Ranchers in New Mexico’s bootheel felt relief after a federal judge ruled on Wednesday that the Rancherin designating area lands as critical habitat for jaguars.


The species favors the tropical climates of Central and South America, but rare sightings of a few jaguars that had roamed significantly beyond their typical range were used as evidence by the USFWS when they classified the arid lands of the desert Southwest as jaguar territory in 2014.  


The New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau, along with the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association and the New Mexico Federal Lands Council, then sued the USFWS and the Department of the Interior challenging the critical habitat designation.  Their suit noted that the area was of marginal benefit to the jaguar and did not contain proven breeding populations. Additionally, the land was privately owned, and the designation infringed upon ranchers’ private property rights.


Judge Kenneth Gonzales agreed with the argument stating that “Although vacating the critical habitat designations for Units 5 and 6 will undoubtedly harm the jaguar to some degree as Defendant-Intervenors describe, the Court finds that such harm is minimal at best.”


“This is a great decision out of the courts that helps agriculture, and our landowners, mitigate impacts of the endangered species act,” says Chad Smith, CEO for the NMF&LB. “It also serves to set precedence for future critical habitat designations that often lead to impediments on private property rights.”