Conservation Group and Rancher Strike Deal to Protect Greater Gila Lands
Historic, First-ever Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement on nearly 45 square miles of the Gila National Forest
Silver City, NM—After accepting the voluntary waiver of the grazing permit from the Deep Creek Ranch on April 21, the Gila National Forest will close and vacate the grazing allotment for at least 10 years. The closure relieves long-standing resource challenges such as recurring wildfire, drought conditions and endangered species.
In May of 2013 Mr. and Mrs. Alan Tackman, the owners of Deep Creek Ranch, and WildEarth Guardians entered into an agreement to provide monetary compensation in exchange for the voluntary waiver of the grazing permit, laying the groundwork for lasting stewardship in the region.
“We are proud to be part of this innovative effort, and applaud Alan Tackman for his willingness to act creatively in a way that serves our shared interest in the stewardship of the lands of the Greater Gila—the region that inspired America’s first wilderness,” said John Horning, Executive Director of WildEarth Guardians.
The voluntary grazing permit retirement program is a pioneering strategy being implemented in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona, where a half-dozen 10,000-foot peaks rise above the northern edge of the Chihuahuan desert and ranching is prevalent. The Deep Creek grazing allotment, in the heart of the Gila, is an extraordinary place. Home to wolves and numerous other plants and animals listed under the Endangered Species Act, this landscape is wild and ecologically diverse.
In recent years, the Deep Creek allotment has been plagued by drought, wildfire and endangered species challenges. In the face of dramatically changing economic and climate conditions in this rugged part of New Mexico, ranchers, the U.S. Forest Service, and conservationists are crafting creative approaches to restore the landscape and give people the freedom and flexibility to ranch in places with fewer challenges.
Tackman received financial compensation from WildEarth Guardians and after relinquishing his permit, the U.S. Forest Service administratively suspended use of the allotment and will vacate the permit for at least the next ten years. The permit cannot be reissued without full compliance with NEPA and ESA requirements.
This is an inventive approach to resolving public land grazing challenges in the 21st Century. Overgrazing, combined with drought and wildfire, has left western rangeland threadbare and watersheds vulnerable. The voluntary retirement of the Deep Creek permit will give a small piece of this landscape and its wildlife and watersheds time to heal. This closure reflects everyone’s interest in ensuring the long-term health of the Gila, and it finds a way to honor the legacies and traditions of the region while doing so.
The Deep Creek Ranch permit authorized 205 head of cattle and 8 horses year-round on the forest. The allotment is more than 28,000 acres (44 square miles) and located east of the town of Alma in Catron County, NM on the Gila National Forest. The allotment experienced longstanding challenges between livestock grazing and Mexican gray wolves from the Dark Canyon Pack.
WildEarth Guardians has another permit retirement agreement signed and is collaborating with other ranchers in the Greater Gila Bioregion to voluntarily waive their grazing privileges. The birthplace of the American Wilderness ideal and Aldo Leopold’s land ethic, the Gila is one of the last wild landscapes of its size in the United States. The collaborative effort between conservation groups, land users and federal agencies bodes well for protecting the lands of the Greater Gila as a conservation treasure, rivaling Yellowstone in both biodiversity and splendor.