New Mexico Grazing Rights Case Ruling

From the November/December 2017 newsletter

A federal court recently ruled against motions filed several years ago by a group of ranchers seeking continued grazing rights on land in New Mexico that has been used by their families for centuries. The allotments at issue are both in the El Rito Ranger District of Carson National Forest. Attorneys for the ranchers argued that the U.S. Forest Service violated the law when deciding to limit grazing on historic land grants even though the government has recognized that the descendants of Spanish colonists have a unique relationship with the land. Earlier decisions on 2013 and 2015 dismissed most of the other counts in the complaint. The ranchers claimed the agency failed to consider social and economic effects that would result from limiting grazing in a region where poverty and dependence on the land for subsistence is high.

In the recent ruling, U.S. District James Browning dismissed counts against the government, finding that the National Environmental Policy Act does not require the Forest Service to consider social and economic effects of these actions. The law narrowly centers on effects to the physical environment, the judge ruled. The ranchers are considering an appeal.

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