Observant NM Trout Member Busts Trespass Cattle

By Ron Loehman, Conservation Chairman
From the November 2022 newsletter

In years past the Rio San Antonio between the hot spring and the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF)-Valles Caldera (VC) boundary was heavily degraded by grazing cattle. The stream was shallow and warm with broken down banks and little streamside vegetation. Trout were rare or entirely absent. About five or six years ago the SFNF and its contractors began constructing cattle exclosures in places to keep cattle out of the stream and its adjacent riparian zone. One of the objectives was to protect habitat for the endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse. The stream inside the exclosures has made a dramatic comeback and trout can once again be found there.

This October a New Mexico Trout member who had been up on the Rio San Antonio just below the Valles Caldera boundary reported seeing cattle inside one of the large exclosures, as well as along the San Antonio in the Valles Caldera. They are not supposed to be in either place because of the extensive damage they have previously caused when grazing along the stream banks.

Upon learning of the trespass cattle, I sent messages to the relevant staff on the SFNF and the Valles Caldera. The grazing permittees are responsible for keeping their cattle out of prohibited areas and SFNF and the Valles Caldera staff are responsible for ensuring compliance in their jurisdictions. Presence of cattle inside the exclosure was a particular concern because there is no way that they could have gotten inside without the fence being cut or knocked down.

Within a day the SFNF staffer contacted the grazing permittees and ordered them to get the cattle out of the area, which they apparently did by the following day. This was a good outcome and illustrates the value of our members being alert to violations when they are fishing and informing us when they see them.

Trespass cattle on the Valles Caldera are a continuing problem. Staff have told me privately that the fences along their north boundary are frequently down, both from being cut and from trees falling across them. Cattle from grazing allotments on the boundary wander freely into the VC and there are too few staff to repair the fences or to police the trespass cattle. I am in contact with VC staff to offer our help as volunteers for fence repairs next Spring.

If you come across trespass cows, please report them.
Here is contact information for reporting trespass cattle.

Jemez District Ranger: Brian Riley (575) 829-3535 brian.riley@usda.gov
Jemez and Cuba District range specialist: Bill Eaton (575) 289-0232 william.eaton@usda.gov
SFNF Wildlife Program Manager: Andre Silva (505) 438-5440 andre.silva@usda.gov

Link to SFNF map of grazing allotments: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd546053.pdf