ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A second round of aerial shooting to deal with the problem of feral cows in the Gila is set to take place this week. The U.S. Forest Service is in charge of this project, but lawmakers are proposing a bill they feel is a viable option to stop this act from happening again.

Supporters of this bill say that after the Black Fire, it has become more difficult to keep feral cows off their land since the fires and floods destroyed miles of fencing. Lawmakers think this bill might be a good solution to deal with the excess cattle while stopping the killing.

House Bill 423 amends a section of the New Mexico Livestock Code. It creates a process for anyone who finds 15 or more heads of cattle grazing on their land to have them removed by the New Mexico Livestock Board (NMLB). If within 60 days the NMLB doesn’t take possession of the cattle, it allows the person who found them to keep them or sell them legally within a year.

The bill would also exempt stray cattle from undergoing health tests if sold to slaughter within 30 days. This proposed change was not a popular one in the House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee meeting Tuesday, Feb. 21.

“What they’re {the forest service} doing is illegal under New Mexico Livestock law. It’s also shameful and unnecessary. And it won’t solve the problem in the long run anyway,” one supporter says. “This gives an incentive for those at great risk of going to gather these cattle and it takes a certain breed of cowboy to do it, but it is possible, and it has been successful in the past.”

Despite the support, others pushed back on the bill and expressed their concerns. “Allowing landowners to gather and sell unbranded cattle will link to eventual misinterpretation of the law. This will lead to neighbors stealing from unbranded cattle and presenting them for sale under the pretense of being feral,” says Belinda Garland, executive director of the NMLB.

“The New Mexico Livestock Board returns $500 to $800,000 of estray livestock to the rightful owners every year. This bill would hinder that process,” says Shawn Davis, deputy director of the NMLB.

After much opposition, the bill was tabled unanimously on Feb. 21. Many expressed that the aerial shooting of the cattle is ‘horrendous,’ but noted this bill would weaken the NMLB’s ability to do its job.