In an April 1 incident on Lime Ridge, a wired-open gate to a corral had been shut, restricting access to water for the cattle. The incident occurred on a section of state trust land leased from the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA).
Two cattlemen discovered the situation. Two days later, they were working in the area when a vehicle passed the corral which matched the description of a vehicle involved in the incident. The description had been developed from an image on a trail camera.
The vehicle was stopped by a San Juan County Sheriff’s Deputy and the occupants identified themselves as Mark Kevin Franklin, age 61, and Rose Franklin, age 58. According to the deputy, the couple admitted to being involved in the incident.
Eventually, it was determined that the legal name of Rose Franklin is actually Rose Chilcoat. Chilcoat recently retired as the Executive Director of the Great Old Broads for Wilderness, an environmental group. She is also a member of the board of the Friends of Cedar Mesa.
Under the direction of Chilcoat, the Great Old Broads were active in challenging livestock grazing permits in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, which is adjacent to San Juan County in the southwest corner of Colorado.
The last several years have been marked by a number of incidents of “mischief” in San Juan County. Local cattlemen and residents have complained about gates left open and apparent acts of vandalism.
Threatening or false signs and posters have been posted at trailheads and at community gathering spots. Water troughs have been drained.
Several years ago, the Great Old Broads complained that one of their campsites in San Juan County had been vandalized and the gate locked with the campers inside.
While many of these acts may seem harmless or trivial, San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge said they cause significant problems.
“Recently, a gate was left open near Bluff and three yearling cattle wandered onto the highway, where they were hit and killed by a car,” said Eldredge. “Acts such as this increases the danger on the roads, destroys herds, and is a crime.”
Eldredge adds, “Graffiti that was written on the gate leads us to believe that the act was intentional.”
Eldredge states that crimes will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Eldredge said the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office is offering a $500 reward for information assisting in the prosecution of those responsible for this type of vandalism or crime.
The exasperated San Juan County Sheriff is urging more civility.
In addition, Sheriff Eldredge asks visitors to respect the general rules for gates and fences in the West.
“Leave it like you found it,” said the Sheriff. “If you open a gate, close it. If a gate is wired open, leave it open.”