SILVER CITY, N.M. (KRQE) – The U.S. Forest Service wants your help in trying to decide if more unauthorized cows should be removed from the Gila Wilderness. It’s a topic that’s garnered a lot of debate, but the Forest Service says cattle are damaging the landscape.

“Removal of unauthorized cattle is necessary to protect the habitat of aquatic and terrestrial
wildlife, including federally listed threatened and endangered species,” Camille Howes, a Gila
National Forest Supervisor, said in a press release. “The unauthorized cattle in the Gila Wilderness trample stream banks and springs, causing erosion and sedimentation.”

Earlier this year, the Forest Service announced a plan to shoot some unauthorized cattle. That led to pushback from some groups, including the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, who were concerned that the Forest Service could inadvertently kill cattle owned by some New Mexicans. But the Forest Service countered, saying the cattle they were planning on removing were likely strays and are not retrievable.

Some cattle were killed. In a two-day program, 65 cattle were shot by officials. Now, the Forest Service is seeking public comment on plans to kill more unauthorized cattle.

The general plan is to kill cattle by shooting them from a helicopter. The carcasses would be left to decompose in the Gila Wilderness, provided they are not adjacent to sensitive areas such as hiking trails or bodies of water.

But the Forest Service is open to alternative ideas. They’re open to accepting public comment until January 9, 2023. They note that comments can be sent to Gila National Forest, Attn: Planning Program, 3005 E. Camino del Bosque, Silver City, NM 88061, or online at:

Comments must include: 1) name, address, phone number, and organization represented if any; 2) title of the project “Gila Wilderness Livestock Removal” on which the comment is being submitted; and 3) specific facts and supporting information, according to the Forest Service.

So why are there so many cattle in the Gila Wilderness? The problem dates back almost 50 years, according to the Forest Service.

At the time, a cattle owner declared bankruptcy and abandoned his cattle in the wilderness, according to the Forest Service. Since then, over 750 cattle have been removed, dead or alive.