Agency reins in Wyoming rancher

  After catching a Wyoming rancher illegally subleasing federal grazing permits, Forest Service officials cancelled half his grazing privileges and suspended the remainder for three years. The rancher, George Salisbury, who is also a longtime county commissioner and state legislator, insists he is innocent. "I owned the cattle, I just didn't have the paperwork to justify it," says Salisbury, who accuses the agency of caving in to "environmental zealots." Forest Service officials, in a Jan. 4 ruling, said in 1992 Salisbury ran 517 head of cattle owned by three Nebraska ranchers on his federal allotments in the Medicine Bow National Forest. The agency's probe produced cancelled checks paid to Salisbury for pasture rent, plus testimony from Nebraska rancher Randy Faessler stating that Salisbury never owned the cattle. Salisbury has lost two appeals of the decision, and the issue is now before Forest Service Chief Jack Ward Thomas. According to Craig Whittekiend, Forest Service regional range program manager, the Salisbury case is one of seven decisions in the last five years where the agency's five-state Rocky Mountain region revoked portions of a grazing permit. Almost all were due to illegal subleasing.

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