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WOLF-KILLING RANCHER ORDERED BY COURT TO REMOVE COWS AND PAY TRESPASS FINES FOR UNLAWFUL FOREST GRAZING

For immediate release January 3, 2022

Media contacts: 

Greta Anderson, Western Watersheds Project (520)623-1878; greta@westernwatersheds.org

Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity (602) 799-3275; rsilver@biologicaldiversity.org

 

SILVER CITY, NM – Last week, the District Court of New Mexico ruled against the wolf-killing rancher who lost his grazing permit on the Gila National Forest in 2018, stating that Craig Thiessen and Canyon del Buey, Inc., have been trespassing on the forest since they lost their administrative appeal in 2019, and now the ranchers owe the agency money for their federal land abuses. This case was a parallel case to one Thiessen lost in March 2021, in which he falsely asserted he had grazing “rights” to the Canyon del Buey allotment.

“Grazing permits are a privilege and not a right, and Mr. Thiessen lost that privilege after he pleaded guilty to bludgeoning an endangered young Mexican gray wolf to death with a shovel,” said Greta Anderson, Deputy Director of Western Watersheds Project. “While he’s been frivolously suing the agency and trying to use arcane legal theories to retain a grazing permit to the Canyon del Buey allotment, his livestock have been trespassing on publicly-managed lands. The court is correct to order him to pay damages and get off the forest.”

Craig Thiessen pleaded guilty to “knowingly taking threatened wildlife” in the case of wolf m1385, named “Mia Tuk” by an Albuquerque schoolchild, and he admitted to bludgeoning the trapped 10-month-old wolf with a shovel. Further review of the documents associated with the federal investigation into Mia Tuk’s death showed that Thiessen actually admitted to killing to trapping and beating a second wolf but the incident wasn’t included in his guilty plea.

After admitting to his Endangered Species Act crime, Thiessen lost his grazing permit on public lands. He contested the revocation in the internal administrative appeals process, lost, and then took it up in a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service in the District Court of New Mexico, where he lost again in March 2021. Thiessen has appealed that ruling to the 10th Circuit, where it is still pending.

Last week’s decision pertains strictly to the Forest Service’s case against Thiessen, wherein the federal agency asked the court to eject Thiessen’s trespassing livestock from the public lands and order Thiessen to pay monetary damages and fines for his unlawful use since 2019. The court agreed with the Forest Service and will determine penalties later this month.

“Hopefully this ruling will finally end this cruel rancher’s abusive reign of terror on public lands,” said Center for Biological Diversity Co-Founder and Board Member Robin Silver.  “The fact that a rancher who took the face off with a shovel of a young, trapped endangered Mexican wolf the size of a small German shepherd almost seven years ago and did not have to immediately forfeit his ability to graze his cows on public lands speaks volumes about the stranglehold ranchers have over Forest Service managers and why this destructive culture must end.”

The grazing allotment occurs on the traditional lands of the Pueblo, Shiwinna (Zuni), and Chiricahua Apache people.

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