As anticipated by The New American in an earlier story on the subject, the U.S. Department of Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have listed the lesser prairie chicken (shown in photo) as a threatened species and placed the meadow jumping mouse on the endangered species list, protecting the alleged habitat of both animals from intrusion by people.
What effect will this have on the ranchers in southern New Mexico — ranchers already under assault from nature in the form of a two-year-long drought? The Associated Press reported, "Regional officials with the U.S. Forest Service have acknowledged they will have to put up fences or take other action to protect water sources for the mouse. Ranchers say that could force them to abandon their grazing allotments."
This will do nothing but further rile up the ranchers in Otero County, New Mexico, who have been engaged in a protracted battle with the federal green gestapo over the access to critical watering holes that happen to be on the habitat of these now-federally-protected species.
As The New American has reported, the federal Forest Service fenced off a 23-acre section of land, preventing a rancher’s cattle from getting to a watering hole located on the tract.
In May, the county commission voted unanimously (with one commissioner absent) to empower the sheriff to open a gate, making a way for the cattle, some 200 in number, to get to the water. “We are reacting to the infringement of the U.S. Forest Service on the water rights of our land-allotment owners," Otero County Commissioner Tommie Herrell told Reuters. "People have been grazing there since 1956,” he added.
The Associated Press (AP) reports that Scott Verhines, New Mexico’s state engineer, is hopeful for renewed negotiations. “I encourage the Forest Service to engage the ranchers affected by the fences in the Agua Chiquita area to develop a similar solution that provides access to drinking water needed for livestock in this time of drought, just as the Forest Service has done in two recent disputes elsewhere in Lincoln National Forest,” Verhines said, as quoted by the AP.
As it did in the case of Cliven Bundy, the federal environmental bureaucracy points to the “delicate ecosystem” of the mouse and the chicken that runs along the Agua Chiquita as an excuse for seizing control of the land and the water in that area.
Given the fact that this area of the state has been suffering under extreme drought conditions for over a year, ranchers in Otero County are particularly angry at the government’s ham-fisted attempt to exercise control over the site of the spring, effectively killing their cattle.
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