to the international
boundary, said Meria Gault, a rancher who lives in the area.
"The most important thing to us is to be close to the border," she
said. "Because there's no way that people from the other side will
not see them."

Border Patrol spokesman Demetrio Guerra said last week that the
agency will issue a decision on the placement of the forward
operating base once two agency officials sign off on a document,
called a "finding of no significant impact," that's part of the
environmental review.
"The public's comments are currently being reviewed and compiled to
formulate a decision," he said in an email. "Once the final
(environmental assessment) has been signed, it reflects that Customs
and Border Protection has made a final decision on the preferred site."
Continued Guerra: "As a result, the public will receive responses to
their comments at the same time that CBP issues its decision in the
final (environmental assessment)."

Klump said the Border Patrol to date doesn't seem to have given
residents' concerns much weight. But he noted that a public comment
period on the environmental document just wrapped up.
"We're very hopeful those comments will be considered," he said.

Residents said they've been told by the Border Patrol that a final
decision on the placement will be made at the El Paso Sector level.
The sector covers two west Texas counties and all of New Mexico's

The Border Patrol refused to release statistics about immigrant
apprehensions and drug seizures to date this year in New Mexico. The
trend in the sector has been declining numbers from year to year,
which officials have said is due to more manpower and better technology.

However, federal officials acknowledged a year ago that the southwest
corner of New Mexico was the weakest point in the state's border
security. And the forward operating base, along with another in
Antelope Wells, was meant to address that.

Hidalgo County Commissioner Ed Kerr, who attended the tour, said he
doesn't like the Border Patrol's preferred location. "It's an
obvious, no-brainer for me that the site should be on Battalion Road,
for access, for safety to citizens, for a long-term, projected
outlook," he said. "The other, Horse Camp Road site is a hidden cove
in a flood-prone area. It's almost like we're trying to hide from the

Diana M. Alba may be reached at; 575-541-5443.

Group travels to visit proposed sites for a forward operating base
Sunday, Sep 11, 2011

About 50 people participated in a trip into the far southwestern area
of the New Mexico boot heel. The destinations were two sites under
consideration for a U.S. Border Patrol forward operating base.

According to Wikipedia, a forward operating base, while generally a
military term, "improves reaction time and increases time on task to
forces operating from it."

The Border Patrol has chosen two sites, one of which is the preferred
side, and the second one, the alternate site.

The first stop on the tour was to the area called Horsecamp next to
the preferred site, which is adjacent to the Klump Ranch.

Judy Keeler, ranch owner in the area, who was one of the organizers
of the group, introduced Levi Klump, owner of the ranch where the
participants were standing.

"The proposed FOB is not on my private land, but is just east of my
property," Klump said, as he pointed to the barbed-wire fence
separating the properties.

He also pointed out, in the surrounding mountains, Horsecamp Draw and
Rouse Canyon, which funnel water and drain into the flat area where
the group gathered.

"During a big rain, you could be standing in a foot of water," Klump

The dirt tank nearby can overflow and the water pours into the area.
He said the environmental assessment document said that if endangered
species, such as the Chiricahua leopard frog, were to wash out of the
dirt tank, construction on the FOB would cease, while the frogs were
returned to the tank.

"If you go look at it right now, I can assure you there are no
Chiricahua leopard frogs in it," Klump said. "It's dry."

He said flooding can also go over the roadbed, and some spots along
the road can get very slippery. "I drive it regularly, and I've slid
into the bar ditch." He said, however, that the road could be made
into an all-weather road.

Keeler said the property where the preferred site for the FOB is
planned, is on the Gray Ranch, now called the Diamond A Ranch, owned
by The Nature Conservancy. The site is 19.8 miles from the border and
not within sight distance of the border with Mexico.

Meira Gault, another tour organizer and nearby ranch owner, said the
Border Patrol wants 10 acres for 24-hour shifts for 16 people to stay
at a time, although more personnel can be brought in, if needed.

"The Border Patrol will have horses and horse patrols, as well as a
helipad at the FOB," Gault said.

Keeler also asked drivers to notice the draws back along the road.
"When there is a hard rain, the draws will hinder access to the
border." She also said hairpin curves along the road would slow down
vehicles and be a hazard to drivers, who might be accessing their
land on the road, if Border Patrol vehicles were in pursuit of
illegal immigrants.

Robert Porter of Silver City asked about the lease for the Diamond A
property, which he understood to be 20 years.

Gault said the intent is to build a permanent FOB.

Klump said the reason people were invited on the tour was to help
them understand the environment of the sites. "We are local, and we
know the area."

A tour participant asked about the availability of phone lines. Klump
said to his knowledge, there would not be enough phone lines at the
preferred site.

At the second site, seven miles from the border and in clear sight of
Mexico, Gault pointed out the highway in Mexico. The group stopped
first next to the old Cloverdale Store, now deteriorating.

Gault said the EA explained the need for electricity and maintained
roads. She was standing in front of electrical and telephone boxes,
which she said carried fiber optic cables to the area.

"The most important thing for us, who live down here, is for the FOB
to be a deterrent, because from Mexico, those thinking of crossing
illegally could see the FOB," Gault said. "There's not only foot
traffic, but they also come across with mules."

Darr Shannon, Hidalgo County commissioner, said the road used to be a
state highway before it was traded to the county.

Gault pointed out that a National Environmental Protection Act
assessment would have to be done on both sites, whether the site was
private (the Horsecamp site) or the second site, which belongs to the
U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

"We were told the decision would be made in the headquarters of the
Border Patrol El Paso Sector," Gault said. "If you read the EA very
carefully, you see there are no environmental problems with either
site. They made the assumption about the Chiricahua leopard frogs,
because the tank was on private property, and they did not have
permission to go on it."

She said the first site, the Border Patrol preferred site, had been
flagged for telephone lines, and had soil tests done on it.

"I asked if they were going to do soil tests on this site, which we
prefer, and they said they didn't know," Gault reported.

Keeler said the area residents would continue to try to reason with
the Border Patrol. She pointed to the Peloncillo Mountains nearby,
where she said there were at least five different illegal trails.

"It's beyond my house where they can drop," she said. "You have to
catch them before they get into the Peloncillos. The U.S. Army
couldn't get Geronimo out of the Peloncillos. They're rough country."

The group traveled about a mile up Battalion Road, which is county-
maintained, and the second alternative site remained in view of the
Mexican border, seven miles away.

"On the aesthetic side, the FOB will have a tower that can be seen 14
miles in each direction," Gault said.

She has accompanied archaeologists on both sites.

"They spent only a few minutes at this site," she said. "They
returned and said there were no problems, but they ran into three
archaeologically significant sites at the Horsecamp site, and would
report them. They said the Border Patrol could modify where it placed
the building, and if they hit anything during construction, they
would stop and record the information before continuing."

Gault said the Border Patrol has a temporary site on her Forest
Service-permit land, "but it is only for three months at a time."

Tim Keithly of Congressman Steve Pearce's office said the other site
left those residents between the border and 19.8 miles from the
border "kind of in no-man's land."

Zay Clopton of Victorio Ranch told the Beat the Deming FOB is on his
place. "In my opinion, the proximity to the border and the visibility
of the FOB to the border have been the main deterrents to illegal

He said the FOB on his land is on a high spot, a promontory, and is
less than two miles from the border. "They aid in the effectiveness
of the deterrent."

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