Standing Up for Southwestern Ranchers

Ranching has always been a crucial part of American life. Yet across the West, ranching is under attack by a handful of well-funded environmentalist groups. But Mountain States Legal Foundation is fighting to keep America’s ranchers on the range.

Tom Paterson of Spur Ranch Cattle Company is one of many southwestern ranchers now endangered by environmentalist litigation trying to end grazing on federally managed lands in Arizona and New Mexico. To call Tom a good rancher would be an understatement. His ranch has been recognized again and again for its exemplary stewardship of rugged borderlands between New Mexico and Arizona. 

The Center for Biological Diversity is suing the federal government over the Forest Service’s authorization of grazing in the upper Gila River watershed. If they succeed, dozens of multi-generational family ranches will be forced out of business and their legacies and communities crushed.

“The very future of southwestern ranching is at stake,” MSLF attorney Brian Gregg said.

Determined to protect the interest of threatened ranchers, MSLF filed a motion to intervene on behalf of Paterson, three cattle grower’s associations and the Arizona and New Mexico Coalition of Counties for Stable Economic Growth on March 20, 2020. The motion was filed in the District Court of Arizona.

CBD is suing the government, claiming cattle grazing damages the environment and threatens species. However, their claim that riparian areas in the region are being damaged by cattle is false. In reality, where this damage is present, it is typically caused by wildlife including elk and wild horses, not ranchers’ cows.

“Ironically, environmentalists’ lawsuits created by problem by forcing ranchers to use fencing that allows wildlife to pass through. They should not be allowed to use ranchers as a scapegoat for ecological problems they caused,” Gregg said.

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Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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