This rancher wants to stay

  • Branding at the Blair ranch in the East Mojave

    Whip Manning
 

Note: This article is a sidebar to a feature story.

Although other ranchers in the preserve have said they might sell their land and grazing allotments to a land trust or foundation, Rob Blair says he won't. His family first settled here in 1913, and he hopes that one of his three children will someday take over the ranch.

Rob Blair: "I fought this thing as hard as I could. I even testified in Congress and went to Washington, D.C., twice. At first, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt wanted a 20-year sunset clause to phase out grazing inside the preserve. Out in the hall I told reporters, 'I can't live with this.' Then Babbitt came out, and I asked him in front of the reporters, 'How would you feel if I owned your house in 20 years?'

"Finally the Cattlemen's Association convinced Sen. Dianne Feinstein to come out here to meet the families who ranch here. She did and she fell in love with my wife, who rides alongside me. As we walked her down to the helicopter pad she told me, 'You guys will stay here.'

"I think we'll be able to stay until they change the Desert Protection Act. The bill says grazing will continue, but a lot will depend on the preserve's superintendent.

"After the bill passed, I said to myself, 'You can't kick a dead horse. You can't change it, so you might as well work with it.' I didn't lose. I may have lost the battle, but I didn't lose the war."