Picture this opening scene in a modern Western tragedy: Panning slowly across the southwestern New Mexico landscape, snow-capped mountains on the horizon, the Gila National Forest sprawling in the foreground, the camera begins to zoom in slowly on the ribbon of road that slices through the 147,000-acre Diamond Bar Ranch. A small cluster of horses comes into view. Two cowboys are leading-herding a few horses from one work center on the ranch to another, some 15 miles away.
The sounds of hooves and the forest, along with an occasional word between Dale Laney and his 14-year old son, Albert, are interrupted when a Forest Service law-enforcement vehicle bursts into the scene - blue lights flashing. Thus begins a modern drama that is being written daily by real-life characters fighting a range war that will either rein in federal power, or unleash that power to put an end to ranching in the West.
Forest Service law-enforcement officers demanded that the Laneys get off their horses and display a permit.
"A permit for what?" Dale asked.
Dale was told the road and the entire Diamond Bar Ranch had been closed by a Feb. 29 order from the Forest Service, and that he needed a permit to be on it.
Dale didn't have a permit. He had never needed a permit to move stock on a public road through his family's ranch. He told Albert to keep moving the horses.
Another Forest Service law-enforcement vehicle appeared, and then another, blue lights flashing, sirens wailing, bull-horns blasting, horses running in different directions - until the Laneys rounded them up and led them through a canyon to their destination.
According to Patrol Capt. Mike Reamer, 14 law-enforcement officers have been deployed to the Diamond Bar Ranch, armed with semi-automatic rifles, shotguns and sidearms.