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
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Executive Director Position Announcement POSITION TITLE: Executive Director ORGANIZATION: Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument REPORTING TO: Board of Directors EMPLOYMENT TYPE: Part-time - Full-time, based...
  • HEALTHY CITIES PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Healthy Cities Program Director leads and manages the Healthy Cities Program for the Arizona Chapter and is responsible for developing and implementing innovative, high...
  • CONSERVATION PROGRAM MANAGER
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) Conservation Programs Manager Job Opening Our Mission: Honoring the past and safeguarding the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument through...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) Associate Director Job Posting Our Mission: Honoring the past and safeguarding the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument through science,...
  • UNIQUE, ENERGY-EFFICIENT HOME ON ACREAGE NEAR MOSCOW, IDAHO
    Custom-built energy-efficient 3000 sqft two-story 3BR home, 900 sqft 1 BR accessory cottage above 2-car garage and large shop. Large horse barn. $1,200,000. See online...
  • OUTDOOR ADVENTURE BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Missoula Outdoor Learning Adventures (MOLA) - established and profitable outdoor adventure & education business in Missoula, Montana. Summer camp, raft & climb guide, teen travel,...
  • OJO SARCO FARM/HOME
    A wonderful country setting for a farm/work 1350s.f. frame home plus 1000 studio/workshop. 5 acres w fruit trees, an irrigation well, pasture and a small...
  • STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR
    Join Skagit Land Trust (the Trust), a not-for-profit conservation organization based in Mount Vernon, Washington, and help protect land for people and wildlife. Skagit Land...
  • 2022 SEASONAL SCIENCE EDUCATOR
    The Mount St. Helens Institute Science Educator supports our science education and rental programs including day and overnight programs for youth ages 6-18, their families...
  • POLICY DIRECTOR
    Heart of the Rockies Initiative is seeking a Policy Director to lead and define policy efforts to advance our mission to keep working lands and...
  • CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
    Self-Help Enterprises seeks an experienced and strategic CFO
  • CONSERVATION SPECIALIST - LAND PROTECTION FOCUS
    View full job description and how to apply at
  • RIVER EDUCATOR & GUIDE
    River Educator & Guide River Educator & Guide (Trip Leader) Non-exempt, Seasonal Position: Full-time OR part-time (early April through October; may be flexible with start/end...
  • 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...
  • FOOD SYSTEMS ENVIRONMENTAL FELLOWSHIP
    If you were to design a sustainable society from the ground up, it would look nothing like the contemporary United States. But what would it...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) is seeking an Executive Director who will lead RiGHT toward a future of continued high conservation impact, organizational...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Help protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life. Work hard, meet good people, make the world a better place!...
  • VERDE RIVER PROJECTS TECHNICIAN
    The Verde River Projects Technician (VRPT) provides technical assistance to Verde River Program staff in implementation of the Verde River Streamflow Monitoring Protocol. This consist...
  • 8 FIELD PROJECT SPECIALISTS (POSITION FORMERLY TITLED TRAIL CREW TECHNICAL ADVISOR)
    Are you passionate about environmental conservation and connecting people to the outdoors? The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is looking for someone with outdoor leadership...
  • NEW BOOK:
    True Wildlife Tales From Boy to Man. Finding my voice to save wildlife in the Apache spirit. 365+ vivid colorful pictures. Buy on Amazon/John Wachholz