ALBUQUERQUE, NM (Associated Press) — New Mexico’s governor has stepped into the fight over how federal land managers are eradicating wild cows in the Gila Wilderness.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued a statement Friday saying she was disappointed by what she described as the U.S. Forest Service’s lack of meaningful, long-term engagement with stakeholders on a controversial issue.

The Forest Service is currently conducting an aerial shooting operation to kill as many as 150 “unauthorized” cows in a vast area of steep rugged valleys and mountainsides blanketed with trees.

The operation has been the source of legal wrangling and protests by the agricultural community in southwestern New Mexico.

Federal officials and environmentalists contend the animals are trampling stream banks and damaging habitat for other species. Ranchers argue the operation amounts to animal cruelty and that the cows could have been rounded up and removed instead of letting their carcasses rot in the wilderness.

A federal judge cleared the way for the operation Wednesday when he denied a request by ranchers for a delay.