Conflict between non-agrarian and agrarian landowners is nothing new, but is gaining prominence as Routt County supports these two different communities. An increasing number of urban people are moving into the area and sharing the western resources with the ranching communities. Conflicts arise from real and perceived differences of each group. Common areas of conflict as seen by existing ranch operators are:
- Free roaming pets, particularly dogs
- Improper care of land by new residents usually because they are just unaware of better land management (i.e., not controlling weeds, overgrazing small acreage, failure to appreciate and understand irrigation water system upkeep)
- Failure to maintain adjoining fences
- Disrespect for private property and privacy, such as fishing without permission, driving on private roads, jogging on private property without permission, etc.
A better understanding of the reasons behind these conflicts may aid new and old residents in becoming better neighbors.
Dogs and Why They Are a Problem to Livestock
Free roaming dogs are a threat to livestock. When dogs chase livestock they are putting undue stress on the animal, which can and does result in lower weight gain and risks of physical injury to the livestock. Livestock chased by dogs may become high-strung and difficult to control. Dogs will kill young livestock, particularly lambs. These situations cause a direct, negative impact on the profitability of a ranch.
Ranchers have the right to protect their livestock and can legally destroy animals threatening their livestock. To remedy this situation be sure your pet stays on your property and/or is under your control at all times.
The vast majority of farmers and ranchers have strong ethics regarding land stewardship. Many newcomers to Routt County also have strong ethics about land stewardship, but are unfamiliar with local problems like weed control or overgrazing. Failure to control some weeds leads to their spread on neighboring land, causing additional expense for control. Overgrazing is simply a result of negligent land management.
- Get to know your neighbors and seek their advise on land management.
- Seek additional information sources, including the Colorado State University Extension Office, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and private consultants to advise you on the best strategies of land management.
Maintaining Adjoining Fences
Under Colorado law, when agriculture landowners share a property line, it is the duty of each landowner to maintain half of the existing fence or share equally in the construction of a new fence that divides two agriculture properties. Contacting adjacent landowners and working out fence maintenance will aid both landowners in preventing unwanted livestock from wandering onto property, and will also help improve communication and relationships.
The fence law also says a rancher cannot willfully place livestock on another person’s property. However, livestock are allowed to roam free and may even roam onto your property if they are not fenced out. Please see the “Colorado Fence and Trespass Law” page on this site for more details.
Respect Private Property and Privacy
Many people are unaware of private boundaries when first arriving in the county. Unintended trespass sometimes occurs because of preconceived notions about open ranges in the West and the large portion of federally owned land in Routt County. It is always the responsibility of the individual to know whose land they are on regardless of whether or not it is fenced.
Ways to alleviate unintended trespass include:
- Obtain a county map clearly showing public lands and roads. This can be obtained from the Routt County Assessor’s Office or the Routt National Forest Service Office
- Obtain a current Plat and Brand Book from the Routt County 4-H Council at the Extension Office
- “Ask first” before entering private lands; even for something as harmless as walking in a pasture, ASK FIRST.
Many landowners let people utilize their property within certain guidelines depending on the time of year, activities, and road use. However, the primary reason that makes it more difficult for landowners to allow recreational trespass is their liability for persons injured while on their land. It may take years to build trust and friendship between new and existing landowners before access to a property is allowed. Some landowners, because of privacy desires and liability fears, may never let people enter their lands.
Finally, other recreational groups (i.e., fishing clubs or hunting groups) pay substantial sums of money to utilize a ranch’s recreational amenities; therefore, the landowner cannot allow other individuals on his/her property. For all these reasons many ranchers no longer allow neighborly access as was once customary throughout the West.