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Environmental group supports plan to deal with feral cattle

ALBUQUERQUE – An environmental group is supporting a U.S. Forest Service plan to put a dent in the feral cattle population on national forest land near the New Mexico-Arizona border.

The Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement Monday that it “commends” the federal agency for trying to remove unowned, feral cows that can threaten sensitive habitat along streams and wetlands in the Gila Wilderness.

The plan, which has drawn the ire of ranchers, calls for wildlife agents to shoot down unbranded livestock from helicopters.

While some environmentalists have long voiced concerns about leaving cow carcasses on the landscape, the Center says unowned feral cows are “dangerous and destructive.”

“Getting them out of the forest hurts no one and helps everyone, including endangered species who have nowhere else to go,” the group said.

The New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association is concerned about the ability of the wildlife agents to distinguish branded from unbranded livestock. Ranchers argue the plan is a violation of federal law and won’t help to solve the problem.