Friday, November 30, 2012

Feds File Motion to Weaken Ranchers' Claim

Attorneys for the federal government argued this month to dismiss a key portion of a lawsuit concerning grazing rights on historic land grant areas in Northern New Mexico. Plaintiffs say if approved by the federal judge, the motion would limit damages that could be recovered. The lawsuit, filed in January against the U.S. Forest Service by the Jarita Mesa and Alamosa livestock grazing associations, two dozen Hispanic ranchers with permits to graze in the Carson National Forest, and the Rio Arriba County commissioners, focuses on a 2010 decision by Carson National Forest El Rito District Ranger Diana Trujillo to cut cattle grazing by 18 percent on the Jarita Mesa and Alamosa grazing allotments. “Plaintiffs and their ancestors are Hispanic stockmen whose families have been grazing livestock in this area for many generations,” the plaintiffs’ lawsuit states. “In fact, most of their families were grazing livestock in this area before the United States Forest Service existed. Grazing livestock is an integral part of their existence and is a central part of life in the villages they reside in and in all of Northern New Mexico.” Rio Arriba County officials and ranchers say Trujillo retaliated against them, violating their First Amendment rights, by cutting grazing by 18 percent after the ranchers complained to their legislators and the forest service about Trujillo’s management of grazing issues. They contend the forest service is trying to push them from land that has been ranched by their families for centuries, and that Trujillo veered from normal practices by not implementing the stocking levels recommended by forest service scientists, which would have kept the number of livestock head unchanged from 1980, with modified rangeland improvement...more

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