Environmental Politics, Politics, Think
Environews: The Great Old Broad and the Closed Gate
San Juan County is using the courts to harass a woman who is a founding member of Friends of Cedar Mesa and former executive director of Great Old Broads for Wilderness (GOB). Rose Chilcoat and her husband Mark Franklin are accused of trespassing and trying to kill cattle after they closed the gate of a corral located on land owned by the Utah State and Institutional Trust Land Administration (SITLA).
A wildlife camera recorded the gate-closing incident and Zane Odell, the rancher who owns the corral, speculated that the intent was to keep his cows from getting water. A broken fence meant the cows actually had no problem getting a drink.
A trial, originally scheduled to be held in Monticello, Utah, has been moved to Price due to a history of hostility towards the Great Old Broads organization in San Juan County.
In 2005 members of GOB documented an illegally constructed off-road vehicle trail in Recapture Canyon near Blanding, and orchestrated a campaign to close the trail. The Bureau of Land Management did shut down the illegal trail, but Great Old Broads were targeted for intimidation.
In 2007 an unknown person posted signs near Recapture Canyon that read “WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE: Members of Great Old Broads for Wilderness are not allowed in San Juan County Utah by order of the San Juan Sheriff Office and Monticello BLM Office.”
In 2012 a GOB campout in San Juan County was vandalized.
In 2014, a group of protesters affiliated with the militant anti-federalist Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy staged a rally in Blanding. In conjunction with the rally, San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman organized an illegal ATV ride into Recapture Canyon that caused over $300,000 of additional damage. Lyman was convicted of misdemeanor trespass and conspiracy. He is now the Republican candidate running for Utah Legislature, House District 73 which he is likely to win.
Currently, San Juan County has lawyered up for another lawsuit to claim Recapture Canyon as a county-owned road under RS 2477.
RS 2477 refers to a mining law that allowed construction of highways across federal land until it was repealed in 1976. RS 2477 claims are seen as a potential tool for transfer of public lands and privatization.
As for Chilcoat and Franklin, they say the accusation would be silly if it weren’t so scary. A felony conviction could lead to up to 21 years in prison for closing a gate that was not keeping anything either in or out.
Great Old Broads for Wilderness: greatoldbroads.org
Friends of Cedar Mesa: friendsofcedarmesa.org
Legal defense fund for Rose Chilcoat and Mark Franklin: youcaring.com/rosechilcoatandmarkfranklin-1086520