ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – Nearly half of New Mexico’s Legislature is stepping into the fray between ranchers and the federal government over the fencing of watering holes on national forest land to protect an endangered mouse found in three western states.
The 50 lawmakers say the government has overstepped its authority and is trampling private property and water rights.
They’ve sent a letter to State Engineer Tom Blaine, asking that he use his authority as New Mexico’s top water official to stop the U.S. Forest Service from limiting access to springs, streams and other riparian areas.
The Forest Service first began ordering closures and installing fences in 2014 on the Santa Fe and Lincoln forests.
The mouse also is found in Arizona and Colorado, and federal wildlife officials recently set aside nearly 22 square miles in the three states as critical habitat.