The Diamond Bar saga goes on - and on

 

For five years, 15 livestock watering tanks planned for the Diamond Bar grazing allotment in New Mexico symbolized a fight over cows in America's oldest wilderness (HCN, 5/2/94). Now it appears that the stock tanks may never be built.

In a precedent-setting decision in February, Forest Service Chief Jack Ward Thomas' office ruled that congressional grazing guidelines for wilderness don't allow construction of "a substantial number of new improvements' in a wilderness. This overturned a 1995 Gila National Forest decision authorizing 15 earthen impoundments for Diamond Bar rancher Kit Laney in the Gila and Aldo Leopold wilderness areas.

Although the proposed water holes were meant to move cows uphill from degraded rivers and streams on the 227-square-mile grazing allotment, environmentalists contended the tanks would degrade upland areas by causing more cattle pressure on them.

The Diamond Bar ruling clearly favored wilderness values. The chief's reviewing officer, Sterling Wilcox, said that grazing was not a "historic use" under the Wilderness Act, and grazing does not require "equal consideration" to the resource needs within a wilderness.

This makes it harder to build large watering tank developments in wilderness and easier for Forest Service officials to reduce cattle numbers when the land is in bad shape, agreed Forest Service official Dave Stewart, Arizona State University law professor Joe Feller and Bill Worf, a retired Forest Service wilderness chief who now is president of the Montana-based Wilderness Watch group.

Susan Schock, director of Gila Watch, the Silver City group that led the fight against the tanks, was pleased by the decision. "These guys in the Gila National Forest tried to convolute and manipulate the Wilderness Act. They tried to kowtow to the cattle industry," she said. "But the chief caught them and slapped them down."

Bill Myers of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association said the decision was another step toward carrying out what he called the environmentalists' agenda to get livestock off public lands.

"We're getting whipsawed," said Myers. "On the one hand, they're getting livestock out of riparian areas. On the other hand, you can't construct new watering facilities away from them. That begs the question: Where will the livestock drink?"

Gila National Forest Supervisor Abel Camarena has 180 days to rewrite his 1995 decision. Rancher Laney says Thomas' ruling, if upheld, would spell bankruptcy. He says he can't survive on 300 head.

He told the Associated Press that if forest rangers come to impound his herd, "they better bring a gun. I'm not going to go. They will plant me here." But he added, "We will do everything we possibly can to avoid that type of confrontation because that gains nothing."

The writer works in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

High Country News Classifieds
  • LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    The Land and Water Conservation Director is a full-time salaried position with the Mountain Area Land Trust in Evergreen, CO. The successful candidate will have...
  • ARIZONA PROGRAM MANAGER
    National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the nation's oldest and largest national parks nonprofit advocacy organization seeks an Arizona Program Manager. The Arizona Program Manager works...
  • CROWN OF THE CONTINENT COMMUNITY CONSERVATION SPECIALIST
    THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY is seeking a Community Conservation Specialist, for the Crown of the Continent DEPARTMENT: Conservation CLASSIFICATION: Grade 6 Specialist/Representative (Low of $54K) REPORTS...
  • ASSISTANT FARM DIRECTOR
    About The Organization Building community through fresh vegetables is at the heart of the Sisters-based non-profit, Seed to Table Oregon. Based on a four-acre diversified...
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, Hike the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...
  • DYNAMIC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    VARD is seeking an Executive Director to lead a small legal & planning staff dedicated to the health and sustainability of Teton Valley Idaho and...
  • WATER PROJECT MANAGER, UPPER SAN PEDRO (ARIZONA)
    Based in Tucson or Sierra Vista, AZ., the Upper San Pedro Project Manager develops, manages, and advances freshwater conservation programs, plans, and methods focusing on...
  • CAMPAIGNS DIRECTOR
    Southeast Alaska Conservation is hiring. Visit https://www.seacc.org/about/hiring for info. 907-586-6942 [email protected]
  • FINANCE & GRANTS MANAGER
    The Blackfoot Challenge, located in Ovando, MT, seeks a self-motivated, detail-oriented individual to conduct bookkeeping, financial analysis and reporting, and grant oversight and management. Competitive...
  • WADE LAKE CABINS, CAMERON MT
    A once in a lifetime opportunity to live and run a business on the shore of one of the most beautiful lakes in SW Montana....
  • CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, BOOKS, CULTURE AND COMMENTARY (PART-TIME, CONTRACT)
    High Country News is seeking a Contributing Editor for Books, Culture and Commentary to assign and edit inquisitive, inspiring, and thought-provoking content for HCN in...
  • STATEWIDE COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    ABOUT US Better Wyoming is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization that educates, organizes, and mobilizes Wyoming residents on behalf of statewide change. Learn more at...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    TwispWorks is a 501(c)3 that promotes economic and cultural vitality in the mountainous Methow Valley, the eastern gateway to North Cascades National Park in Washington...
  • CLEAN ENERGY ADVOCATE OR DIRECTOR
    Location: Helena, Montana Type: Permanent, full time after 1-year probationary period. Reports to: Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs. Travel: Some overnight travel, both in-state...
  • PROFESSIONAL GIS SERVICES
    Custom Geospatial Solutions is available for all of your GIS needs. Affordable, flexible and accurate data visualization and analysis for any sized project.
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Restore Hetch Hetchy, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, seeks experienced development professional to identify and engage individuals and institutions who are inspired to help underwrite...
  • PUBLIC LANDS COUNSEL
    The successful candidate will be the organization's lead counsel on public lands issues, including reviewing federal administrative actions and proposed policy and helping to shape...
  • GUIDE TO WESTERN NATIONAL MONUMENTS
    NEW BOOK showcases 70 national monuments across the western United States. Use "Guide10" for 10% off at cmcpress.org
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!