Monday, March 15, 2004


N.M. Rancher Arrested in Grazing Dispute

Federal officers arrested a New Mexico rancher whose cattle have been ordered seized in a long-running battle with the government over grazing rights in the Gila National Forest.

Kit Laney, 43, was arrested Sunday and jailed on charges of assaulting a peace officer, obstructing a court order and intimidation.

Forest Service spokesman Jim Payne would not release details about the arrest.

Authorities began rounding up some 400 cattle from Laney's 146,000-acre Diamond Bar Ranch last week after a judge found Laney and his wife, Sherry, in contempt of court for grazing cattle in the Gila National Forest in violation of earlier court rulings.

While many ranchers in the West lease federal land for grazing and other uses, the Laneys, who bought the ranch in 1985, do not hold a lease for the Gila land. They contend they have grazing rights based on historical use of the land predating the forest's creation in 1964.

Marcia Andre, supervisor of the forest, said courts have made clear that grazing on federal land is a privilege, not a right.

"We take no pleasure in impounding the Laneys' livestock," she said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the Laneys have forced us to take this action."

The Forest Service has seized more than 200 cattle so far in a roundup expected to take several weeks.



Kit was arrested last night after going to check on some cattle in the pens. The USFS are counting baby calves as cows, the round up is being conducted without the presence of a livestock inspector to ensure the safety of the cattle. What we know is that it is being done in such a way that it may be separating the calves from their mothers. Last week the USFS informed the neighbors that they would allow Kit to look at the cattle.

No one has heard from Kit yet. He will be arraigned this morning or more likely, tomorrow morning and possibly, depending on the charges, allowed bail.

Sherry was not informed of his arrest and spent a sleepless night imagining the worst before setting off at dawn to find him. She is now home and stated that the USFS leo she spoke with told her Kit did NOT hit anyone. They think he was trying to let the cattle go and he resisted when they grabbed him but he didn't strike anyone.

It is likely that he was only trying to look at his cattle.

We will know more when he is released on bail.

Laura Schneberger


For Immediate Release Contact: Paragon Foundation, Inc.
03/12/04 (505) 434-8998

Alamogordo, New Mexico―Attorney Paul M. Kienzle of Scott & Kienzle, P.A., Albuquerque, filed for injunctive and declaratory relief and damages on behalf of the Paragon Foundation, Inc. and Kit and Sherry Laney against the New Mexico Livestock Board and Dan Manzanares Executive Director of the Livestock Board.

On February 20, 2004, Mr. Manzanares signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the United States Forest Service. The purpose of the MOU is to implement the United States District Court Order that authorizes the Forest Service, pursuant to its regulations, to impound, remove and sell the subject livestock from National Forest System lands.

Plaintiffs believe that Defendant Manzanares did not have statutory authority, rule, regulation authority or authority from the Livestock Board to approve the MOU on behalf of the Livestock Board. Upon information and belief, some members of the Livestock Board were not aware of the MOU until after its execution. To this day, the MOU has not been ratified by a vote of the Board. Plaintiffs believe the actions of Defendant Manzanares were ultra vires, made without authority, and are therefore void.

Plaintiffs believe the Livestock Board does not have authority or regulation to enter into the MOU with the Forest Service. The action taken in the name of the Livestock Board regarding the MOU and its terms contravene the laws, rules, regulations, provisions and authority of the Livestock Code, NMSA 1978, Chapter 77, that the Livestock Board is charged with administering, and was ultra vires, made without authority, and is therefore void.

The Open Meetings Act applies to the subject matter of this complaint. NMSA 1978, § 10-15-1 requires that actions and other matters within the authority of the Livestock Board be taken in meeting open to the public at all time unless an exception applies. Pursuant to NMSA 1978 §10-15-3(A), “[n]o resolution, rule, regulation, ordinance or action of any board, commission, committee or other policymaking body shall be valid unless taken or made at a meeting held in accordance with the requirements of 10-15-1 NMSA 1978.” No exception to the Open Meetings Act applies to the MOU.

Plaintiffs are entitled to their attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to NMSA 1978, §10-15-3(C).

Defendants’ conduct, actions and omissions were engaged in under color of state statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage and that such conduct, actions and omissions have subjected Plaintiffs to the deprivation of rights, privileges, and immunities secured by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and the Civil Rights Act of 1871.

Plaintiffs Kit and Sherry Laney are entitled to damages, including punitive damages and attorney’s fees for the actions and omissions described above.


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