Trespass Cattle Degrading Streams on the Valles Caldera National Preserve

Ron Loehman, Conservation Chairman

Recently, some New Mexico Trout members have reported encountering large numbers of cattle in and along the Rio San Antonio and the Rio de los Indios in the Valles Caldera National Preserve. The cattle have made a mess of the stream with knocked down banks, muddied bottom areas, heavy siltation, and cow patties everywhere.  Fishing was ruined for those anglers and they believe that trout habitat has been severely compromised on the stream.

Reports to the Preserve staff indicated that there is a continuing problem with trespass cattle accessing the Preserve through cut or breached fences on the northern boundary.  The Preserve doesn’t have staff to deal with this, other than to make fence repairs, which seem to be only temporary.

The cattle must be accessing the Preserve from the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) since, with the exception of small parts of the Santa Clara Pueblo and Bandelier National Monument on the east, it completely surrounds the Preserve. It is reasonable to conclude that the trespass cattle are from one or more of the allotment herds in the SFNF on the north side of the Preserve.  Those allotments are on the Coyote Ranger District on the West and the Espanola Ranger District on the East.  Here is the link to the allotment map for the SFNF.

Cattle on the SFNF are permitted and regulated through grazing allotments, which are rights granted to individuals or small groups and are subject to yearly grazing plans set by SFNF staff and agreed to by the grazing permittees.  The grazing plans include where, when, and how many cattle can be on particular parts of the allotments through the grazing season.  The cattle have to be identified through distinctive colored ear tags.
Here are the links to two of the relevant allotment grazing plans: Coyote allotment | Youngsville allotment

SFNF officials are responsible for enforcing the permittees’ grazing plans, which do not include letting their cattle graze the Preserve. It is possible that SFNF personnel do not know about the trespass cattle, but if they are informed, they are obligated to do something about it.  Individuals who graze cattle on public lands in New Mexico have a lot of political power, so it may require assertive complaints by the public to get SFNF officials to pressure offending permittees to correct abuses.

The SFNF website has a lot of information about their range management and who are the responsible individuals.  Below is how and to whom to make a complaint.

The responsible Range Specialist for both the Coyote and Espanola Ranger Districts is Rachel Suazo. The website doesn’t provide direct telephone numbers or email addresses, but she can be reached through the District main number: (575) 638-5526 for the Coyote District and (505) 753-7331 for the Espanola District. You may have to leave a voice mail message.  The receptionist can help with that.  I suggest you also leave a complaint with the District Ranger. Mark Sando for the Coyote District and Sandy Herlocker for the Espanola District.  If you do not get an acceptable response you can also contact the SFNF Supervisor, James Melonas at (505) 438-5300.

If you encounter trespass cattle:

    1. Note the date, time and location.
    2. Note approximately how many cattle and the color of their ear tags. The tag color is specific to a given allotment.
    3. If you have a camera, take a photo.
    4. Call Rachel Suazo at the above number and report the trespass cattle.  Leave a message with the District Ranger.