Southwestern Ranchers Seek to Intervene in Lawsuit Threatening Their Grazing Lands

For Immediate Release: March 23, 2020 

Denver, CO – To say that Tom Paterson is a good rancher would be an understatement. His Spur Ranch Cattle Company has been recognized multiple times for its exemplary stewardship of the rugged borderlands between New Mexico and Arizona. Yet Tom is just one of dozens of good New Mexico and Arizona ranchers now threatened by an environmentalist group’s lawsuit against federal agencies who manage those public lands.  

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) is trying to use the Environmental Species Act to shut down public lands grazing in the Upper Gila River watershed. If they succeed, many ranches, including family ranches passed down for generations would be forced out of business. Their counties would also be financially crushed if ranchers go under, and their traditional way of life would be destroyed. 

Mountain States Legal Foundation is determined to protect these endangered ranchers and communities of the Southwest.  

On Friday, MSLF filed a motion to intervene in Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on behalf of Spur Ranch Cattle Company, Arizona Cattle Grower’s Association, New Mexico Cattle Grower’s Association, Grant County Cattle Grower’s Association, and Arizona and New Mexico Coalition of Counties for Stable Economic Growth. 

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

At issue in the lawsuit is whether cattle grazing damages the land and threatens species. Center for Biological Diversity wrongly claims riparian areas in the region are being damaged by cattle. However, 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,” Gregg said.  

The CBD lawsuit threatens to eradicate grazing in Apache-Sitgreaves and Gila National Forests of Arizona and New Mexico. If successfully, they would devastate the ranchers reliant on those grazing allotments.  

“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.” 

Mountain States Legal Foundation is a nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation dedicated to individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited and ethical government, and the free enterprise system. Its offices are located outside Denver, Colorado. 

MEDIA CONTACTS: For interviews with an MSLF attorney contact Nathan Harden,, or Julia A. Seymour,, or call them at 303-292-2021. 

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

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