Fighting their case through federal court, a coalition of animal rights groups and Indian tribes has stopped New Mexico from staging its first public buffalo hunt in 110 years.
A federal judge ruled Jan. 26 that the
U.S. Army needed to conduct a preliminary environmental analysis
first. The state agency had scheduled three hunts at Fort Wingate,
the 10,000-acre decommissioned Army depot where the state grazes
its herd of 60 buffalo. Nine animals were to be
U.S. District Judge Martha Vasquez issued
a preliminary injunction after telling a packed Santa Fe courtroom
that she could not ignore the mandates of the National
Environmental Policy Act. It requires an environmental analysis of
activities occurring on federal lands.
delighted that the judge ended this decision," says Grove Burnett,
a lawyer for the coalition. "Its implications go far beyond the
buffalo hunts. I think all hunts on military lands are going to be
subject to environmental considerations."
proposed hunts sparked heated opposition. Many hunters and
non-hunters called the hunts unsporting, and Indians said they
would desecrate a sacred animal.
Picuris Pueblo have offered to distribute the bulls to other tribes
rather than see them shot. Game department officials turned down
the offer, saying the hunt is the most efficient way to reduce the
herd's ratio of breeding-age bulls to cows and provide public
Not all tribes oppose
buffalo hunts. According to state fish and game spokesman John
Crenshaw, the Jicarilla Apache tribe offers hunters a chance to
kill buffalo from its herd in northwest New Mexico. The cost: