ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The heavy hand of the federal government struck the Taos Ski Valley, and the folks who live and work there – including me – are mad as hell.
On Feb. 22, four U.S. Forest Service agents, along with a drug-sniffing dog, were dispatched to the ski area to conduct a “saturation patrol,” which included searches of vehicles in both employee and guest parking areas, confrontations with ski area staff, and stops and searches of vehicles leaving the ski area for minor infractions, such as cracked windshields and failure to use seatbelts.
If federal law enforcement authorities – in this case, the U.S. Forest Service – don’t have anything better to do than send four uniformed, armed cops and their drug-sniffing dog from Albuquerque to Taos to a family ski area on a busy Saturday, it is pretty clear that taxpayers are paying too much for federal law enforcement.
Taos Valley is where I live and ski, and anyone who is familiar with the area knows that there is no crime problem that required a federal raid, as evidenced by the fact that this invasive operation apparently resulted in a grand total of five citations for “possession” amounts of marijuana and a handful of vehicle “equipment violations,” better known as cracked windshields.
Since when did the Forest Service’s mission come to include dispatching armed agents and dogs halfway across a state to nail windshield violators?
If they needed to arrest five people for pot possession, they could have saved a trip and gone to any shopping center or public park in America. In fact, I suspect they could have rounded up as many “criminals” in their own parking lot.
Someone, somewhere in the Forest Service apparently woke up one morning and said, “Let’s go to Taos and have some fun harassing skiers and ski area employees who just might have a little marijuana or forget to fasten their seatbelts, and if we step on some constitutional rights, so be it.”
As a taxpayer and a resident who had the honor of serving as New Mexico’s governor, I want to know who came up with this stupid idea. More important, we all deserve to know exactly what overriding national interest is served by using the force of the federal government to frighten people, including little kids, who are just out for a day of skiing, to intimidate a business and its employees, and to create an illusion of crime where there is none.
So far, explanations from the Forest Service have not answered any of these questions. In fact, the local USFS folks seem as perplexed as the rest of us, which is disturbing at best.
This kind of federal thuggery happens every day in America, and it has to stop.
The only threat to freedom and the common good on that Saturday at the Taos Ski Valley was the federal government … and that’s just wrong.