Lawless Grazing, Volunteering for National Public Lands Day

We’ve had another summer with trespass cattle in many areas of the Valles Caldera, particularly in the Valle Toledo and Valle San Antonio. Many members contacting us with photos and counts of illegal cattle in the Valles Caldera. It appears the peak number of trespass cattle this summer was 130, a number which leads one to wonder if the cows are being pushed into the Preserve deliberately. Please continue to send photos and locations where they were taken to

We are concerned about the cattle trespass because the cattle are damaging streams, polluting the water, damaging threatened and endangered species habitat, and ruining the fishing and hiking for Park visitors. The VCNP was set aside as a place meant to be free of the sort of industrial uses, like grazing, that we have on the national forests.

These cows come primarily from the Mesa del Medio allotment on the Coyote District of the Santa Fe National Forest. Some come from the Youngsville allotment also.

The US Forest Service, for whatever reason, is not enforcing its contract terms with the ranchers who use their lands. Specifically, ranchers sign a contract with the USFS that says the following:

“Permittees grazing outside of the authorized allotment, dates, or in excess numbers will be billed at the unauthorized use rate. Continued violations will be faced with further penalties against their Term Grazing Permit.”

It appears that permittees are not billed or fined by the USFS as they have been allowing their cattle to trespass on the VCNP for years.

For their part, the National Park Service is not removing the cattle or fining the cattle owners. According to the Valles Caldera’s official policy, the NPS may fine ranchers for trespass on a per-day basis. Here is the NPS policy on cattle trespass at the VCNP:

“The NPS will notify the permittee via phone and in writing (email) of any stray livestock observed and/or reported outside the designated grazing locations of the Rincón de los Soldados or the Valle de los Posos. The permittee will round up and return any stray livestock to the appropriate grazing location within 72 hours of notification by NPS staff. The permittee will be charged $10/day per head for any livestock not returned to the authorized grazing location after that time period.”

We have asked the VCNP managers why they don’t fine the ranchers but have not received an answer yet.

In short, we have two federal agencies that are paid by the American people to manage our lands for us, and they are failing to enforce the law to protect the Preserve.

What you can do:

Call Coyote District Ranger Mark Sando and ask him to have his permittees remove their cattle from the VCNP. Ask him to enforce the Annual Operating Instructions (contract). His number is 575 638 5526. Please leave a message.

Call Superintendent Jorge Silva-Banuelos at the VCNP and ask him to impound the stray cattle. His office number is 575 829 4801. Please leave a message.

Celebrate National Public Lands Day by volunteering at VCNP or Bandelier.

Bandelier is sponsoring a backcountry clean-up on September 26 to celebrate National Public Lands Day. Join staff and volunteers to clean up old research debris and trash in the wilderness. Meet at Ponderosa Campground at 7AM.

The Amigos de Los Valles will host a similar event at the Caldera on September 24.  Meet at the Entrance Station building at 9AM. They have different tasks for us.


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