What began as the Bureau of Land Management's
attempt to salvage rangeland from a dry summer has become a
miniature Sagebrush Rebellion.
This summer, the
BLM repeatedly ordered ranchers Quinn Griffin and Mary Bulloch to
remove their cattle from remote grazing allotments in Grand
Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Finally, the agency did the
deed itself, impounding 44 cows in a Salina, Utah, feedlot to await
auctioning (HCN, 9/25/00: Ranchers test an agency's image).
Griffin, Bulloch and about 14 other ranchers
were quick to retaliate, however. On Election Day, the ranchers
took back the cattle after convincing Sevier County attorney Don
Brown that they owned the animals.
did the cattle become government property?" asks Todd Macfarlane, a
rancher and lawyer representing a few of the ranchers involved.
Macfarlane says the ranchers had every right to take back their
herds and did so in a forthright, peaceful manner. It was the BLM,
he says, that violated the law.
Paul Warner is threatening the ranchers with $250,000 fines and 10
years in prison if they don't return the cattle. Whether or not the
BLM had the right to impound the cows, adds Warner's spokeswoman,
Melodie Rydalch, stealing them back wasn't the
"If they had a grievance," says Rydalch,
"the remedy for that is to go to court and tell the BLM they were
While Macfarlane and Rydalch confirm
that the U.S. attorney is close to a deal with Griffin, Mary
Bulloch, the rancher who owns most of the cattle, is far from
Bill Hedden of the Grand Canyon Trust
finds the whole situation disheartening. If the BLM wasn't within
the law in impounding the cows, says Hedden, then "they'd better
forget about having any authority to manage grazing" on the
monument in the future.