Bighorn National Forest Cancels Grazing Permit Of Well Known Wyoming Rancher Charles Kane of Sheridan

Online Messenger #65

Here is the Story from the Front Page of Today's Casper Star-Tribune (September, 2003)

Bighorn Rancher Booted Off Allotment

By BRODIE FARQUHAR Star-Tribune staff writer

A long-established Wyoming ranching family has been evicted from a Bighorn National Forest grazing allotment after a series of grazing violations.

According to Forest Service documents, Kane Land and Livestock, owned by Charles Kane of Sheridan, had its Tongue River District grazing allotment cancelled on Jan. 29, 2003 by District Ranger Craig Yancey, based on three years of documented grazing violations. The ruling was appealed twice by Kane's lawyers before the decision was finally upheld Aug. 26 by Richard Stem, deputy regional forester. Kane was not available for comment. A family member said Kane was working in the high country.

John Ward, Kane's attorney in Sheridan said he is seeking a final appeal with Chief Forester Dale Bosworth. "It is the chief's discretion to review or not," Ward said. If Bosworth declines to review the case, Ward said, there are no more appeals. Ward declined to make further comment. Ward is misinformed, said Dave Wheeler, regional rangeland management group leader in Lakewood, Colo. According to the Forest Service's administrative standards, only two appeals are allowed, Wheeler said.

The second and last appeal was conducted by Stem and it ends there, Wheeler said. Heidi Valetkevitch, spokeswoman for Forest Service headquarters in Washington, D.C., confirmed that Ward had written a letter to Chief Bosworth, asking for a discretionary review. "We are preparing a response," she said, but declined further comment.

Western Watersheds Project, a conservation group concerned about overgrazing on public lands, has been following the Kane case closely and applauded the cancellation. "Western Watersheds Project welcomes this action," said Jon Marvel, WWP executive director, "which will result in a tremendous improvement in wildlife, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities and water quality on the Bighorn National Forest." Told of Ward's appeal to Chief Bosworth, Marvel said he expects "Chief Bosworth will support his line officers and reject the appeal." Marvel noted that the Forest Service has a long tradition of supporting the decisions of line officers. Yet if a political appointee, such as Mark Rey, undersecretary of natural resources and environment (a former logging lobbyist) and Bosworth's boss, gets involved, Marvel said, "Anything can happen."

Marvel noted that Thermopolis-area rancher Frank Robbins allegedly got a sweet deal from the Bureau of Land Management after taking his case to Bush administration political appointees in the Department of Interior. According to Forest Service officials and documents, the essentials of the Kane case include:

-- Kane L & L has grazed cattle on the Tongue Ranger District of the Bighorn National Forest, north of the Burgess Junction Visitor Center on U.S. Highway 14. He had 392 mature cattle on the Freezeout allotment and 113 on the Lower Tongue allotment. -- The grazing permit in question was issued by Ranger Yancey on July 5,1994.

-- The permit was modified on Dec. 26, 2001 by cancelling 40 percent of Kane's authorized animal unit months, due to permit violations. An "animal unit month" is the amount of grass that a cow and calf pair consume in one month of grazing. -- During the 2002 grazing season, Ranger Yancey found that Kane failed to comply with the conditions of his grazing permit. Although he was grazing fewer cattle, they still were consuming more AUMs than he was allowed.

-- On Jan. 29, 2003, Yancey issued a decision to cancel the Kane permit in full. -- The decision was appealed to Forest Supervisor Bill Bass, who reviewed and upheld it on July 2. Because the season was so advanced, Bass allowed Kane's cattle to remain on the allotments through the grazing season. Kane's cattle can't use those allotments in 2004.

Ron Stellingwerf, resource manager for the Bighorn National Forest, said the cancellation of Kane's permit was the first full cancellation of a grazing permit on the Bighorn in the past decade. On two other occasions, he said, half of a grazing permit has been cancelled "to get the attention" of recalcitrant ranchers. Most of the time, ranchers and range conservationists get along very well, Stellingwerf said. The Forest Service's working practice is to temporarily suspend part of a grazing permit when communications and cooperation breaks down. Stellingwerf said the Kane family has been ranching in the area for three generations.