Sue the cattle

  Open range, one of the West's oldest prerogatives, needs to be retired, according to a new activist group, the Alliance for Property Rights. The alliance, based in Hailey, Idaho, is collecting horror stories from people whose property has been trampled or who have suffered car wrecks due to wandering livestock. "Clearly this is an ongoing problem for many people, and there is no recourse under law to recover damages," says Jon Marvel, who heads the alliance as well as the nonprofit Idaho Watersheds Project (HCN, 7/25/94). Generally in the rural West, landowners who want to shut out wandering livestock have to erect the fences; owners of livestock bear little or no responsibility. Fenceless open range enabled the old cross-country cattle drives, but today the laws are an unconstitutional infringement on private property rights, Marvel says. Not without irony, he says, "It's a takings issue" similar to ranchers' claims that government regulation of grazing hurts them economically. The alliance will serve as a clearinghouse of information about open-range law and impacts, and will lobby state legislatures to repeal such laws. For more information or to offer your story of open-range problems, contact Alliance for Property Rights, P.O. Box 1602, Hailey, ID 83333 (208/788-2290).


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