For Immediate Release, February 22, 2023
Todd Schulke, TSchulke@biologicaldiversity.org
Court Backs Removal of Feral Cattle From Gila Wilderness
ALBUQUERQUE— The U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico today announced its decision to deny a request for a temporary restraining order to stop the removal of feral (unbranded and unauthorized) cattle from the Gila Wilderness.
The Gila Wilderness is America’s first designated wilderness and one of the most valuable public land resources in the Southwestern United States.
“We applaud the judge’s decision upholding the hard work done by the Forest Service to protect the Gila, America’s first wilderness,” said Todd Schulke, co-founder of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The American people will get clean water, a healthy river and quality wildlife habitat out of the deal.”
The Gila National Forest’s recent public scoping period for this project generated overwhelming public support for feral cattle removal from wilderness. More than 5,000 comments were submitted in support of the removal of the feral cattle, including the use of lethal means.
Feral, unbranded cattle have been destroying fish and wildlife habitat, overgrazing native vegetation, trampling stream banks, and polluting critical water sources within the Gila Wilderness for decades. The Gila National Forest estimates that there are 50-150 feral cattle remaining in the Gila Wilderness.
There have been many unsuccessful attempts to round up this reproducing herd over the past 40 years. Lethal removal has been demonstrated to be necessary to successfully remove feral cattle from the Gila Wilderness because of the area’s remoteness and rugged topography and the wildness of the feral cattle. Previous roundups have resulted in a greater than 50% mortality rate of captured feral cattle, and the roundups pose safety risks to the wranglers and horses used during operations.
Years of roundup efforts and subsequent ecological monitoring have confirmed that the feral cows in the Gila Wilderness are unowned, unbranded, unauthorized animals that have been reproducing independently of any ranching operation. There are no ranches or active grazing allotments in proximity to the area occupied by the feral cattle. The Gila National Forest has full legal authority to remove unauthorized livestock from federal lands under its management.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.