SALT LAKE CITY — The southwest regional forester with the U.S. Department of Agriculture has decided to revoke a grazing permit from Craig Theissen in the Canyon del Buey area near Datil, New Mexico, in addition to fines charged by federal courts.
Thiessen originally pleaded guilty to the killing of a young Mexican wolf through intentionally trapping and bludgeoning it with a shovel in 2015 on public lands, according to Thiessen’s court documents, in which he pleaded guilty. In explanation, Thiessen said that he had caught the wolf in a leg hold trap on his grazing allotment and killed it because he was worried that if he didn’t hit it with the shovel it would kill him as soon as he released it.
“I knew the animal I caught in the leg hold trap was a Mexican gray wolf because it wore a tracking collar affixed to all Mexican gray wolves in the area,” Thiessen explained in the court documents. Further, he acknowledged that Mexican gray wolves are a threatened species.
Theissen had to pay a $2,300 fine in restitution for the crime, but for many people this punishment was not enough. Last June, 33 different organizations and 20 individuals came together and wrote a letter requesting the Southwest regional forester revoke Theissen’s grazing permits in the area. Hundreds of others also expressed desire for the agency to reprimand him through phone calls and letters, the press release said.
The U.S. Forest Service has said that failing to comply with federal laws protecting wildlife, especially with those protected by the Endangered Species Act, gives the Southwest regional forester the authorization to revoke a person’s grazing permits, according to the press release. The case was submitted for review by Calvin N. Joyner, the regional forester.
Joyner gave his official decision on the appeal on July 2nd, deciding to revoke Theissen’s grazing permit. He added that this is a situation where the cancellation is appropriate, as Thiessen “admitted to taking an illegal action and violating federal law. He pleaded guilty and he was convicted by a federal court. His conviction is a violation of the grazing permit.”
Joyner added in his official decision that the Endangered Species Act states that criminal conviction under that statute should result in the immediate cancellation of a grazing permit.
“When ranchers violate federal law or break the terms of their grazing permits, the forest service is absolutely right to revoke their permission to graze on public land,” Erik Molvar, executive director of Western Watersheds Project, said in the press release. “Mr. Thiessen’s actions violated one of our bedrock environmental laws, shocked and horrified members of the public who want to see wolves recovered, and dealt a blow to New Mexico’s wild [wolf] population.”
Theissen’s livestock will need to be removed from the Canyon del Buey area by the end of August.
Editor's note: The content of this article was taken from a press release sent out by the Western Watersheds Project. This is not information gathered by a KSL.com reporter.