Fun-hogs to replace cows in a Utah monument

 

As tourists flock to southern Utah's new Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, ranchers are breaking camp and moving out. In December, the nonprofit Grand Canyon Trust announced it had brokered a deal between five ranching families and the Bureau of Land Management to retire or relocate grazing allotments on about 120,000 acres inside the monument.

"There will be no cows along the whole length of the Escalante River," said Bill Hedden, who works for the trust. "This protects the entire watershed in that area."

Cattle will be moved out of canyons that are especially popular with hikers and boaters. The cows will be relocated outside the monument and at higher elevations within it. At least 80 grazing allotments are still active in the monument.

Donations from individuals and foundations will pay the ranchers to retire their allotments. The price has not been made public, but Hedden said it was "well within fair market value.

"It's a nice example of environmentalists and the community working together," said Hedden. "It has been rare to see that in Southern Utah."

The ranchers were not as enthusiastic.

"We're getting run out down here," said Dell LeFevre, a fifth-generation rancher who traded more than 26 miles of grazing allotments along the Escalante River for others on Boulder Mountain, north of the monument.

The culprits, says LeFevre, are tourists and recreationists who have crowded into the canyons since President Clinton's 1996 proclamation put the region in the national spotlight. By 1998, visitation at the monument visitor center was up 43 percent from 1995 levels. At the Escalante River/Calf Creek trailhead, where part of LeFevre's grazing allotments were located, visitation jumped 48 percent by 1997.

"People keep going through and leaving the gates open. Then my cows get into areas they're not supposed to be and that means trouble for me," LeFevre said. "So I decided it was time to get out. I worked with Grand Canyon Trust and I got as good (a deal) as I could have ever got."

He admits that recreationists are not the only problem facing ranchers in the area. "I'm earning the same price for beef today as I did in 1973. But the cost of living is a lot higher. It's hard to make a living ranching these days."

Rancher Arthur Lyman and his father Ivan, who also sold out, are moving their operation to Oregon, but LeFevre is determined to live in the area. "I'm like one of those old bulls. I'm going to stay here as long as I can."

Deal could have holes

Last year, the Grand Canyon Trust worked a similar deal to retire grazing allotments in the Lost Spring Canyon addition to Arches National Park (HCN, 9/24/97). The bill that added Lost Spring to the park retired the allotments permanently. The Conservation Fund, a national group, used the tactic to retire allotments in a section of Horseshoe Canyon west of Canyonlands National Park several years ago.

As long as the rancher is willing to sell, such buyouts are legal, though critics say unless they're done carefully, they are not airtight.

"Right now, if a third party came in and sued the BLM for the right to graze on those allotments in the monument, they would probably have to re-issue the grazing permits in those areas retired under Grand Canyon Trust's plan," said Jeff Burgess, a grazing-rights activist in Arizona.

Hedden conceded that future managers could reopen the areas to grazing, but he doubted that would happen. "We have strong support in this plan from the BLM staff. They've been very far-sighted about this," he said. "In that area, it is not likely they will change the management plan back."

Burgess, the Santa Fe-based Forest Guardians and the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity of Tucson are part of a group that has asked the federal government for a guarantee that once ranchers retire their grazing allotments, agencies could not reissue them to someone else.

Under the proposal, the federal government would not pay ranchers for retiring allotments; conservation groups would. Then the land would be permanently cattle-free.

"I personally think this is the best way to go," says Burgess. The plan, which grew out of a conference in Park City, Utah, last June, would cut down grazing while giving ranchers financial incentive to move their cattle off public lands. "Once allotments were retired, they would stay that way," Burgess said.

Lisa Church writes from Moab, Utah.

YOU CAN CONTACT ...

  • Bill Hedden, Grand Canyon Trust, 435/259-5284;
  • Rancher Dell LeFevre, 435/335-7411;
  • Gregg Christensen, Bureau of Land Management, 435/826-4291.

Copyright © 1999 HCN and Lisa Church

High Country News Classifieds
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Native plant seeds for the Western US. Trees, shrubs, grasses, wildflowers and regional mixes. Call or email for free price list. 719-942-3935. [email protected] or visit...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Western Colorado Alliance for Community Action is seeking two full time community organizers to join our team. Positions can be based in Garfield County, Montrose...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Join our team as the Association's Executive Director. Working closely with the Board of Directors, take ANWS to the next level of professionalism by managing...
  • FRIENDS OF CEDAR MESA DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Friends of Cedar Mesa is hiring a Development Director who will have the overall responsibilities of leading our fundraising programs and reports directly to our...
  • WATER RIGHTS/ADJUDICATION BUREAU CHIEF
    Job Overview: Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that Montana's land and water resources provide benefits for present and future...
  • CLIMATE CHANGE COORDINATOR
    The Greater Yellowstone Coalition is seeking a Climate Change Coordinator to play a lead role in shaping our programs to make the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Executive Director Position Announcement POSITION TITLE: Executive Director ORGANIZATION: Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument REPORTING TO: Board of Directors EMPLOYMENT TYPE: Part-time - Full-time, based...
  • HEALTHY CITIES PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Healthy Cities Program Director leads and manages the Healthy Cities Program for the Arizona Chapter and is responsible for developing and implementing innovative, high...
  • CONSERVATION PROGRAM MANAGER
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) Conservation Programs Manager Job Opening Our Mission: Honoring the past and safeguarding the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument through...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) Associate Director Job Posting Our Mission: Honoring the past and safeguarding the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument through science,...
  • UNIQUE, ENERGY-EFFICIENT HOME ON ACREAGE NEAR MOSCOW, IDAHO
    Custom-built energy-efficient 3000 sqft two-story 3BR home, 900 sqft 1 BR accessory cottage above 2-car garage and large shop. Large horse barn. $1,200,000. See online...
  • OUTDOOR ADVENTURE BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Missoula Outdoor Learning Adventures (MOLA) - established and profitable outdoor adventure & education business in Missoula, Montana. Summer camp, raft & climb guide, teen travel,...
  • OJO SARCO FARM/HOME
    A wonderful country setting for a farm/work 1350s.f. frame home plus 1000 studio/workshop. 5 acres w fruit trees, an irrigation well, pasture and a small...
  • STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR
    Join Skagit Land Trust (the Trust), a not-for-profit conservation organization based in Mount Vernon, Washington, and help protect land for people and wildlife. Skagit Land...
  • 2022 SEASONAL SCIENCE EDUCATOR
    The Mount St. Helens Institute Science Educator supports our science education and rental programs including day and overnight programs for youth ages 6-18, their families...
  • POLICY DIRECTOR
    Heart of the Rockies Initiative is seeking a Policy Director to lead and define policy efforts to advance our mission to keep working lands and...
  • CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
    Self-Help Enterprises seeks an experienced and strategic CFO
  • CONSERVATION SPECIALIST - LAND PROTECTION FOCUS
    View full job description and how to apply at
  • RIVER EDUCATOR & GUIDE
    River Educator & Guide River Educator & Guide (Trip Leader) Non-exempt, Seasonal Position: Full-time OR part-time (early April through October; may be flexible with start/end...
  • LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    The Land and Water Conservation Director is a full-time salaried position with the Mountain Area Land Trust in Evergreen, CO. The successful candidate will have...