ELKO – John Carpenter says he isn’t going to wait for bureaucrats to OK building a small fence on federal land, which he believes would allow cattle to graze portions of the Argenta allotment while protecting a riparian field.
The former assemblyman and rancher is organizing a “work party” to construct a steel-post fence on May 23. There’s a chance members of the group will build another fence on a ridge, according to Carpenter.
He said those interested will meet at the Pete Tomera ranch in the morning.
“We want to get as many people as we can out there,” Carpenter said. The group also needs fence posts.
A dispute over grazing on the Argenta allotment spurred several protest stunts last year, most notably the Grass March/Cowboy Express ride that sent cowboys on a journey from California to Washington D.C., and beyond carrying anti-fed petitions.
Due to drought, cows were ordered to be removed from nine of 20 parcels. The Argenta allotment is a mix of private and public land.
Carpenter said the unsanctioned fence project is an extension of the Grass March, but also, he said, it will lead directly to a solution.
“Feed is not the problem,” he said. “The problem is these smooth riparian areas.”
Carpenter envisions the fence to have three rows of barbed wire, and a string of smooth wire for the bottom strand.
“So if wildlife goes through, they won’t get scratched,” he said.
The Dan Filippini ranch turned out more than 150 head of cattle Wednesday on the benches and flatlands below Mill Creek in an area where grazing is allowed.
Eddyann Filippini said the fear is that those cattle will wander up Mill Creek into a large section where cows are currently barred from grazing. She said the main justification for the closures is to protect riparian spots.
“Eleven miles are closed for an area the size of two pickups,” she said.
Certain that cattle would settle on the riparian grass, Carpenter suggested building a fence.
“What we’re afraid of is those cattle that were turned out on the flat are going to go up Mill Creek, and that’s an area that’s closed,” he said. “The reason it’s closed is that there’s a postage stamp riparian area right there.”
Bureau of Land Management spokesperson Rudy Evenson said the agency allows for range improvements through a process that complies with the National Environmental Policy Act. Depending on the scope of the project, permitting requirements can vary.
“If you want to do stuff to the range, there’s a process to get those approved,” he said.
Evenson said the final agreement between the BLM and permittees is yet to be completed. The sides decided to find a solution out of court. A meeting is scheduled later this month, he said.
Acting state BLM director John Ruhs said last week that meetings with ranchers have been productive.
Carpenter said the BLM is invited to the work party.
“Hopefully they’ll come to help us,” he said.