Case Summary

 Tom Paterson’s Spur Ranch Cattle Company is an excellent steward of public grazing lands in New Mexico. But he and dozens of other ranchers are at risk of being put out of business by radical environmentalists and their junk science. 

The environmentalist group, Center for Biological Diversity, is trying to use bad science to shut down public lands grazing in Arizona and New Mexico. The group contends that the Forest Service violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by not consulting the Fish and Wildlife Service about the impact of cattle grazing on riparian habitat in Apache-Sitgreaves and Gila National Forests. 

The future of southwest ranching is at stake. 

MSLF is determined to protect dozens of threatened ranchers whose rights to graze in the Upper Gila River watershed are now under attack. We filed a motion to intervene on behalf of Paterson’s ranch, the Cattle Grower’s Associations of both states, Grant County Cattle Grower’s Association and the Arizona and New Mexico Coalition of Counties for Stable Economic Growth on March 20, 2020. 

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United States District Court for the District of Arizona

What’s Next

The District Court judge can either grant or reject MSLF's motion for intervenor-defendant status in the case

Case History

Left unchecked, bad science can lead to bad laws and cause great harm. It is currently threatening the very future of southwestern ranching. Dozens or more ranchers face the loss of their livelihood if Center for Biological Diversity wins in court.  

Mountain States Legal Foundation is fighting to protect these ranchers from environmentalists’ junk science regarding cattle grazing’s impact on public rangelands.  

Radical environmentalists at the Center for Biological Diversity are trying to use the Endangered Species Act to cripple federal lands management and ultimately eradicate public lands grazing in the Southwest.  

At issue in the lawsuit is whether cattle grazing damages the land and threatens species. CBD submitted its own assessments of riparian areas in Apache-Sitgreaves and Gila National Forests. In them, they blamed grazing for what it deemed unacceptable impacts on the ecosystem. 

But they’re wrong. Where this damage is present, it is typically caused by wildlife including elk and wild horses, not a rancher’s cows.  

“Ironically, environmentalists’ lawsuits created that 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,” MSLF Attorney Brian Gregg said. 

In spite of this, when federal government agencies failed to utilize CBD’s junk science  to shut down grazing in the area, they sued.  

MSLF is seeking intervenor status on behalf of multiple cattle associations and local counties economically endangered by the lawsuit. MSLF is opposed to CBD’s request for an injunction to stop all grazing on these public lands because their claims about damage to the rangelands are unfounded. Stopping all grazing would also be an overly broad response to any real environmental harm.  

Local enforcement and tailored punishments would be a far more appropriate way to mitigate any violations – if they exist. Punishing all ranchers would certainly be a dangerous overreaction and jeopardize ranching throughout the Southwest. 

“Groups like CBD sue to force agencies to accept their oversight, then babysit the federal bureaucrats for years – until they’ve cobbled together enough unverified, agenda-driven junk science to sue again,” said Gregg. “If they succeed, they often end productive use of these lands entirely. And collect attorneys’ fees from U.S. taxpayers.” 

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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. MSLF is determined to protect them.

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