Cowboy Express/Grass March rides through Elko

Courtesy of Elko Daily Free Press - Elaine Bassier, October 1st, 2014

ELKO — A group of riders made their way down Idaho Street on Tuesday and they don't plan to stop until they reach the East Coast.

The Cowboy Express/Grass March began Friday in Bodega Bay, California, and the participants will ride coast to coast on a journey to deliver petitions to the federal government in Washington, D.C.

Lynn Tomera and Eddyann Filippini of Battle Mountain are two ranchers who were affected by a grazing closure ordered by the Bureau of Land Management. Other ranchers joined their cause and organized the countrywide march in protest of over-regulation.

“Today, the BLM and Forest Service control the grass in Nevada. ... That’s violating the inalienable rights of the citizens of Nevada,” said Grant Gerber, an Elko County commissioner who is one of the riders.

Tomera said there is a core group of about 10 or 12 riders who are traveling the entire way, and the number usually doubles when the group rides through towns where people join them.

“The people have been very supportive. I’m not well-traveled, so this is going to be an experience,” she said.

Filippini said the ride has gone well so far, and she also appreciates the support from the other riders and the people who meet them in towns as they ride through.

“There’s been some challenges,” Filippini said, adding when the group rode over the Sierra Nevada mountain range it was raining and there was traffic.

Arlo Crutcher of McDermitt has ridden with the march since its start on the coast of California. The ranches at the Fort McDermitt Indian Reservation have had to cut down the number of cattle they can graze because of federal restrictions, Gerber said.

“I figured this is a great opportunity to — with everybody else — to get answers,” Crutcher said. “ ... The decision makers in Washington ought to be here answering out questions instead of us riding to them.”

He said there have been some challenges on the ride, but he thinks of it as an everyday ranch life challenge to solve issues that come up.

After riding down Idaho Street, the riders went to Elko County Fairgrounds for a public potluck and meeting. Most of the attendees either knew the Tomera and Filippini families or are ranchers themselves.

John Collett of Elko said he grew up on cattle ranches and he supports the culture. He’s concerned that the federal government owns a great majority of the lands in Nevada.

“The ranchers have to take care of the land,” he said. “It’s what they do.”

The issues between ranchers and federal government are ongoing, he said, and he thinks it’s strange that officials with limited ranching experience make decisions that affect ranching.

“For someone to come in and tell them to quit is really pulling the rope,” Collett said.

Mary Branscomb of Lamoille said she attended the potluck because she supports the cause. Her husband, Bruce Branscomb, is a retired large animal veterinarian so they both know a lot of the families involved in the march.

“We believe in the cause. ... We think it’s great, and we hope they make it,” Mary Branscomb said.

Assemblyman John Ellison, R-Elko, also attended to show his support.

“It’s not a bad thing to stand up for what you believe in,” he said. “That’s what they’re doing.”