Judge Denies Cattle Growers’ Motion to Stop USFS from Killing Cattle 

February 23, 2023

After hearing argument on Wednesday, February 22, U.S. District Court Judge James Browning denied NMCGA’s application for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to stop the USFS from mass aerial slaughter of estray cattle in the Gila Wilderness. 

In his Memorandum Opinion and Order, Judge Browning found that preventing the operation would be adverse to the public interest and that the USFS Scoping Letter issued November 22, 2022 provided sufficient notice to NMCGA and other stakeholders of their intent to lethally remove the cattle. The Court further found that the Gila cattle are not “unauthorized livestock” because they are not “kept or raised for use or pleasure”. 

A spokeswoman for the USFS notified NMCGA Thursday, February 16th of their intent to commence aerial gunning for a second year in the Gila Wilderness. This plan of attack allowed the USFS to delay NMCGA filing and hearing request due to the upcoming weekend and federal holiday, President’s Day the following week. Judge Browning questioned the plaintiffs’ delay in bringing forward the action and reasoned it contributed to the Courts conclusion that the balances of equities favored the Defendants. 

Watch: NMCGA's Loren Patterson, Attorney Karen Budd-Falen and Western Ag Network's Rachel Gabel and Lane Nordlund discuss the shooting of cattle in the Gila Wilderness

“We are disappointed the Court decided it will not stop the USFS from its slaughter campaign,” said Loren Patterson, President NMCGA. “Cattle Growers’ is dedicated to the long-term stewardship of New Mexico’s animals and land. Our industry and members recognize the right thing to do is not always the easiest or cheapest. We will continue to fight for the ethical and humane treatment of estray cattle in the Gila.”

Aerial gunning begins Thursday morning, February 23rd and will take place over four consecutive days. The USFS claims there are 150 head to remove from the area. If all estrays are lethally shot, an estimated 65 tons of beef will be left to rot in the Gila Wilderness. 

Related Articles: 

Preventing a Precedent: USFS/APHIS Aerial Gunning of Cattle in Gila to Begin Feb. 23

Preventing a Precedent: NMCGA Files Injunction to Stop Aerial Gunning of Cattle Scheduled to Begin Thursday

Source: NMCGA and Western Ag Network