Law cited for river access

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Wanting to ensure his cattle have access to water from the Green River, rancher T. Wright Dickinson cited a law that predates the civil war to make his case to take down sections of fence on the Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge's borders.

Dickinson, a former county commissioner, presented his case Tuesday to Moffat County commissioners requesting water gaps -- areas without fence -- on the refuge's land that borders his leased land.

The cited law, R.S. 2477, goes back more than 100 years, and it has recently been used for public access to what has historically been considered a road, with the idea of "if it was a road back then, it should be a road now."

Dickinson made the case that it should apply to rivers as well, asking that 11 water gaps that have historically allowed access to the Green River in Browns Park be added to the commissioner's map of access.

When the Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge began fencing its boundaries in the 1980s, many of the access points to the river were closed off, causing ranchers who are holding Bureau of Land Management leases on the adjoining acreage to be excluded from access to the river, Dickinson said.

These are historic water gaps with the Vermillion Ranch, holding right-of-ways to the river for the purpose of watering livestock, he said.

"We're willing to work with (the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,) but now we have livestock and wildlife fighting fences in Browns Park," Dickinson said.

Commissioners agreed, and approved the preparation of a resolution to include the water gaps in the master plan for R.S. 2477 in Moffat County by the next scheduled board meeting on Jan. 2.

Commissioner Tom Gray noted that any resident is welcomed to come before the board with proposals on items to be added to the plan for claims of public right-of-ways under R.S. 2477.

County commissioners submit all claims under the statute to the Bureau of Land Management and in this case, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In other business, commissioners presented weed bounties under a county program headed by Moffat County Pest Control.

The top weed eliminator in the county went to the Wellman children, Eric, Lyndi and Emily, who harvested 2,200 pounds of bi-annual weeds during the summer. The trio received an award of $300 under the county program.

Second place went to Debbie Sherman-Hurst, who received $200 for her rounding up of 660 pounds of weeds.

The third place award of $100 was awarded to Rance Moon, who gathered 500 pounds of weeds this year.

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