The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources acknowledged that cattle have been escaping while grazing on cheatgrass, an invasive plant that can fuel wildfires. The state plans to erect fence on the perimeter of the 14,000-acre ranch.
"In an ideal situation, we'd have the fencing in place," said Phil Douglass, conservation manager at the agency. "We're working feverishly to get ahead of that. We are just really trying to be good neighbors."
At a meeting yesterday, members of the South Cache Livestock Association expressed little sympathy.
"You do not turn cattle out without fencing," said Jay Rinderknecht, president of the association. "If we don't have fencing up and our cattle get out, we're liable. Why not you?"
Ernie Johansen has occasionally seen a cow or two wander across his property. But last weekend, he counted 35 heifers from Hardware Ranch on his 60 acres in Blacksmith Fork Canyon.
"I'd like them out. They're trespassing," he said.
For more than 40 years, South Cache Livestock Association ran cattle on Hardware Ranch until the contract ended in 2004.
The grazing rights were transferred to another rancher, who began the cheatgrass eradication program, Douglass said.
"They were sold a bill of goods," said Odell Rinderknecht, Jay's brother. "This is just going to cause erosion and trample down all the vegetation to nothing."