Thursday, January 28, 2016

Utah ranchers renounce federal control of their lands at gathering

Amid escalating tensions over federal land management, eight Utah ranchers on Saturday pledged to disavow their contracts regulating their use of public land to graze their cattle. The men made their declarations at a "property rights" workshop in Cedar City, just days before the illegal occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge took a tragic turn with the death of Arizona rancher Robert "LaVoy" Finicum on Tuesday. On Saturday some of these ranchers agreed to sign notices of "withdrawal of consent" to be governed, in essence rejecting the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service's authority to regulate use of their grazing allotments. "This is as an act of civil disobedience in response to a long trail of abuses," said Todd Macfarlane, a Kanosh attorney who had helped organize the Cedar City event and follow-up gatherings in Idaho and Montana. "They aren't going to go out and plunder the land and the resources. They are saying, 'We are exercising our liberty to exercise personal choice for our ranch and do it responsibly.' " These ranchers recognize they have "a right" to pay grazing fees, which they will deposit in escrow accounts until the ownership of Utah's public lands is resolved, Macfarlane said. The chief speaker at these events is Angus McIntosh, a former rancher and an adjunct professor of agriculture at Texas A&M University. Another planned speaker, Utah rancher Jon Pratt, took part in the Oregon standoff. The meetings are hosted by the Utah group National Federal Lands Conference, which opposes environmental regulations and champions property rights. "We are giving [attendees] tools for them to understand what their rights are," said Macfarlane. The "withdrawal of consent" action was inspired in part by the re-incarceration of Oregon ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond, according to Macfarlane. Other ranchers at Saturday's gathering were not comfortable making such a pledge, he said, but many did agree to sign "a redress of grievances" outlining a generic list of complaints that ranchers have with federal agencies...more

No comments: