Man Charged with Crime for Protecting His Sheep

By National Center for Public Policy Research | July 7, 2008 | 8:21pm EDT

(Editor's Note: The following is the 30th of 100 stories regarding government regulation from the book Shattered Dreams, written by the National Center for Public Policy Research. will publish an additional story each day.)

Houston Lasater, a Colorado rancher and the owner of Lasater Sheep, Inc., holds the rights to a grazing permit in the San Juan National Forest near Durango, Colo. In August 2000, a sheep herder employed by Lasater was injured and required medical treatment. While helping his worker obtain treatment, Lasater hired a temporary herder to watch his sheep while he was away. When Lasater returned to check on his sheep, the temporary herder - a member of the Navajo Indian tribe - said he had killed a "maii" (Navajo for bobcat). The herder killed the bobcat because it attacked and killed one of Lasater's lambs.

Weeks later, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) notified Lasater that it had found a lynx that had been shot and killed on his grazing allotment. An FWS agent came to the property to discuss the killing with Lasater. He introduced the FWS agent to the Navajo herder, but no charges were filed regarding the situation.

Almost 18 months later, FWS sought a civil penalty against Lasater, charging that the animal killed was a lynx protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). If convicted, Lasater could face a fine of up to $25,000. FWS claimed Lasater had violated the ESA, which says it is unlawful to "solicit another to commit, or to cause [an ESA violation] to be committed." The charges were later dropped, however, at the request of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. The Colorado legislature has also called on the FWS to re-designate the lynx introduction plan "experimental." This change, if adopted by the FWS, would allow residents to protect their livestock against the animals without fear of prosecution.

Source: Mountain States Legal Foundation

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