Volume 6, Number 6 - May 4, 2006
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County backs ranchers against feedground program
Local ranchers Jon Boroff and Albert Sommers spoke to Sublette County Commissioners Tuesday to request support defending the legal assault on the state’s elk feedground program. The commission was blunt in its agreement to support the ranching industry in defending the feedground program, agreeing to contribute to the legal fund as well as expressing interest in becoming intervenors in the case.
In February, environmental groups filed a lawsuit in federal court against the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management challenging the authorization for elk feedgrounds on federal lands in western Wyoming as well as the authorization for the test-and-slaughter facility at the Muddy Creek elk feedground. Filing the lawsuit were the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance and the Wyoming Outdoor Council. The lawsuit argues that authorization for the elk feedground facilities should be subject to environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act, rather than treated as a categorical exclusion by federal officials.
The Green River Valley Cattlemen’s Association is supporting the lawsuit with a contribution of $5,000, according to Boroff and Sommers, who suggested that the commission match that amount.
“I’d be willing to do that,” Commissioner Bill Cramer said.
The Wyoming Stock Growers Association is leading the industry defense of the lawsuit, and is apparently being joined by outfitting interests as well.
Commissioner John Linn said he “can’t think of what could affect Sublette County more than eliminating the feedgrounds,” and suggested that perhaps the commission should take a more active role in the lawsuit by intervening.
“This is going to be a big fight,” Linn said, adding that 13 of the state’s 22 feedgrounds are located in Sublette County.
“This is the battleground right here,” Linn said, noting that should the groups be successful in the end goal of shutting down the feedgrounds, it would “not just be a little problem” for a few ranchers. It would affect people “from here to LaBarge and from here to Big Sandy.”
Closure of the feedgrounds would put elk all over the county, commissioners agreed, even posing hazards to motorists. Linn recalled recently driving on Highway 191 north of Farson only to find about 75 elk standing in the highway right-of-way in the dark.
Cramer said, “I’m willing to do whatever it takes.” He said the commission should do whatever it can to support the ag community.
“If those elk come out of the high country, guess what else comes with them,” Linn added, referring to wolves.
Cramer expressed his view that the lawsuit is part of a larger agenda to get ranchers off public rangelands.
“They don’t care about the animals or anything else,” Cramer said. “They just want to protect and preserve their playground.”
Cramer told the cattlemen, “As far as I’m concerned, why don’t we put in your $5,000, too.”
Sommers said while he appreciated the county’s support, the GRVCA has already put its $5,000 into the pot.
“This is important to the county and to the state,” Cramer said.
The commission agreed to consult with attorney John McKinley, who is handling the case, to see what role Sublette County’s government should have in the lawsuit.
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