'Wise-use' laws challenged

  Environmentalists are challenging the "wise-use" laws of Catron County, N.M., that have become a model for other rural counties around the West. Two groups, the Greater Gila Biodiversity Project and Gila Watch, along with several private citizens, filed suit in federal court Nov. 17 charging that the ordinances are unconstitutional and violate civil rights laws. The county ordinances make it illegal for federal employees to enforce grazing laws and impose penalties on private citizens involved in environmental "conspiracies' (HCN, 2/24/92). Though the laws haven't been enforced, "They've created a climate that is increasingly one of violence and fear," says Kieran Suckling, director of the Greater Gila Biodiversity Project. He says he has received threats, had his car vandalized, and been evicted for being an environmentalist. A state court struck down similar laws in Boundary County, Idaho, last year (HCN, 2/21/94).

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