New Mexico ranchers push to graze preserve

 

Note: in the print edition of this issue, this article appears as a sidebar to one of this issue's feature stories, "Corruption and tragic history paralyze range reform on the Navajo reservation."

Northern New Mexico is known for more than fiery red chilis and smoldering mountain sunsets; it's also notorious for skirmishes between its mostly Hispanic ranching community and the U.S. Forest Service.

In June, after a tour of the Santa Fe National Forest, David Stewart, regional director of rangeland management, sent employees a scathing e-mail, reprimanding them for the "most horrible example of grazing administration I've ever experienced."

But when Acting Forest Supervisor Gilbert Zepeda told the 275 permit holders to remove their cattle from 40 allotments in the forest, his announcement was met with resounding protest. "The conquering has never stopped for our community," says Moises Morales Jr., a rancher and Rio Arriba County commissioner. "They took away our winter pasture, our horse permits, they killed our wild horses. Now, we just have crumbs left."

In mid-July, ranchers protested outside agency headquarters in Santa Fe, demanding that officials allow them to keep their cattle on the forest. As a result, the Forest Service put the evictions on hold until the allotments could be evaluated by a group of range specialists and ecologists from New Mexico State University.

Now, ranchers are demanding that officials open the Valles Caldera, an 89,000-acre national preserve in the Jemez Mountains overseen by a private trust (HCN, 12/3/01).

Legally, grazing must be allowed in the preserve, but cows have been kept out until environmental studies are completed. In early August, under pressure from ranchers and county politicians, the Valles Caldera Board fast-tracked its decision. Now, if all goes according to plan, up to 2,000 cattle will be grazing in the preserve by mid-August.

"We're trying to consider the drought and the difficult conditions the ranchers of the region are facing," says William deBuys, chairman of the Valles Caldera Board. "But we can't be the entire solution to the problem. We need to be extra careful not to jeopardize the ecological health and integrity of the preserve."

Environmentalists worry that hasty decisions to allow cattle grazing will not only affect the drought-stricken preserve, but also set a pro-ranching precedent. "This decision is not being made by the board," says John Horning with Forest Guardians. "It's dictated by higher officials within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who are doing everything they can to accommodate the ranching industry on public lands."

 

Laura Paskus is an intern at NewTowncarShare News.

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • 5 acres, views, utilities to lot line includes paid water tap, great for passive solar design, covenants and NO HOA. Listed by Beckie at Keller...
  • The Native American Fish and Wildlife Society (NAFWS) is seeking qualified applicants to fill a vacant Executive Director position in Denver, CO. The position serves...
  • The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) is a nonprofit public interest environmental law firm with a 25-year legacy of success using the power of the...
  • 383 Acres with trails, private road, trees, stream and fabulous views. Earth Sheltered, passive solar home provides 2785 sf of comfort and a "top of...
  • certified, 51 acres, small cottage, outbuildings, equipment and tools. Contact: [email protected]
  • 2bd/2bath green home on 2 acres on the Ojo Caliente River, NM. MLS #101605. Contact [email protected]
  • of mountains, 22+ acres. Close to Arroyo Seco and the Taos Ski Valley, NM. MLS #102585, [email protected]
  • 2br-2ba, acreage. Birders, writers. 1000.
  • 1400 sf of habitable space in a custom-designed eco-home created and completed by a published L.A. architect in 1997-99. Nestled within its own 80-acre mountain...
  • The Wilderness Society is currently recruiting for a Communications Manager for our Northwest Region. This position can be located in Seattle or Oakland. For more...
  • 1912 Orchard House completely rebuilt 2002. 4000 sq ft home and private guest cottage on .53 acres. Reclaimed maple and Doug Fir. Two garages. CathyMooney.com,...
  • with home on one acre in Pocatello, ID. For information and photos visit www.blackrockforgeproperty.com.
  • Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) seeks a new Executive Director to guide this dynamic national advocacy, watchdog, and service organization. The successful candidate requires...
  • The California Program Manager will work closely with California-based program staff and other NFF staff to provide project management and program development support. The incumbent...
  • Founded in 1989, Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is dedicated to protecting the Wests land, air, and water to ensure that vibrant communities exist in balance...
  • Founded in 1989, Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is dedicated to protecting the Wests land, air, and water to ensure that vibrant communities exist in balance...
  • Founded in 1989, Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is dedicated to protecting the Wests land, air, and water to ensure that vibrant communities exist in balance...
  • Founded in 1989, Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is dedicated to protecting the Wests land, air, and water to ensure that vibrant communities exist in balance...
  • Sierra Club is looking for a community organizer who can help us protect grizzly bears and other wildlife species in the Northern Rockies region. This...
  • Join HCN and Black Sheep Adventures on an expedition through the national parks and monuments of Utah and Southwest Colorado, September 7 - 15, 2019....