When Chuck Oliver's job with the Forest Service in Montana fell victim to an agency consolidation three years ago, he seized the chance to return to his native New Mexico. But Oliver, a range conservationist on the Gila National Forest in Catron County, found that public-lands grazing was much more contentious in the Southwest than it had been up north.
15, he experienced outright aggression when he drove 85 miles to
Eager, Ariz., to attend a meeting between ranchers on the Apache
National Forest and wise-use advocate and attorney Karen
Budd-Falen. After being asked to leave the meeting, which ads said
was to "discuss coordinating the fight against the preservationist
assault on our rangelands," Oliver stood in the hallway and
continued to listen. Several men soon
"They all grabbed
me," Oliver recalls. "One guy was beating me on the head, another
guy was pulling on my ear. They wanted me to leave the (building),
and, fool that I am, I said "Well, I'm not going to go." " He is
suing three men and the Apache-Sitgreaves Allottees Association for
assault and battery, seeking both medical expenses and
"The job really used
to be fun," he says. "One permittee came up to me yesterday and
said (my lawsuit) was a chickenshit thing to do, and that any
respect he had for me is gone now."
he's disappointed in the turn of events, but he doesn't plan to
leave his job: "Nobody's going to chase me out of it."