Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Federal judge dismisses suit by New Mexico ranchers who cited families' centuries of grazing

Part of the grazing land in question. (Photo by Luke Jones)
"A group of Hispanic ranchers has been dealt a blow in their years-long feud with the federal government over grazing rights on land in New Mexico that has been used by their families for centuries," Susan Montoya Bryan reports for The Associated Press.

At issue is the Forest Service's 2010 decision to cut grazing permits by 18 percent in the Alamosa and Jarita Mesa historic land grants, despite acknowledging that descendants of Spanish colonists have a unique relationship with the land. The ranchers sued, saying that the agency didn't consider the social and economic harm that would result in the high-poverty region, where many depend on land subsistence. They say the agency has a responsibility to remember that Hispanics' property rights have been ignored and institutional bias has been allowed to continue over the years. 

But in a recent ruling, a federal judge "dismissed remaining counts against the government, finding that the National Environmental Policy Act does not require the Forest Service to consider social and economic effects that are a direct result of an agency's action," Bryan reports. He ruled that the law narrowly centers on effects to the physical environment.

"The Forest Service has argued that management practices by the ranchers contributed to overuse of meadows in the two allotments and that grazing conditions needed to be improved by limited livestock," another AP story reports. The decision may be a death blow to the ranchers' case, which was first filed in January 2012.

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