NM Ranchers Clash With National Park Service

Drought and miles of degraded fences allowed cattle to wander onto the Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico, putting ranchers at odds with preserve managers. ( Anonymous )

Stray cattle are trespassing on New Mexico’s Valles Caldera National Preserve, park rangers say. Ranchers tell a different story.

The controversy came to a head last week when park managers initiated a roundup of cattle after fielding complaints from visitors and anglers. Cattle wandering onto the preserve from nearby grazing allotments increased over the dry summer months to what rangers called a “critical mass,” despite efforts of ranchers to gather their stock via horseback.

The situation is the result of miles of an aging and neglected fence separating the preserve and forested grazing pastures in northern New Mexico. Ranch Chris Lovato told the Associated Press he spend much of the summer gathering his cattle that wandered out of his grazing allotment on the Santa Fe National Forest in search of grass and water in a region hit hard by drought.

“It became a revolving door because 80% of the fence is down,” Lovato said.

New Mexico state law puts the burden of maintaining fences on the landowner if they want to keep neighbor’s livestock out. In this case, that would be the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Before Valles Caldera was turned over to the Park Service, the trust that managed the range maintained the fence.

But, the AP reports, officials at Valles Caldera say federal courts have upheld the principal that state fence-out laws are generally pre-empted by U.S. regulations requiring livestock owners to keep their animals off certain federal lands.

“While we will continue to do our part to maintain our boundary fences, there’s no obligation for the Park Service to fence out potential trespass livestock under state laws,” preserve Superintendent Jorge Silva-Banuelos said. “The adjacent livestock owners do have a role to play in the maintenance of their allotment fences that border the preserve.”

Preserve officials say they initiated the roundup to identify the cattle owners and give them the opportunity to claim their cattle, rather than issuing citations or fines. Ranchers, however, say the preserve gathered the cattle without giving notice, and that more than 300 cows, calves and some bulls were held in a corral without hay and little water for several days. One cow died, the AP reported, and ranchers said many animals were in bad shape.

Lovato made multiple trips to move eight loads of cattle after he was told he wouldn’t be allowed to herd them by horseback less than 2 miles back to his allotment.

“The federal government, instead of helping us, they’re just punishing us after what we faced this summer,” he said, referring to the challenges of the drought.

Submitted by Quentin B on Thu, 10/04/2018 - 07:32

Sure seems ranchers in the western states always want something for nothing.

Submitted by T Hall on Thu, 10/04/2018 - 13:30

Something for nothing?! Part of being a good neighbor is doing your share to maintain your fences. Sounds like the Park Service isn't doing their share, so they have no room to complain if cattle cross on to the preserve. The time and expense the went through to round up cattle would've been better spent fixing their fences. Lazy FED's!

In reply to by Quentin B (not verified)

Submitted by Tom RIbe on Thu, 10/04/2018 - 07:59

In fact, the ranchers have been caught on camera cutting the fence and driving their cattle through because they have overgrazed their US Forest Service allotments. The ranchers have nothing to complain about as their cows got fat for weeks on the grass of the National Preserve where the ranchers have no legal right what so ever to graze cows. Congress closed the National Preserve to cattle grazing except for a small number by permit. These ranchers do not hold that permit and are in violation of federal law and state law. The public is grateful to the National Park Service for rounding up and removing the cattle which were damaging the streams and other environmental restoration areas.

Submitted by RCT on Thu, 10/04/2018 - 10:02

I did a few searches for any news reports that ranchers are cutting fences. So it is up to you to provide evidence that this is going on.

In reply to by Tom RIbe (not verified)

Submitted by RCT on Thu, 10/04/2018 - 10:27

I have tried to find news stories to support what you say. None so far. It is up to you to provide evidence this has happened.

In reply to by Tom RIbe (not verified)

Submitted by RCT on Thu, 10/04/2018 - 11:29

I searched for news stories about your claim of fence cutting and found none. So you need to provide evidence of your claim.

In reply to by Tom RIbe (not verified)

Submitted by T Hall on Thu, 10/04/2018 - 13:26

You are a liar. Ranchers have not been caught on camera cutting fences and if their allotments were overgrazed, which I'm sure they were not, because they would've been required to move them off once utilization was met ,

In reply to by Tom RIbe (not verified)

Submitted by Josh on Thu, 10/04/2018 - 10:47

And they wonder why they are called "welfare ranchers".

Here is an idea, shoot the damn cattle.

Submitted by Gary P. on Fri, 10/05/2018 - 22:06

Seems to me don't drive them back, load them on trucks sell them and use the money to hire people to fix the fence along the ranches where the cattle belong. I am assuming they still brand their cattle, and if they do that identifies them.