By Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley
A fringe environmental group recently displayed its total lack of class, morals, ethics and intelligence by attempting to make political gain from the tragic death of Adams County rancher Jack Yantis.
The succession of events that led to Yantis’ death on November 1, will have a profound effect on the lives of hundreds of people for years to come. Yantis’ wife Donna suffered a heart attack after learning her husband was dead. For the two motorists injured after a collision on State Highway 95 with a 2,000 pound range bull owned by Yantis, family members who witnessed the shooting, the two Adams County deputies who shot Yantis multiple times and many Adams County residents, it was a tragedy that will haunt them for the rest of their lives.
In spite of that, the next day, the Western Watersheds Project’s Idaho Director Ken Cole published an editorial blaming the incident on the open range law and calling on the State of Idaho to abolish the law. This attempt to make political gain from a tragic accident is despicable, sickening and crass.
Cole wrote: “These special laws, written solely to protect a special class of people (ranchers) are responsible for the incident in Adams County on November 1st. It is likely this incident would not have occurred if it was the responsibility of the ranchers to keep livestock off public highways.”
Cole’s written words not only take insensitivity to new heights, they demonstrate a true lack of understanding of open range and the laws of nature.
Open range laws in the West date back to the 1880’s. In a nutshell, the laws state that motorists are liable for accidents with livestock.
However, it’s a fact that even if Idaho never had an open range law on its books, nothing would be different today with regard to this tragedy.
It’s a fact that fences fail nearly every day due to unforeseen circumstances, such as floods, fires, snow drifts, fallen trees, and many others.
It’s a fact that livestock get spooked sometimes and four strands of barbed wire is not going to stop a large range bull if he decides otherwise. The same goes for elk, horses, deer, bears and wolves.
It’s a fact that livestock owners can’t be everywhere they have a fence 24 hours a day seven days a week.
It’s a fact that livestock and wildlife will continue to cross and sometimes dwell on Idaho roads regardless of any law passed by the Idaho Legislature.
It’s a fact that a grand total of zero Idaho livestock owners want their animals out on roads where accidents could happen.
Western Watersheds Project’s stated goal is to remove all livestock from public land. Over the last several years they’ve argued in court against delisting wolves, grizzly bears and various other wildlife and plant species, in order to meet their stated goal. They don’t care about saving wildlife but they’re willing to make any number of false claims if they think it will help their cause.
Now they’ve shown us they’re not above using human death, grief and trauma, as tools to reach their ends.