Ranchers backed

  Ranchers are struggling land stewards in the eyes of New Mexicans, a new poll has found. A University of New Mexico telephone poll found that only 33 percent of the respondents thought cows damage the environment, although 49 percent said environmental preservation should be the top priority of public-land management. Eighty percent contended that maintaining ranching traditions is important, 50 percent thought typical New Mexico ranchers are struggling to survive, and 73 percent mildly or strongly supported giving family ranchers breaks on grazing fees and regulations. Al Schneberger, director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, said the survey reflects diminishing public trust in environmentalists and their message. Silver City grazing activist Susan Schock said the survey tells her that people can see land bashed by cows but not understand how it got that way. - Tony Davis