Friday, September 27, 2013
Congressman Pearce working on grazing dispute agreement
Eric Layer, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., said this week the congressman is working closely with ranchers in New Mexico and the U.S. Forest Service in Washington, D.C., and expects to make an important announcement in the near future, perhaps a week or two.
“We’re working on it from every possible angle,” Layer said.
Also this week, a rancher whose cattle were ordered removed from their Manzano Mountains grazing land by the Forest Service this past summer, met with the federal agency’s range management specialist who reinspected the grazing site.
The dispute can be attributed to a single source: the drought. However, a more nuanced consideration would include how its impact on federal grazing land is interpreted.
In June, Mountainair District Ranger Karen Lessard ordered 21 ranches to remove livestock from grazing land allotments in the Manzano Mountains, because of “severe drought conditions that for a third straight year continue to limit livestock forage and plant recovery.” The eviction notice took effect on July 30 and was to last at least a year “following the return of average or above average annual precipitation that produces seed in grasses and (other plants).”
The New Mexico Cattle Growers and individual ranchers called the action arbitrary, unnecessary and economically punitive. Last month, they began circulating a resolution objecting to the “arbitrary non-scientific blanket removal order” to various governmental agencies, including the Torrance County Commission, which adopted it unanimously. The Lincoln County Commission has also approved the resolution, as has the East Torrance, Edgewood and Upper Hondo soil and water conservation districts. It is now under consideration by the board of the Claunch-Pinto Soil and Water Conservation District in Mountainair.
Lincoln County Commissioner Mark Doth agreed that the Forest Service’s “arbitrary and capricious action should be reviewed, using science and fact.” The blanket removal of all cattle from the grazing land significantly escalates the threat of a grass fire, he said.