-USFS Tags Diamond Bar as Green Showplace," headlined the pro-ranching Hatch, N.M., Courier, after the Forest Service evaluated the 227-square-mile Diamond Bar grazing allotment near Silver City (HCN, 5/1/95). The agency cut ranchers Kit and Sherry Laney's permitted cattle numbers from 1,188 to 300, but the ranchers will be able to up that to 600-800 after they spend $129,000 to build 15 miles of new fence and dig 15 earthen stock ponds, among other developments. All measures are meant to keep cattle out of sensitive riparian areas in the Gila and Aldo Leopold wilderness areas. Silver City's Gila Watch, however, blasted the stock-tank plan as the most "aggressive wilderness development" since passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act. Director Susan Schock contended the decision is only a "paper cut" because the Laneys have averaged only 600-800 cows in recent years. Forest Service officials admit its decision will change nothing on the Diamond Bar until both sides finish their appeals and lawsuits, some three years off. Ranchers and environmentalists view the case as a national bellwether for the future of wilderness ranching. Meanwhile, says John Twiss, the Forest Service's wilderness chief in Washington, D.C., "neither side gets the whole enchilada."


*Tony Davis