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Judge considering Hispanic ranchers' case against U.S. Forest Service over grazing rights

EADS, CO - AUGUST 22:  Rancher Gary Wollard prepares to lasso sick cattle for treatment on August 22, 2012 near Eads, on the plains of eastern Colorado. Many cattle in the area have developed respiratory infections due to the wide temperature swings in this summer's heatwave and drought. While most cases have been cured with antibiotics, some have been fatal. More than half of high plains areas of eastern Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas are still in extreme or exceptional drought, despite recent lower temperatures, according to the University of Nebraska's Drought Monitor. The record-breaking drought, which has affected more than half of the continental United States, is expected to drive up food prices by 2013 due to lower crop harvests and the adverse effect on the nation's cattle industry.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

EADS, CO - AUGUST 22: Rancher Gary Wollard prepares to lasso sick cattle for treatment on August 22, 2012 near Eads, on the plains of eastern Colorado. Many cattle in the area have developed respiratory infections due to the wide temperature swings in this summer's heatwave and drought. While most cases have been cured with antibiotics, some have been fatal. More than half of high plains areas of eastern Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas are still in extreme or exceptional drought, despite recent lower temperatures, according to the University of Nebraska's Drought Monitor. The record-breaking drought, which has affected more than half of the continental United States, is expected to drive up food prices by 2013 due to lower crop harvests and the adverse effect on the nation's cattle industry. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)  (2012 Getty Images)

A federal judge is weighing whether to let a case move forward in which a group of Hispanic ranchers is suing the U.S. Forest Service over a decision to limit grazing on historic land grant areas in northern New Mexico.

The ranchers claim the agency is discriminating by trying to push them from land that has been worked by their families for centuries.

U.S. District Judge James Browning heard arguments Thursday on a motion by the Forest Service to dismiss the case. He's expected to make a decision by September.

The ranchers say at stake is a piece of Hispanic culture and the economic viability of several northern New Mexico communities that depend on access to surrounding lands for everything from grazing to fire wood.

The lawsuit centers on a 2010 decision to cut grazing on the Jarita Mesa and Alamosa grazing allotments.

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