Saturday, May 10, 2008


I trust and hope that you will all read this explanation of the Owyhee Public Lands Management Act before ending the story with a labeling of buyouts in Wilderness. Unfortunately, one element of the bill has been selected for discussion, instead of the various elements which will increase private property in the County (quite a contrast to the old “no net loss”, we actually have a “net gain”, which will provide ranchers an opportunity without breaking their wallets to have an objective range expert review of adverse BLM grazing decisions, and which will provide the County ranchers with an opportunity to protect their pipelilnes, their fences, their cows, and their forage from thousands of off road vehicles which flood the county every week-end (to a doubling of the county population) and even week-days. Recently, a motorcycle event occurred as ranchers were trying to move cattle from one pasture ot another, creating real havoc, and bicycle and motorcycle events have actually interfered with separating cows and calves. Without the resources from this bill, there is no answer in a 5 milliion acre county which has 12 deputies.

So, perhaps some will read the whole bill, and not just the buy out section (which by the way ends no grazing operation, but is used as a realignment of allotments to make a more viable operation in view of the tremendous threats from Jon Marvel and the Western Watersheds outfit which will soon be unleashing its enlarged law firm on all 11 western states.

Fred Kelly grant


From: Fred Kelly Grant []
Sent: Saturday, May 10, 2008 10:44 AM
To: ''
Subject: Owyhee Bill
Importance: High

It really is all right to label the Owyhee bill as buyout in wilderness. But, that is only one piece of a bill that is precedent setting for protecting the ranching industry in an entire county.

Eight years ago, when all our ranchers were threatened with a never ending threat of being put out of business by the dishonorable Judge B. Lynn Winmill, who has never seen an anti-grazing complaint that he won’t grant relief on, we had to come up with a way to try to get outside his unity with Jon Marvel and the Western Waterhshed Council (who he has ruled with on every anti-grazing case filed in the last 10 years; the cases are always against the BLM for failing to do some duty, and the ranchers suffer).

So, with the Owyhee Cattleman’s Association, the County Commissioners set up the idea of an Owyhee Initiative. We had just come within the stroke a Clinton pen of having a national monument declared to cover over 2 million acres, one half literally of our county. The object would have been to preserve canyonlands, but mainly to stop all grazing in the entire area. Full page ads had been taken out in the major east coast newspapers urging people to call the president to sign the proclamation for the Owyhee Canyonlands National Monument. This had been their goal for over a decade. The only reason Clinton didn’t sign was that Babbitt urged him not to. Babbitt had promised Sen. Craig that there would be no more monument or enlargement of monument in Idaho without public hearings. While Babbitt urged against signing, Hilary and the White House environmental Council urged signing.

In the end Clinton on his last day signed the Missouri Breaks but did not sign the Owyhee.

I sat down and tried to work out a plan for getting conservation groups to join with the county, the tribes and the ranchers to avert a monument and to get some protection for ranchers against a BLM that had gone completely south in fear of being sued by Marvel and WWC. I talked first with the Lowrys, a long time ranching family and one I knew would need support of if the plan was to work. The Lowrys are the family that along with Paul lNettleton fought the fight to get instream water rights declared in their name, not the government’s. At tremendous money cost to both of them, the fight was won and the Idaho Supreme Court determined that the federal government has no claim to an instream water right on federal land unless they actually own and water cattle.

