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Commentary: Ranchers: the endangered species

Farmers threatened because of wolf attacks on lifestock, also face attacks from environmentalists who want to rid the West of ranchers

By Laura Schneberger
July 6, 2005

TODAY'S BYLINE: Schneberger is a ranching activist who lives in Winston, N.M.

Compare for just a moment the differences in the participants in the latest round of public meetings on wolf-reintroduction in New Mexico.

A recent meeting in Reserve was attended by families with children. They were very much like everyday Albuquerque families, only they are out on the range.

Ranchers are small-business men and women, who lose their livelihoods with every calf or cow killed by a wolf. They deal with death and disaster every day in their herds. They also deal with tremendous stress. The venomous hatred expressed towards them at some of the more-urban meetings on the wolf is a shock.

Ranchers' herds are their restaurants, flower shops and construction companies, providing futures for their families and homes for their children. No one would expect a business to tolerate a robbery every night or police who do nothing to stop it. Businesses have the right to protect their interests and their property.

Regarding wolf attacks, ranchers have to prove they are being harmed first, then beg and persuade a doubting and slow-acting agency to help them, when it is not in the agency's best interest. They must then deal with the environmental movement and what it means to make extremist wolf-supporters mad. No one would expect an Albuquerque businessman or family to tolerate this kind of political pressure.

Environmentalists have axes to grind against ranchers and anyone else who promotes multiple uses of federal lands, including recreation. They will use any means to do so, even forcing total economic destruction of rural communities.

Environmentalists are pushing a government buyout bill to rid the West of its ranchers, without informing the public of the real ramifications. People with political motivations are driving wolf reintroduction, protecting the silvery minnow and other production- and private-property-destroying plans disguised as endangered species issues.

These people will not tell the truth about the so-called Brunhilda wolf and her brood and the fact that in the last four years the pack she is in has killed 200 to 300 calves and cows on grazing allotments and on the San Carlos Apache Reservation.

The public must keep in mind that an entire rural county and several small towns depend on the dollars that ranchers pump into the local economy. They are now spending production time managing wolves. They are being forced out of business, while feeding an animal that has been shown historically to be a major depredator and a danger - an animal pushed into their midst by an agency that says the public is happy to have this occurring in its name.

In one incident, a young woman who had just wrecked her truck on an icy road was leading her children home to her ranch at night, when her husband, who had been informed she had not shown up at her destination, found her walking. The next morning, the woman was taken to the hospital for a concussion, and the family was horrified to see wolf tracks following the woman's and children's tracks down the road. Thankfully, time was on her side.

Ranchers want to be left alone to earn a living for their families, politics aside. When not allowed to do so, they are capable of rallying to protect their industries. Sometimes the only option is to call on elected officials for help.

In our rural counties, our elementary schools are being shut down, our communities are being financially decimated, and our jobs are disappearing, all for a pie-in-the-sky law called the Endangered Species Act. Activists with money and time to burn steal our hard work, mislead the public and beat our futures to death.

We deserve the help of our elected officials, because the federal agencies in charge of this program have stiff-armed us from the beginning.

New Mexico's small communities and rural industries have earned respect. Rural lands in New Mexico are predominantly federally and state-owned, and governments must start supporting multiple uses of these lands, as the law provides, to keep reasonable industry alive - or this state will get poorer and poorer, and we will become a service-oriented state and have no productive society left.

We have cattle and land. If we cannot run cattle, the land is our backup, and it will be subdivided to provide for our families. Where does that leave the environment?





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