Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, February 28, 2023


Todd Schulke, (575) 574-5962,

Motion Filed to Defend Forest Service Removal of Feral Cows From Gila National Forest

SILVER CITY, N.M.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a motion today to intervene in a New Mexico Cattle Growers Association lawsuit that seeks to stop the U.S. Forest Service from removing feral cows from the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico.

The U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico decided last week to deny a request for a temporary restraining order to stop the feral cattle removal. The Cattle Growers’ lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction.

“We want to support the Forest Service and its good work to protect the Gila Wilderness from feral cattle,” said Todd Schulke, co-founder of the Center. “It’s critical that the Forest Service wins this lawsuit so the feral cattle can be removed for good and the Gila Wilderness, its waters and wildlife habitat can be restored.”

The Gila National Forest’s recent public scoping period for this project generated overwhelming public support for feral cattle removal from the wilderness. More than 5,000 comments were submitted in support of removing 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.

The Gila Wilderness is America’s first designated wilderness and one of the most valuable public lands resources in the Southwestern United States. The area is critical habitat for several endangered and threatened species, including Mexican spotted owls, yellow-billed cuckoos, loach minnows, Chiricahua leopard frogs and narrow-headed garter snakes.

The Forest Service has made many unsuccessful attempts to round up this reproducing herd over the past 40 years. Lethal removal has been demonstrated to be necessary 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.

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