Catron County wins in court,
on the ground
influenced dozens of other counties, been hawked for sale at
national conferences and plastered on the front pages of newspapers
around the country. Now, Catron County, N.M." s controversial
land-use ordinances have survived a constitutional
On Jan. 16, a federal judge dismissed
a lawsuit from two environmental groups charging that the
ordinances violate the civil rights of people fighting overgrazing
of cattle on federal land. District Judge Edwin Mechem ruled that
while the constitutional issues are "ripe for review," plaintiffs
Gila Watch and the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity didn't
have legal standing because they couldn't prove the ordinances hurt
them. The groups say they may appeal.
the county isn't enforcing ordinances that authorize fines of up to
$10,000 for violations of what the ordinances claim are the
"private property rights' of ranchers on federal land. On Jan. 23,
County Sheriff Robert Wellborn refused to arrest five
environmentalists who "confessed" they'd flouted the county law.
The same day, the county commission authorized County Attorney
James Catron to review the ordinances for revisions. Gila Watch
Director Susan Schock said the county's actions show that "Jim
Catron is scared to death that someone will get to court over this
again and that they will be struck down."