Aerial Shooting of Feral Cattle Closes NM's Gila Wilderness Area
Wednesday, February 22, 2023
A helicopter will be used starting tomorrow to fly over a portion of the Gila Wilderness in southwestern New Mexico, searching for feral cattle to shoot and kill.
The U.S. Forest Service said the animals were abandoned there by a rancher in the 1970s.
Todd Schulke, co-founder of the Center for Biological Diversity, said the estimated 150 cattle overgraze, trample stream banks and degrade water quality.
"They are incredibly damaging to habitat for the rest of the animals that live along the river," Schulke asserted. "Because they denude the vegetation and turn what should be a lush riverside forest into a dust bowl."
Some ranchers and the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association have criticized the plan as animal cruelty and claim killing them is illegal, while the Forest Service said it is the most efficient and humane way to deal with removal of the cattle.
Conservation groups have filed dozens of lawsuits over the years urging the Forest Service to eliminate cattle from the Gila, which was designated the world's first wilderness area in 1924.
Cyndi Tuell, state director of the Western Watersheds Project, believes the action is necessary to restore a more natural wildlife habitat.
"They're eating vegetation that is habitat for other species," Tuell pointed out. "We have salamanders, we have birds, we have fish, we have frogs - and you also have deer, elk, all kinds of rodents that live in these areas. The cows are destroying habitat for all of those animals."
In general, environmental groups oppose domestic livestock grazing in wilderness areas. Nonetheless, they do not normally advocate for killing animals. But because traditional roundups have failed, Schulke stressed water-quality issues in the Gila will only worsen if the feral cattle are not removed.
"The Forest Service has tried to remove them several times over the last 40 or 50 years, and just never been able to get them all," Schulke observed. "And so right now, we're at sort-of a peak in population."
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association had asked the Forest Service to delay lethal action for a year and is expected to challenge the latest decision.
get more stories like this via email
Health and Wellness
California's medical aid-in-dying law is back in court. Three patients with disabilities and two doctors are asking to intervene in a lawsuit …
A new federal jobs program aims to mobilize tens of thousands of young Americans to address the growing threats of climate change. The American …
Little Priest Tribal College in Winnebago says its student body and campus are growing - and so are its options for people to study in STEM fields…
Health and Wellness
By Nathalia Teixeira for Kent State News Lab.Broadcast version by Nadia Ramlagan reporting for the Kent State-Ohio News Connection Collaboration…
Maine's new Office of Affordable Health Care holds its first public hearing this week, and people are being strongly encouraged to participate…
The number of children locked behind bars in Alabama has declined, but their advocates said more needs to be done to create alternatives to …
This coming Saturday, North Dakotans will get a chance to see how election workers go to great lengths to ensure a safe and secure voting process…
It's Hispanic Heritage Month, and one Nevada organization wants Latinos to realize the power they can have when they are more politically engaged…