Wednesday, May 14, 2014

County commissioners side with ranchers in BLM dispute

Rancher Pete Tomera prepared this map to illustrate the ownership of the land within the Bureau of Land Management’s Argenta Allotment. The BLM has closed the entire mountain allotment to grazing, even though half the land is private property. The land colored orange is public under BLM management. The Tomera family owns the land colored red, the land colored purple is the checkerboard railroad property that is leased by the Tomeras, and the land left white is owned by various other private interests. The Tomeras also own all the water within the allotment. The springs are circled in blue and the streams are the blue lines.

Lander County Commission voted unanimously Thursday to back ranchers locked in a battle with Bureau of Land Management Battle Mountain District Manager Doug Furtado over his decision to close the Argenta Allotment, where several Lander County ranching families graze their cattle. Furtado’s decision leaves those families scrambling for alternative pasture for their cattle and facing financial ruin. Within hours of the vote by the Lander commission, the Elko County Commission joined the cause with a vote of support for their neighboring commissioners. Both sets of commissioners also voted to put Saturday’s Grass Tour of the allotment south of Battle Mountain on their respective agendas so they can legally attend the event. Several state and federal representatives also have indicated they plan to attend. The Grass Tour is being organized in an effort to combat the decision by BLM’s Furtado to close the allotment to grazing this season. Furtado cited drought conditions for the closure, but the Tomeras counter the area has received abundant rain over the past four months and there is plenty of grass for their cattle. They invite everyone interested to come Saturday and see for themselves. John Carpenter, a former rancher and state assemblyman and current candidate for the Elko County Commission, said he has been working with the Tomeras to try to get them some relief from the BLM closure and prevent them from being driven out of business. He said he went out last week with a private consultant and the allotment looked great. He added the range specialist gathered information and will have his findings ready to report at Saturday’s Grass Tour. Pete Tomera prepared the accompanying map and explained that only about half of the allotment is publicly owned and managed by the BLM (shaded orange). The rest is privately owned. His family has purchased a big chunk of land (shaded red) and most of the rest (shaded purple) was the old checkerboard railroad land that the Tomeras lease. The white sections are owned by various other private interests. The allotment encompasses about 365,000 acres, so the BLM decision closing the allotment to grazing arbitrarily shuts down more than 150,000 acres of privately held land. On top of that, Tomera added, he owns all the water in the allotment. He pored over the map of the allotment and counted 89 springs (blue circles on the map) and 185 miles of creeks (blue lines)...more

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