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Cows will be reauthorized in active wolf territories on the Gila National Forest
Silver City, NM – Disregarding an outpouring of letters from the public, the Gila National Forest has reauthorized livestock grazing on 144,401 acres in several active wolf territories. More than 1,000 cows will be permitted year round on four allotments: Cox Canyon, Deadman, O Bar O and Y Canyon Allotments near Reserve, NM. The National Forest received 3,678 letters from the public, nearly 99% of all public comments, requesting the wolf country be closed to livestock grazing for ten years to allow recovery and save taxpayer subsidies to the livestock industry.
Under a 2011 settlement agreement with WildEarth Guardians, the Forest Service was required to complete the environmental analysis for the four grazing allotments covering 225 mi2 by April 30, 2013 and consider an alternative submitted by WildEarth Guardians. WildEarth Guardians presented an alternative that would remove livestock for ten years for resource protection. There area documented denning wolf packs in the allotments.
“The government has decided to ignore overwhelming public desire to give the wolves some room to roam.” Said Bryan Bird, Wild Places Program Director for WildEarth Guardians. “It demonstrates the deep and improper relationship of the Forest Service with the livestock industry in the West.”
The decision includes range improvements including fencing at a total cost on $944,750. A 10-year livestock non-use alternative is not unprecedented on the Gila National Forest or other forests in the West. The permit-waiver, 10-year livestock non-use alternative would result in significant benefits to the Mexican gray wolf and meet the Forest Service’s obligations under the ESA for listed species recovery.
“The Gila bioregion is the Yellowstone of the Southwest.” Said Bird. “The potential for a similar national treasure is huge, where wolves run free, herds of elk graze immense grasslands, and rivers run freely. But the Forest Service just digs in its heels and defends hard dying customs.”
The allotments in question include more than 11,000 acres or 17 mi2 of inventoried roadless areas or undeveloped watersheds and include other species listed under the ESA such as the Mexican spotted owl. These unroaded watersheds have wilderness qualities and are essential in producing clean and abundant water.