May 16, 2014

Washington, DC (May 16, 2014) Congressman Steve Pearce is disappointed by the Department of Justice's inability to recognize the constitutional property rights of citizens in the ongoing dispute over access to water for cattle ranchers in Otero County. The U.S. Forest Service continues to deny the Goss family access to the Agua Chiquita, after two court rulings have declared this family's right to access that water for their cattle.

"The Department of Justice and the U.S. Forest Service have acted with contempt to the findings of these courts. They have also failed to cooperate today with elected officials of Otero County, as they attempted to mediate the property rights issues surrounding the opening of the gates at Agua Chiquita," said Congressman Steve Pearce. "The DOJ's actions in this matter demonstrate that our constitutional protections have no value to this administration. I will immediately request a Congressional field hearing to address the U.S. Attorney's failure to uphold the private property rights of citizens, and an additional hearing on the USFS's taking of private water rights."

The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that if a person has water rights, they have the right to convey that water over private or public property to their livestock. The USFS has not allowed the Goss family this ability. Federal claims court ruled in their favor after the USFS denied the longtime ranching family the ability to access water in another area of the national forest. The New Mexico State Engineer has also agreed that the Goss family maintains water rights to the Agua Chiquita.

Congressman Pearce has stood by Otero County ranchers and elected officials during this dispute. He will continue to stand by the county and its citizens. The USFS and US District Attorney refused a request by the county attorney who asked for Congressman Pearce to be present at today's mediation hearing.