The Laneys had sued last spring when Forest Service officials cut their number of permitted cattle to 300 and forbade them to install new watering tanks on their Catron County allotment, which lies inside two wilderness areas (HCN, 3/4/96). The ranchers let their permit expire in March but continued to graze cattle illegally, arguing that they had grazing rights tied to territorial water rights from the1880s. Judge Bratton disagreed. He fined the Laneys $42,000 for grazing unauthorized cattle.
Environmentalist Susan Schock, whose group Gila Watch criticized overgrazing on the Diamond Bar, called the ruling a sound victory. "They said it couldn't be done," she says. "We did it without compromising."
Because Judge Bratton did not set a timetable for removing the cattle, Chuck Sundt, range specialist for the Gila National Forest, says his agency will go back to court to set a date.
As for the Laneys, they say they will fight the decision all the way to the Supreme Court if need be. Meanwhile, with no place to graze, they will likely be forced to sell their cows. "It's no longer our ball game," says Kit Laney. "It's the bank's."
* Tony Davis
- Who’s cutting illegal ski trails in the Santa Fe National Forest?
- Mapping the large-scale loss of natural areas in the West
- Grand Canyon superintendent retires after harassment investigation
- Will the feds change course on Columbia River management?
- As delisting looms, grizzly advocates prepare for a final face-off
- Steve Snyder on Searching for solutions in the changing rural West
- Marcia Ewell on Revamped chemical safety law gives EPA more power
- Larry Glickfeld on How the livestock industry can help cut greenhouse gas emissions
- Mark Rozman on As delisting looms, grizzly advocates prepare for a final face-off
- Steve Snyder on How the livestock industry can help cut greenhouse gas emissions