Town hall examines grazing, property rights, public safety
KINGMAN — A town hall was held Monday night on open range laws in growing Mohave County.
Mohave County held the town hall with a panel that included federal, state and county experts. There is no actual open range law on the books but there are nine state statutes dealing with livestock and fences.
District 4 Sup. Jean Bishop opened the discussion by asking if it warranted a change in the laws of open ranges in today’s world where cattle and burros are in competition with the increasing population of the county.
District 1 Sup. Gary Watson showed photos of cattle grazing areas in and around Golden Valley. He said there were about 10 traffic accidents on Highway 68 between livestock and cars with a recent accident on Legend Ranch Road.
Watson also spoke of the large number of burros that compete with cattle for foraging and water. Where there were once 200 burros there are now 800, he said. He also spoke of off-road riders who cut fences or leave gates open.
People also put out water for animals, which could do more harm than good. One option to avoid crashes is reflective ear tags on cattle so they would be visible to motorists who drive at night. Motorists driving at night should use their high beams when prudent. Another topic was cattle guards across roads.
Anita Waite, of the Mohave Livestock Association/Farm Bureau, said people who put out water or feed for cattle can draw the cattle to Highway 68, which could cause dangerous collisions with cars on the highway. The public should not leave gates open or feed or water cattle.
Arizona Game and Fish field supervisor Velma Holt said it’s currently not illegal for people to put out water for cattle or wildlife except in larger cities like Phoenix or Tucson. She encouraged people not to put out water since the wildlife could lose their fear of people. That could make them a nuisance and could put residents in danger.
Deputy Mohave County Attorney Ryan Esplin also gave a description of a no-fence district. If someone lives in a no-fence district, property damage by stray livestock falls on the livestock owner. There is one no-fence district in Mohave County, which is in Mohave Valley.
If you don’t live in the no-fence districts, it is the responsibility of the property owner to fence out unwanted livestock. Esplin also explained what a properly constructed fence involves.
In answering another question, Waite said the cattle industry is a $23.3 billion industry in the state and changing laws to force ranchers to fence their lands would bankrupt ranchers, especially since some land has been subdivided and sold off to private landowners.
Another question that was fielded was how to deal with cattle hit by a car. Watson said private property owners should call the county.