I then went to Commissioner Hal Tolmie and he bought off on the idea, so I developed the project: (1) a level of wilderness that would be acceptable to both ranchers, county and conservation groups; (2) a science review of BLM decisions with a panel of range experts picked from a panel set up byl a Board of Directors of the Owyhee Initiative—said review to go into the administrative record with the harmful BLM decision, (3) a science review center to conduct research on species that are listed so as to create danger to continued grazing, so that we could get some “real” as opposed to “guesswork” research to assist our efforts to limit the species concerns to real concerns, (4) a travel management plan to try to bring into control the awful, widespread destruction of forage, fences, pipelines and all other attributes of grazing by off road vehicles flooding into the county from the 500,000 population of the Boise Valley, just 26 miles away from Owyhee County, and money enough to fund deputies under the County sheriff to enforce the travel management, (5) funding for a cultural resource protection plan for the Shoshone Paiute Tribes who are neighbors to the Count and who are great supporters of the ranchers (having joined with the county to support ranchers whose permits are threatened by Marvel’s anti-grazing efforts supported by his cronies who still sit in the BLM at the field level even after 8 years of this Administration), with funding for rangers who will be cross deputized by our sheriff after going to the state certification police school, to increase the number of people to enforce laws through our 5million plus acres., (6) a water rights agreement that sets a wild and scenic river adjudication at minimum rate at the time of passage, so that there can never be a water rights case that challenges ranchers rights, (7) a wild and scenic designation that removes from the designation all stretches of river at which cattle cross or drink in order to avoid the specter of the Oregon wild and river scenic cases, (8) a specific declaration that there is no reserved water right in the Wilderness designated to prevent against any swift or unswift change in the law by the Idaho or US Supreme Court, (9) protection of access which makes this wilderness of 500,000 acres (instead of 2 million) the most accessible wilderness in US, (10) release of nearly 400,000 acres of wilderness study area back into multiple use, with a segment of the law which says that the areas are actually removed from the wilderness study section of the law, so that they can never again be studied, (11) a requirement that the Owyhee Initiative Agreement will be coordinated with the County, (12) those ranchers who wanted to participate in the development of the wilderness put forward proposals for exchanges of land and sale of land and aums so that they could realign their allotments to make them more manageable (this was an opportunity to trade some very troublesome riparian areas of private property for federal grazing land at an equal value exchange rate, and was an opportunity for some to simply sell rights of ways and suspended use aums which they never would get back in this state with Marvel and Winmill manning the anti-grazing attack. AUMS WERE NOT SOLD TO GO OUT OF BUSINESS. NO ONE IS GOING OUT OF BUSINESS. THEY ARE SELLING AND EXCHANGING IN ORDER TO MAKE THEIR ALLOTMENTS MORE VIABLE WITH MARVEL RUNNING THE SHOW THROUGH WINMILL.

The Owyhee Cattleman’s Association at the very beginning agreed to support wilderness at a bare 250,000 acre level which was the Owyhee Canyonlands---an area which is not conducive to grazing because of the deep, steep canyons. They also agreed to support any additional wilderness that ranchers would voluntarily participate in in order to better their allotment and to make their operations viable in light of Marvel’s attacks. 18 ranching operations decided to participate in this program because of specific threats from Marvel and because of monetary constraints and regulatory constraints on their operations. For example, under BLM restrictions, closely guarded by Marvel, the Lowrys have one pasture in which they get to graze for 15 days. It is a pasture that would be impossible to get the cattle out of because of encroaching juniper if they were ismply turned in, so the Lowrys must graze them just inside the pasture boundary---therefore it gets overgrazed year after year. But the BLM will not expand the time allowed. So, they wanted to use the Initaitaive possibilities to get rid of that pasture and acquire more manageable ground.

The Work Group which I was appointed to chair, included representatives of the Owyhee Cattleman’s Association, the Borderlands Trust (a corporation established by ranchers for purposes of seeking grass banks and other means of relief from atrocious BLM restrictions), the Soil Conservation Districts of Owyhee County, The Owyhee Farm Bureau, Owyhee County Commissioners, the Wilderness Society, the Idaho Conservation League, the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, Idaho Rivers United, the Shoshone Paiute Tribes, the Southwestern Idaho Desert Racing Association, the Outfitters and Guides, the Rocky Mountain Sheep Foundation, The Idaho Back Country Horsemen----with the Air Force and Idaho Lands Department serving as liason, non-voting members.

The bill contains many precedent setting elements which will give the Owyhee County ranchers a chance to hold on against the ever increasing pressure from Western Waterhsheds. As a matter of fact, most other states will soon be feeling the attack if they haven’t already. The law firm that represents Watersheds is beefing up its numbers of attorneys with the mission of taking all cows all off federal or public lands throughout the 11 western states. And, they’re being funded by attorneyls fees which Winmill and other federal judges award them in their attacks on the processes of the BLM and Forest Service.

So, when you read about “buy-outs” read the rest of the story as Paul Harvey would say, and you will see the elements of protection that the ranchers are getting in a precedent setting bill----which features in particular one of the largest releases of wilderness study areas (“hard” release because they are removed from wilderness study potential under the act) in comparison with acres of wilderness in the history of public land management.

Fred Kelly grant, chairman of the Owyhee Initiative Work Group

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