Hispanic ranchers’ dispute with US Forest Service heats up

A federal judge will soon decide wether or not to let a discrimination lawsuit brought by ranchers of Hispanic descent against the US Forest Service to go forward. Fox News reports that the ranchers in northern New Mexico allege the US Forest Service’s attempts to limit grazing is really an attempt by the agency to eject them from their land that their families have worked for centuries. The Forest Service alleges that ranchers have overused land at the Jarita Mesa and Alamosa grazing allotments. The agency states that limiting grazing is necessary due to over use and poor maintenance of rancher fences.

The ranchers counter that the agency has failed to adequately to manage wild horses and elk that also graze in the region. They go on to allege that the action by the Forest Service is retaliation for their speaking out against the agency’s practices. The attorney for the Forest Service states some ranchers have grazing permits while other don’t and the ranchers neglected to file the proper appeals when the Forest Service decided to limit grazing.

The Forest Service’s policies related to land use is an extension of what happened during the 1970’s when a dispute broke out with Hispanic residents of northern New Mexico over land grant issues. As a result the rancher’s culture was declared a resource that must be recognized when the US Forest Service sets objectives and policies. This is a unique dispute and I have posted commentaries about prior disputes between ranchers and the US Forest Service.

Some ranchers have been the victims of attempts to limit grazing in hopes of kicking the ranchers off federal land resulting from activities of environmentalists. However, despite no direct influence many polices the US Forest Service sets is due to environmental laws and court decisions from lawsuits brought forth by green groups. I will monitor this closely to see how it works out.