Lander County Ranchers Reach agreement with BLM

Rex Steninger, courtesy of the Elko Daily Free Press,

May 27, 2014

Lander County ranchers reached a temporary agreement Friday with the Bureau of Land Management to graze the Mount Lewis pasture of the Argenta Allotment. The BLM issued two-week licenses to the families and promised a formal decision within that time.

But the agreement did not shake the resolve of Elko County Commissioner Grant Gerber to begin his Grass March to Battle Mountain. He organized the march to call attention to the plight of the ranchers that were told in February by BLM Director Doug Furtado that he would not permit any grazing on the pasture this summer because of the drought. The decision left the several families of the extended Tomera and Filippini families scrambling to find alternative pastures and facing financial ruin.

Gerber says he worries that the ranchers are being “bullied and blackmailed” into agreements that will be harmful to them in the long term. He adds Nevada ranchers have accepted “temporary” cuts to their grazing rights in the past that have never been restored.

On his march, Gerber is carrying petitions seeking Furtado’s removal from office. Speakers at a May 17 Grass Tour of the allotment detailed examples of the director’s deceit and arrogance. Several also expressed concern that the grass would pose an extreme fire danger if it were not grazed off. The director has not returned phone calls seeking comment.

“We need to keep the heat on them,” Gerber declared. “I truly think that if we just stay with it, they will get rid of Furtado.”

“The Tomera and Filippini families got a partial victory. Nine days ago, Furtado was adamant that no cattle would be allowed on Mount Lewis this year. Then his resolve began to crack under pressure of the mounting indignation by the public,” Gerber explained. “Knowing the pressure was going to increase, he caved in hoping that would stop the move to oust him. But he is too late. He has to go.”

Shortly after Furtado’s announcement in February that he planned to close he pasture, rains brought much needed relief to the drought and the range grasses flourished. Bob Schweigert of Intermountain Range Consultants in Winnemucca has conducted an extensive assessment of the allotment and judged it to be in normal condition and fully capable of sustaining the ranchers cattle.

Gerber and his son, Travis, with petitions in hand, headed out horseback at first light Monday morning and were greeted with a parade and rally at the Carlin Equestrian Center organized by Carlin Mayor Cliff Eklund. The Gerbers then resumed their trek to Battle Mountain.

On Wednesday morning, the petitions will be handed off to a Cowboy Express that will carry them, Pony Express style, to the Governor’s Mansion in Carson City.

Jess Jones of Lamoille is organizing the Express and says additional riders are still needed. Those interested in joining the effort can contact him at 1-775-340-1836. He is also organizing rallies to greet the riders as they pass through the communities on the way to Carson City. Anyone interested in helping organize the rallies, signing the petition or donating hay or cash to help defray the costs of the Cowboy Express can contact Jones.

Pershing County rancher Mike Gottschalk says recent government actions remind him of the famous quotation by Martin Niemoller, a Protestant pastor that emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and who spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in a concentration camp.

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Socialist,” Niemoller said. “Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”

The same can be said of our current government, Gottschalk points out. “First they came to save the spotted owl, and we did not speak out and thousands of timber jobs were lost. Then they came to save the tortoise, and we did not speak out and all the Clark County ranchers were destroyed. Then they came to save the horses, and we did not speak out and our ranges are now over run with them. Now they are coming to save the sagehen, and remove all the ranchers, recreationists and sportsmen. It is time we all stand up for our rights and speak out, or there soon will be no one left to speak for us.”