Ranchers say road-access ruling prevents feeding of cattle

December 22, 2018

POCATELLO — A Utah couple building a home and small cattle ranch near Arimo says they won’t be able to feed their livestock this winter, based on Bannock County Commission’s decision on Thursday pertaining to road access.

Commissioners, however, say Sherrilyn and Dennis Munden, who keep 206 head of cattle at their Coyote Creek Ranch, created their own problems when they developed their business plans without heeding an existing road-use designation.

The Mundens have been driving a tractor on a 2-mile stretch of Garden Creek Road to haul winter feed to their animals. A neighbor, who has a cabin that he accesses by snowmobile about 5 miles further up the dirt road, brought the matter to the county’s attention. The neighbor said he discovered last winter that his snowmobile can’t navigate the deep ruts their tractor makes in the snow.

Commissioners voted during the Thursday hearing to retain a restriction on operating any vehicles, other than snowmobiles, on the dirt road from Dec. 15 through April 15.

“I have a ranch, I have a farm and I have to feed my cows every day, and if you close that, you have a huge conflict going on,” Sherrilyn Munden told the commission prior to the vote.

The county hasn’t historically plowed the road during winters. Commissioners said the road has been managed as a winter snowmobiling route since 2003, based on an agreement between the county, the U.S. Forest Service and Idaho Parks and Recreation.

“I can’t figure out how at this moment to accommodate you as a landowner and not violate that agreement with the Forest Service and the state of Idaho,” said Commissioner Steve Brown.

Commissioner Terrel Tovey argued the Mundens didn’t put in due diligence to learn about restrictions when they purchased the property. Tovey said a 2006 county ordinance reaffirmed that the road is closed to traffic during winter, and associated maps include a parking area for people who use the road for snowmobiling.

“We have agreements. Why today should we change the road classification and change the parking area? That’s the designation,” Tovey said.

Sherrilyn Munden said she spoke with the previous property owner and some of the neighbors, who were aware the road had no winter maintenance but didn’t know it was a designated snowmobile route. Munden said a title search also failed to produce any evidence of the agreement with the state and Forest Service.

She has her own plowing blade and asked the county for permission to personally conduct snow removal to accommodate her cattle. She said all of the road’s property owners have told her they would support allowing her to plow the stretch of road herself. Furthermore, she showed maps of a second access available to Garden Creek homeowners, which also receives winter maintenance but is a few miles longer.

Tovey said the county has allowed residents to perform their own snow removal only on roadways in which they have the sole home. Based on liability concerns, Tovey said the county doesn’t allow residents to plow roads that access multiple dwellings.

Sherrilyn Munden plans to circulate a petition about the issue and has also initiated discussions with the state and Forest Service about the 2003 agreement.

“I have more than 200 head of cattle, I can’t feed them anywhere else, and they’re going to be fed,” she said.

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