Two Craig ranchers have been indicted by a federal grand jury for using public land in Moffat County as a private dumping ground.
The brothers, Leland Smith, 70, and Bradford Smith, 65, also were accused of digging trenches to divert water from Woodbury Gulch to land where they kept livestock.
In total, the brothers were charged with two counts of “committing crimes” on Bureau of Land Management land.
Jeff Dorschner, public affairs officer for the Department of Justice in Colorado, said they used heavy equipment to tear up ditches for dumping refuse.
“They diverted water, to create a ditch from a pond, to an area where they had a flock of sheep,” Dorschner said.
Dorschner said this is an especially contentious issue during drought season.
“It can impact public land in ways that can’t be foreseen,” he said.
Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers said that this issue is between the BLM and the ranchers using the property.
“A lot of people have these properties for so long that it feels like their own,” Mathers said. “I guess I’d question what they were dumping. Was it baling twine or manure?”
Dorschner said he could not release the details of what was dumped but just said it was “trash.”
The brothers pleaded not guilty Monday to both charges and now are waiting for the judge to set a trial date.
If convicted, the brothers would have to pay as much as $500,000 in fines and each would face as many as years in prison.