On the “open range” if you don’t want someone else’s cattle on your property, you have to fence them out!

Arizona is rethinking the fairness of this tradition.  So are people in other states.

Arizona Rethinking Open Range Laws. By Marc Lacey. New York Times.

If you hit a black cow in the middle of the night on a public highway, you are always to blame and will have to pay for the dead cow even as you pay for your spouse, friend or child’s funeral.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

9 Responses to Arizona Rethinking Open Range Laws

  1. Barb Rupers says:

    So Patrick Bray, executive director of the Arizona Cattlemen’s Association, thinks changing the law to put the liability on the owner for an escaped animal would be devastating to the cattle industry. He mentions that maintaining fences is a lot of work and besides the animals have a mind of their own. If someone were killed by running into one of his beef critters it isn’t his fault.

    Several times while driving between Libby and Kalispell at night I was glad I was in a ’52 Willies Jeep that had a cruising speed of 35 mph. Lots of open range cattle there.

    Changing the current open range laws sound like a good idea for a lot of people.

  2. Ken Cole says:

    One of the worst places in Idaho for “open range” cattle has got to be the section of Highway 51 between Riddle and Bruneau. There are frequently cattle on the roadway and it is because the ranchers water and put out salt for their cattle near the powerline that was built there in recent years. What’s worse is that the road has enough curves that you often don’t see the cattle until you are right on them. Not a good stretch to drive at night.

    The BLM has ignored warnings for years by my co-worker and I’m afraid that someone will hit one sooner or later and be killed.

    Anyone who does see cattle on the road in this area would be wise to send an email or letter to the Bruneau Field Office so that if someone is killed there would be something in the record for any litigation someone might want to bring.

    It is negligent to allow cattle to be on the highway and it is even more negligent that they are attracted there by water and supplements.

  3. Jeff says:

    A friend of mine hit a black angus in the middle on the night on US 191 between Blanding and Bluff, Utah in the middle of the night. Not only did it total his car, but he had to pay for the dead cow too.

  4. ProWolf in WY says:

    It is so nice to see someone from out west refer to a law like that as antiquated and from the 19th century. There is no reason why anyone should have to pay for a cow that is out on the road wandering around like that. I’ve been lucky enough not to hit one but have had some close encounters. It is surprising how fast they can leap out of a ditch.

  5. Paul White says:

    Open range laws should have private property groups (CATO et al) up in arms as much as anything 😕 I don’t know why they seem to ignore them.

  6. Paul White,

    I think so too, but I think maybe some of the private property groups are truly advocates for only certain kinds of private property.

  7. Tom Page says:

    Open range laws are not only frustrating for motorists and subdivisions…it’s difficult to manage pastures when you wake up and your neighbor’s cows are eating the grass within your fencelines because someone left the gate on the public road open – and you’re the one that has to push them out, rather than your lazy neighbor.

  8. Paul White says:

    Tom; in that case I’d be sorely tempted to do the 3 S’s.


October 2010


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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