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Ryan Robertson

Anchor, Investigative Reporter

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U.S.

Cattle in Gila National Forest to be shot, left to rot

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Ryan Robertson

Anchor, Investigative Reporter

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The U.S. Forest Service said there are too many cattle in New Mexico’s Gila National Forest. So, for the ninth time in 25 years, it is paying contractors to shoot the animals from a helicopter and leave the bodies to rot.

According to the Forest Service, the estimated 150 head of cattle roaming on 559,688 acres of wilderness pose a “significant risk to public safety and natural resources.” The Forest Service said the feral cattle are aggressive toward visitors, graze year-round and cause erosion around waterways.

The New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association (NMCGA) said not only are the cattle not feral, but this problem is the Forest Service’s own doing. The NMCGA said when the Forest Service stopped issuing grazing permits in the 1970s, the infrastructure used to manage livestock on the rangeland fell into disrepair, making it extremely difficult to round up animals that got loose.

The NMCGA said what’s in Gila National Forest are “estray cattle,” meaning they used to be domesticated, and by law belong to the NMCGA. The association said it’s not opposed to removing animals, but the way the Forest Service is going about it is reckless and wasteful.

“This is not a New Mexico problem. This is not an Arizona problem. This is a Western states problem. And we don’t want the Forest Service to decide this is a tool that they want to have in their tool bag for any occasion that they feel that they can use it,” Bronson Corn, president-elect of NMCGA, said.

According to reporting from The Fence Post, since the dead cattle are being left to decompose onsite, it is next to impossible to verify if the animal was branded and belonged to an area rancher. Members of the Cattle Growers’ Association told The Fence Post “that means the federal government is taking private property without just compensation and with no direct federal statutory authority.”

The area where the cull will take place is now closed. The Forest Service said the cull is scheduled to start on Feb. 23. There is evidence some animals were killed in or near waterways in the past. The Forest Service said in a release on its website that staff will “ensure no carcasses are adjacent to or in any waterbody or spring.”

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THE NATIONAL FOREST SERVICE SAYS THERE ARE TOO MANY COWS IN NEW MEXICO’S GILA NATIONAL FOREST. SO FOR THE 9TH TIME IN 25 YEARS, IT’S PAYING CONTRACTORS TO SHOOT COWS FROM A HELICOPTER, AND LEAVE THE BODIES TO ROT.

ACCORDING TO THE FOREST SERVICE, THE ESTIMATED 150 HEAD OF CATTLE ROAMING ON ALMOST A MILLION ACRES OF WILDERNESS POSE A QUOTE SIGNIFICANT RISK TO PUBLIC SAFETY AND NATURAL RESOURCES. THE FOREST SERVICE SAYS THE FERAL CATTLE ARE AGGRESSIVE TOWARD VISITORS, GRAZE YEAR-ROUND AND CAUSE EROSION AROUND WATERWAYS.

THE NEW MEXICO CATTLE GROWERS ASSOCIATION SAYS NOT ONLY ARE THE CATTLE NOT FERAL, BUT THIS PROBLEM IS THE FOREST SERVICES’ OWN DOING.  THE ORGANIZATION SAYS WHEN THE FOREST SERVICE STOPPED ISSUING GRAZING PERMITS IN THE 1970’S, THE INFRASTRUCTURE USED TO MANAGE COWS ON THE RANGELAND FELL INTO DISREPAIR, MAKING IT EXTREMELY DIFFICULT TO ROUND UP ANIMALS THAT GOT LOOSE.

THE CATTLE GROWERS ASSOCIATION SAY WHAT’S IN GILA ARE ESTRAY CATTLE–MEANING THEY USED TO BE DOMESTICATED, AND BY LAW BELONG TO THE NEW MEXICO CATTLE GROWERS ASSOCIATION. THE ASSOCIATION SAID IT’S NOT OPPOSED TO REMOVING ANIMALS, BUT THE WAY THE FOREST SERVICE IS GOING ABOUT IT IS RECKLESS AND WASTEFUL

Bronson Corn: This is not a New Mexico Problem. This is not an Arizona problem. This is a Western States problem. And we don’t want the Forest Service to decide this is a tool that they want to have in their tool bag for any occasion that they feel that they can use it.

THE AREA WHERE THE CULL WILL TAKE PLACE IS NOW CLOSED. THE PARK SERVICE SAYS THE CULL WILL BEGIN IN A FEW DAYS. THERE IS EVIDENCE SOME COWS WERE KILLED IN OR NEAR WATERWAYS IN THE PAST. THE FOREST SERVICE SAID IN A RELEASE ON ITS WEBSITE STAFF WILL ENSURE NO CARCASSES ARE ADJACENT TO OR IN ANY WATERBODY OR SPRING.

YOU CAN GET MORE OF THE UNBIASED, STRAIGHT FACTS ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES AND WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AT STRAIGHT ARROW NEWS DOT COM