Monday, October 11, 2010

Changing times in the West may lead to a change in open grazing laws

Read Marc Lacey's story in the New York Times. The story appears under two headlines, "Arizona Rethinks Open Grazing Laws" and "Uneasy Neighbors on the Open Range." Here is an excerpt:

Free-range cattle roam widely across the West, protected by centuries-old laws that give them the right of way while grazing and force landowners to fence them out. But as urban sprawl has extended into what used to be seemingly endless pasture land, cow-friendly open range laws are under fresh scrutiny, criticized as anachronistic throwbacks to the Wild West days before Interstate highways and tract homes.

“People have been killed in collisions with large cows,” said Daniel Patterson, an Arizona state representative from Tucson who is pushing to scale back the rights given cows and their owners in his state. “We need to get rid of this antiquated law from the 19th century. It’s important for ranchers and other livestock owners to keep their cattle where they belong.”

The story is chock full of anecdotes about havoc wreaked by cattle in New Mexico and Arizona. Lacey notes that California is among states with open-range policies only in rural areas, while in Arizona, the conflicts tend to be limited to the exurbs, which are more likely to abut ranching territory. Cattle are restricted in Arizona's incorporated areas.

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