- Associated Press - Monday, October 12, 2015

ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (AP) - A New Mexico county will appeal a court ruling that requires local officials to have federal permission before removing trees in national forests.

Otero County commissioners decided Thursday to appeal the U.S. District Court decision, the Alamogordo Daily News reported (https://bit.ly/1OpSyb5).

Judge Christina Armijo struck down a state law that gave New Mexico counties the authority to remove trees and clear overgrown areas on national forest land without having to get approval from the U.S. Forest Service. She said it violated the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Forest Supervisor Travis Moseley says the ruling reaffirms the agency’s authority and jurisdiction on forest lands.

“It also confirms what we believed was true to begin with and that’s important to our management,” he said. “On the other hand, I feel like it was a lot of effort on both the Forest Service and the County’s part to affirm that situation where that time, effort and money could have been better directed to achieving the interest we had in common and that’s treating the land, mitigating fire danger for our communities.”

County Commission Chairman Ronny Rardin says the county has every right to manage national forest lands. He says the fight over forest jurisdiction has been an ongoing issue since 1992 when he was elected.

“I’ve been quiet for the last year because this case has been in front of the federal courts. The judge finally ruled, which we have every reason to believe that she would vote against us, so our next step is to take this to the next level,” Rardin said.

He said he’s confident the case will eventually be heard by the Supreme Court. He said “we believe the Supreme Court, being a liberal court as well, will follow the constitution because they have in so many cases before.”

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Information from: Alamogordo Daily News, https://www.alamogordonews.com

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