Legal Foundation Defends Property Rights
Mountain States Legal Foundation has been granted the right to intervene on behalf of besieged ranchers in Center for Biological Diversity v. Bernhardt, a case that could decide the future of livestock operations across significant swaths of Arizona and New Mexico.
“Anti-ranching groups for years have been weaponizing the Endangered Species Act against livestock operators, in a bid to deny them their grazing rights and evict them from public lands,” said MSLF attorney Brian Gregg is response to the ruling. “The only difference here is that they’re using flawed, self-generated ‘science’ in support of the eviction order.”
Anti-grazing groups understand that ranchers can’t survive without access to rivers, streams and other water sources. This explains a litany of lawsuits over the years claiming that this or that species is imperiled when livestock cross or otherwise use streambeds. An allegedly threatened jumping mouse is the latest species they want “saved” by fencing-off water sources that livestock growers can’t do without.
MSLF in this case is representing longtime Arizona ranchers Doug Stacey and Bill and Barbara Marks, award winning conservationists who could lose access to critical water sources on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest if greater “protection” of “jumping mouse habitat” is allowed to negate their grazing rights, water rights and property right. MSLF also represents the Arizona Cattle Growers Association, which recognizes the devastating statewide economic impact this case could have.
The plaintiffs claim that the New Mexico Jumping Mouse could be harmed by these long-established ranching operations, based on non-peer-reviewed “science” of their own creation. MSLF argues that this case is not based on the best available science; that mouse and man can successfully share these areas; and that arbitrarily fencing-out livestock, based on self-serving agenda-driven science, would spell doom for ranchers who are good and conscientious caretakers of the land and water.
MSLF believes that a conflict of interest arises when management decisions are made by “science” originating with interested parties – especially parties with a well-known anti-ranching bias. “The point of this and similar lawsuits isn’t to protect endangered species, but to use these allegedly endangered species as a pretext for regulating historic family ranches out of business,” said Brian Gregg, MSLF’s lead attorney on the case. “We’re intervening in this case in defense of ranchers who have a proven track record of good stewardship, but also against radical groups who are notorious for using dubious claims to wage an ideological war against grazing.”
“The problem isn’t cattle running roughshod over streambeds, as alleged, but organized anti-ranching groups running roughshod over grazing rights, using unsubstantiated environmental threats as a pretext,” added Gregg.