For our overview of Grazing Issues, please
read the section on our Home Page.
The Wilderness Act of 1964, Section 4 (b),
lists the only allowed uses for designated Wilderness areas as
"recreation, scenic, scientific, educational, conservation, and historical
use." Section 4 (d) addresses Special Provisions, which has the
"The grazing of livestock, where
established prior to September 3, 1964, shall be permitted to continue,
subject to such reasonable regulations as are deemed necessary by the
Secretary of Agriculture."
Clearly, grazing is allowed, or more
accurately "tolerated", only as a special concession. History has
proven that this "special provision" doesn't offer much protection to the
rancher. Both the BLM and the Forest Service acknowledge that
federal Wilderness designation does impact grazing.
Section 4 (c) of the Wilderness Act clearly
prohibits permanent and temporary roads and motorized vehicles, among
other uses. Many areas in Dona Ana County contain numerous roads
which are used regularly by the ranchers, sportsmen, recreationalists and
others. The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance assures everyone they
will get those roads "cherry stemmed", a mapping technique which carves
the roads out of the designated wilderness area on paper. However,
since federal Wilderness designation is a legislative act of Congress,
NMWA does not have the ability or the authority to create cherry stems.
The prohibition on motorized vehicles is
significant, since there is daily need for the use of motorized vehicles
on ranches in our county to maintain viable ranching operations.
Dr. John Fowler is coordinator of the Range
Improvement Task Force (RITF), housed at New Mexico State University,
which is a group of scientists with impeccable credentials who conduct
peer reviewed scientific studies. In June of 2000, Dr. Fowler
presented the results of a scientific study of grazing trends in New
Mexico's Gila National Forest. The Gila National Forest was set
aside in 1924 at the urging of Aldo Leopold. In 1964, 588,014 acres
of the 3.3 million acre total became designated as the Gila Wilderness.
This area is managed by the U.S. Forest Service.
The Range Improvement Task
Force studied grazing trends in the Gila from 1906 through 1998.
The study showed an 86.7% decrease in cattle grazing in the Gila National
Forest, including the designated Wilderness areas. The study
concluded that precipitation and cattle prices seemed to have no
relationship to the drastic lowering of livestock stocking rates, so other factors had to be considered.
The only viable answer was
that U.S. Forest Service policy was the single greatest factor in the
decrease of livestock numbers in the wilderness areas, even though the
Wilderness Act states that grazing would continue in the same manner and
degree as it did prior to wilderness designation.
A website for the "Forest
Service Employees for Environmental Ethics", in their "FSEEE Appeals"
section, has an article under the heading "Stop Destructive Grazing and
Preserve Species on National Forests".
The article opens with "Cattle grazing
accounts for the most widespread abuse of public land in the American
resource is the transcript of the testimony
given by Mike Webster to the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands and
Forests regarding H.R. 3606 and S. 3794 on September 27, 2006. Mr.
Webster is a 4th generation cattle rancher and provides a rancher's
perspective on wilderness issues.
The issues that arose with
ranching in designated Wilderness areas caused the 96th Congress to create
"Congressional Grazing Guidelines". These guidelines were intended
to prevent the abuse of administrative powers and no doubt did in certain
areas where grazing is only seasonal and livestock water comes from
natural (undeveloped) sources. These grazing guidelines do not
adequately address year-round grazing with developed water sources.
reality is that grazing is "allowed" in designated Wilderness areas, but
only if the rancher is content with and able to operate using the methods
of the 19th century.
The federal agencies that manage wilderness
areas are under tremendous pressure from many environmental organizations.
Doug Scott in his book "The Enduring Wilderness", published by the
Wilderness Society, states that grazing of livestock is a "non-conforming
use", and grazing is one of the issues for the Wilderness Society to "deal
We feel it is very important to understand
the background and positions of the organizations and individuals involved
in the environmental movements, especially those that hold extreme
anti-grazing, anti-cattle and anti-rancher views. Bumper stickers
for "No Moo in '92" and "Cow Free in '93" were seen in the early 90's.
These positions are clearly incompatible with maintaining the existing
property rights held by ranchers who own grazing allotments.
position statement on federal wilderness.