The Gila National Forest Wilderness Ranger District closed public comment on January 9, 2023 on a proposal to remove unbranded, feral cattle from the Gila Wilderness. During the 53-day public comment period, the Forest Service received over two thousand comments in support of the removal of feral cattle that are destroying fish and wildlife habitat, overgrazing native vegetation, trampling stream banks, and polluting critical water sources.
The Gila is America’s first designated wilderness, and one of the most valuable public land resources accessible in the Southwestern United States. The Gila River and its tributaries warrant designation and protection under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Unfortunately, these public treasures have suffered destruction from feral cattle since the 1990’s. Over the last four decades, the Forest Service has made repeated attempts to remove the feral cattle through a combination of lethal and non-lethal means. Although the Forest Service has removed 756 cattle over the last 30 years, a reproducing herd of 50 to 250 feral cattle persists and will continue to grow if left unchecked. The public strongly supports the Gila National Forest’s current proposal to promptly use the most effective and quickest means possible to protect the Gila’s lands, water, and wildlife.
“We commend the Gila National Forest for initiating this project and wholeheartedly endorse their proposed action to remove all feral cattle from the Gila Wilderness,” said Nathan Newcomer, Gila Grassroots Organizer with New Mexico Wild. “We hope and expect that the efforts to eradicate unbranded, unowned, feral cattle will be completed by the time the Gila Wilderness celebrates its 100th Anniversary in June of 2024.”
“Immediate removal of feral cattle from the Gila Wilderness is necessary to stop the severe ecological damage caused by these cattle. This is a critical first step in restoring the Gila’s riparian ecosystems from overgrazing, erosion, water quality degradation and habitat loss. We fully support the Gila National Forest’s proposal for humane and safe methods for removal of feral cattle from the Gila Wilderness,” said Allyson Siwik, Executive Director of the Gila Conservation Coalition.
“It’s clear that the decades long round ups and the so-called management solutions offered by the cattlegrowers have been a failure. It’s time to take care of this problem once and for all. Lethal removal is the only tool that will get this done,” said Todd Schulke, co-founder of the Center for Biological Diversity.
Photo: Center for Biological Diversity