October 28, 2006

Salt Lake Tribune

Opinion-Editorial
County officials will defend the right to graze on public lands


By Clare M. Ramsay

Kane and Garfield counties would like to respond to eight points in your editorial (Our View, "A pointless fight: Defense of grazing totally misplaced," Oct. 4) concerning the counties' lawsuit attempting to prevent the Grand Canyon Trust from eliminating grazing on public lands.

1. Garfield and Kane Counties do not pretend when it comes to defending our rights. We realize there are some that live in the world of pretend, but we in rural Utah understand the consequence of rolling over when our rights are being threatened.

2. If we are opposing the march of time, so be it, if we are waging the fight for what is right and protecting our people from greedy government agencies and environmentalists.

3. Are you not aware of the recent ruling by the 10th Circuit Court on the RS 2477 road issue? This ruling overturned Judge Tina Campbell's judgment against Kane, Garfield and San Juan counties. The ruling by the 10th Circuit Court has widespread implications for every rural county in the West, giving counties control over county roads. This ruling came about because three small counties had the courage to challenge Judge Campbell's ruling.

4. Although the judge ruled against us in the grazing lawsuit, we feel that we achieved a victory by stopping the Grand Canyon Trust from buying permits and permanently retiring them, thereby, eliminating grazing on public lands. Also the trust has been forced to become a legitimate cattle company. They now know if they buy AUMs (animal units per month) they must fill them with livestock, not hikers or wildlife.

5. Garfield and Kane counties do not have a problem with the willing seller-willing buyer concept. We adamantly oppose the selling and buying of permits for the purpose of permanently retiring them. That practice is also unlawful. The 1934 Taylor Grazing Act (under which the Bureau of Land Management operates) clearly states that grazing units are established for livestock grazing, period. For the marketplace to cause a business to close or relocate is one thing, but for federal agencies to intentionally attempt to damage the economies of our counties by breaking the very law under which they operate is wrong and illegal and does, in fact, need to be challenged.

6. It was never the intent of the Grand Canyon Trust to only retire "marginal" lands and leave the most "productive" lands in use. You only have to check the records that are readily available to learn the truth - they wanted to permanently eliminate grazing on public lands. So, was it worth the money spent to fight for our rights and to guarantee that livestock grazing on public lands throughout the West will be preserved? We believe very strongly that it was.

7. Judge Tina Campbell's rulings have been overturned before (remember the 10th Circuit Court's ruling on roads) and the livestock owners in the protest lawsuit are planning to continue litigation. It is also possible that Kane and Garfield counties will be heard from again on this issue.

8. Garfield and Kane County officials take our responsibilities to our constituents very seriously. We know that whatever adversely affects us will eventually spread throughout the whole West. Our actions are not frivolous in any way but are taken with a great deal of consideration and integrity.
We feel that it is not asking too much to expect the same from the federal agency personnel involved.

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* CLARE M. RAMSAY is a Garfield County commissioner, writing on the behalf of Kane and Garfield county commissions.