CLOUDCROFT, N.M. (KRQE) – After the feds closed off some of the streams and ponds in the Lincoln National Forest to protect a mouse, they soon had a fight on their hands.
Now the state has thrown one of the affected ranchers a lifeline, and others hope they’re next.
Finding water for their livestock has become a challenge for ranchers in the Lincoln National Forest.
“It’s costing us thousands and thousands of dollars just dealing with this,” said Spike Goss.
Spike and Kelly Goss own the Goss Family Ranch, and their cattle cannot access water from nearby streams.
“How is it that you can take our water rights? Our pre-1907 water rights?” said Spike Goss.
In 2014, the jumping mouse was listed as endangered, and the federal government began installing electric fences near streams to protect its habitat.
“You can see this all over the country. You can see people who are fighting the federal government, and the overreach of the federal government, and we just want to give them hope,” said Kelly Goss.
Although the electric fences are meant to protect the habitat of the endangered jumping mouse, ranchers say there is little evidence to suggest the mouse is even prevalent in the area.
The Goss family was the first to receive a license from the New Mexico State Engineer allowing them limited access to the water — and bringing them closer to what they believe is rightly theirs.
“There’s laws established by Congress that says we have these rights. We don’t own the land, we’re not claiming we own the land, but we do own the surface rights,” said Spike Goss.
After a few years of fighting the new federal rules, the State Engineer stepped in, bringing ranchers hope.
“We’re not doing this for ourselves, trust me. We believe in this,” said Spike Goss.
The ranchers’ fight is part of a federal lawsuit. Ranchers hope a judge will undo the rules — or the Trump administration will change them.