ELKO – A nearly yearlong grazing dispute in Battle Mountain that sparked protests from ranchers seems to be resolved.
Last summer, nine of 20 areas on the Argenta allotment, a mixture of public and private land, were closed after certain drought triggers were met. Ranchers disputed the data, however, and filed two appeals with the Interior Board of Land Appeals.
In response to the closures, the late Elko County Commissioner Grant Gerber launched the Grass March/Cowboy Express, a highly publicized horse ride from one end of the country to the other to deliver petitions to Washington, D.C.
The sides agreed to attempt to find a solution with input from the National Riparian Services Team. After weeks of negotiations, a deal seems to be reached.
The Elko Daily Free Press obtained an unsigned copy of the 27-page agreement this week, which states it will take effect only after approval by an Administrative Law Judge.
Drought triggers will continue to play a regulatory role. Upland areas that were closed last summer, for example, allow cattle to eat 30 percent of the key woody species and 30 percent of the key herbaceous species.
Bureau of Land Management state spokesman Rudy Evenson said grass and plants in small monitoring locations will be checked.
In key riparian areas, the stubble height trigger is 4 inches.
If a trigger is met, it will “require livestock to be moved out of those areas, which may not be an entire Use Area but a sub-portion of a Use Area located far enough away to prevent return drift,” it states.
The parties committed to maintain an open dialogue and continue to monitor the ground.
According to the document, the riparian team will visit targeted areas and identify whether a fence is needed to protect certain areas, and the BLM will issue a decision within eight months of an application for up to three high priority fences.
Dan and Eddyann Filippini, one of several ranch families affected by the closure, released a statement expressing relief that the dispute was ending.
“Our cows needed to be turned out a long time ago,” Dan Filippini said. “We are thankful common sense finally prevailed in our situation.”
Eddyann Filippini said in the statement facts and science needed to guide BLM decisions “and not personal agendas.”
Former assemblyman John Carpenter, who filed as an intervener in the appeal, said he was glad the cows were back on the range but worried that allowing only 30 percent of the feed in some spots could pose a fire risk. Carpenter said he signed the agreement this week.
Western Watershed Project, a habitat and wildlife conservation advocacy group that also filed an appeal, did not sign the agreement, according to Idaho Director Ken Cole.
“We really don’t take any stand on what that means,” he said.