Groups sue federal agencies over cattle grazing in NM preserve

By Scott Streater | 06/04/2024 04:11 PM EDT

The Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service have failed to stop illegal grazing in New Mexico’s Valles Caldera National Preserve that damages habitat for protected species, a lawsuit says.

FILE - This Sept. 3, 2010, file photo, shows the grasslands at Valles Caldera National Preserve, N.M. Members of New Mexico's congressional delegation and conservation groups are applauding the U.S. Senate's approval Wednesday, June 17, 2020, of a bipartisan bill that would devote nearly $2 billion a year to improve and maintain national parks and double spending on a popular conservation program that has funneled tens of millions of dollars to New Mexico and other states over the decades. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File)

The grasslands at Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico. Susan Montoya Bryan/AP

A coalition of environmental groups is suing the Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service in an effort to stop cattle on a New Mexico national forest from crossing over to a neighboring preserve and damaging habitat for a slew of federally protected species.

Cattle from the Santa Fe National Forest illegally grazing on the Valles Caldera National Preserve has been an issue for several years — it touched off a brief exchange last month between New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich (D) and Forest Service Chief Randy Moore.

But the coalition — WildEarth Guardians, the Western Watersheds Project and Caldera Action — said it filed the lawsuit Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico because they said their ongoing efforts to get the Forest Service to erect and maintain fencing to keep hundreds of head of cattle out of the preserve have failed.


The 89,000-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico is managed by the National Park Service, which does allow for very limited livestock grazing within the preserve.