New Mexico Cattle Ranchers Sue Oppose Federal Proposal for Aerial Slaughter of Livestock

On Wednesday, the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, the New Mexico Federal lands Council, Spur Lake Cattle Company and Double Spring Ranch, LLC filed a complaint in the District of New Mexico against the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service and the US Department of Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service alleging violations of the Wilderness Act and the National Environmental Protection Act.

According to the complaint, the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association is a membership association formed in 1914 with the primary mission to advance and protect the cattle industry of New Mexico. Additionally, the complaint states the New Mexico Federal Lands Council was founded in the mid-1970s and operates as a nonprofit organization to lobby for the interests of ranchers who utilize federal and state grazing lands. The complaint further states that Spur Lake Cattle Company and Double Spring Ranch, LLC owning several cattle ranches bordering ro within the Gila Wilderness.

The plaintiffs allege that on February 4, 2022, the US Forest Service announced it was going to authorize the US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to use a helicopter aerial gun to slaughter livestock in the Gila National Forest and Gila Wilderness on the Arizona and New Mexico border starting February 8 to 10, 2022. The complaint further alleges that once the livestock is slaughtered the federal agencies propose to leave the carcasses in place to rot which will likely attract predators such as the Mexican wolf to the locations of the dead cattle. The complaint states that the agencies estimate that approximately 200 livestock will be killed through this proposal.

The plaintiffs argue that although the agencies claim to be complying with state and federal laws the New Mexico Livestock Board, the state agency who administers state statutes related to unbranded or estray livestock, is publicly opposed to the “gunning down” of livestock, and the proposal is in violation of US Forest Service regulations and New Mexico state brand and estray laws. Further, the plaintiffs argue that the Federal agencies are in violation of the National Environmental Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act because the agencies failed to analyze and consider the effect the slaughtering 200 livestock and leaving the carcasses to rot will have on the endangered Mexican wolf .

The plaintiffs seek a temporary restraining order, declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, attorneys fees and costs for the defendants’ violation of the National Environmental Protection Act, the Wilderness Act, Forest Service Regulations and the Administrative Procedure Act. The plaintiffs are represented by the Budd-Falen Law Offices, LLC.

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