Rose ChiIcoat feels–or at least her legal team asserts–that the people of San Juan County don’t like her, which is probably true is some cases and not true in many others. San Juan is a diverse county with divergent political factions. But one must ask what kind of person, regardless of ideology, attempts the inhumane killing of innocent animals to make a political point?

Commentary by Marjorie Haun

The case of the Old Broad environmentalist charged with attempted cow murder has taken a number of bizarre–seemingly desperate–twists. But her latest attempt to dodge the consequences of her actions brings to mind the infantile complaint; “Nobody likes me!”

Background

Rose Chilcoat, a founding member of the ‘Friends of Cedar Mesa’ and a Great Old Broads for Wilderness activist, was caught in 2017 attempting to prevent cattle from reaching their water source in the Lime Ridge area of southeastern Utah. As Amy Joi O’Donoghue previously reported in the Deseret News:

(April 2017)

Criminal charges were filed against an environmental activist and her husband after an alleged incident earlier this month in San Juan County involving cattle that were blocked from their water source.

The charges against Rosalie Jean Chilcoat and Mark Kevin Franklin came this week in 7th District Court after a San Juan County Sheriff’s Office investigation into incidents at Lime Ridge off state Route 163 between Bluff and Mexican Hat.

A press release by the sheriff’s office said a local cattleman found the gate to his corral closed on April 1, blocking his cattle’s ability to access water. Deputies found evidence at the scene that included footprints and surveillance from a camera.

A few days later, the same cattleman spotted a car that matched the vehicle caught on tape, stopped it and called authorities.

Deputies say the people in the car were identified as Franklin, 61, and Chilcoat, 58, both of Durango, Colo.

The land involving the incidents is owned by the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration and has been leased for cattle grazing.

Chilcoat has been affiliated with Great Old Broads for Wilderness since 2001 and is a founding board member of Friends of Cedar Mesa, another environmental organization…

According to the sheriff’s press release, Franklin admitted to shutting the gate.

Through her involvement with Great Old Broads for Wilderness, the organization was among multiple environmental groups fighting new grazing allotments that were under consideration on public lands in neighboring Colorado.

When the 7th District Court heard the case, the stakes were escalated:

(June 2017)

Rosalie Jean Chilcoat, 58, a founding board member of Friends of Cedar Mesa who has long been affiliated with Great Old Broads for Wilderness, appeared in 7th District Court Monday to answer to charges of attempted wanton destruction of livestock, a second-degree felony; trespassing on state lands, a class A misdemeanor; and giving a false personal identity to a peace officer, a class C misdemeanor.

An additional new charge of retaliation against a witness, victim or informant — a third-degree felony — was added in her case that stems from April encounters with a pair of ranchers.

The crimes occurred in San Juan County where the county seat is the agricultural town of Monticello. Chilcoat, who is from Durango, Colorado, has vigorously sought a change of venue, and locals suspect that she was behind a recent Dan Jones survey seeking data on local opinions that would force just that. The survey’s oddly specific questions such as; “Do you know who the Great Old Broads for Wilderness are?”, “Do you know Phil Lyman (a San Juan County Commissioner)?”, “Do you know Monte Wells (an outspoken critic of Chilcoat)?”, and “Do you read The Petroglyph (Monte Wells’ blog)?” lead one to surmise that Chilcoat may have paid Dan Jones & Associates to show that she and her husband can’t get a fair shake in Monticello.

Chilcoat’s most recent effort to quash the prosecution’s case casts aside the facts and evidence that she committed crimes, and is based purely on assumptions about what people in San Juan County think of her. On April 20, Chilcoat’s legal team issued “A Reply In Support of Motion to Quash Bindover” asserting that the charges against her should be dropped because she and her opinions are unpopular in San Juan County. Calling the prosecution “politically-driven,” the motion asks for charges against Chilcoat and her husband to be dropped based upon the following unprovable (and legally dubious) assumptions:

•Chilcoat and her husband hold political views that are unpopular in Blanding, Utah.

•Chilcoat’s (anti-grazing) environmentalist activism is unfairly being used as evidence that she intended to harm the cattle whose water source she had closed off.

The county leadership is ‘hostile’ towards Chilcoat.

Residents of San Juan County create a ‘hostile environment’ for Chilcoat.

•Prosecuting Chilcoat for her crimes, which include lying to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), is a violation of her Constitutional rights.

•Evidence gathered from the scene, including trail cam footage, and tire tracks showing Chilcoat’s car at the scene, is ‘pseudoscience.’

The “nobody likes me” defense is a novel twist in this increasingly bizarre case against a reactionary environmentalist, but the facts of the case negate her proposition. The truth is, Rose Chilcoat and her husband chose to drive 120 miles from Durango, Colorado to Lime Ridge in Utah. In a voluntary and illegal act, they drove onto a privately-held grazing allotment, and detoured off that road to a cattleman’s privately-owned roundup corral, then, of their own volition, closed an access gate in order to deprive cattle of their water supply, endangering 90 cows and calves.

Chilcoat and her husband, again of their own free will, made the same trip three days later, returning to the scene of the crime, possibly to see if their attempt to deprive momma cows and calves of their water source was successful. But, outflanked by ranchers with trail cams, Chilcoat and her husband were identified and detained. The rancher who owns the cattle and a friend happened to be near the scene of the previous crime, evidence of which was earlier documented on trail cam video, where they stopped Chilcoat and her husband as they attempted to speed away in their car.

Not only were her actions criminal, but they were heartless. Lime Ridge is an extremely arid part of Utah, and the cattle in question could quickly dehydrate and die in such a climate without access to water. For any of those animals, especially momma cows with babies, to die from dehydration would have been agonizing.

Rose ChiIcoat feels–or at least her legal team asserts–that the people of San Juan County don’t like her, which is probably true is some cases and not true in many others. San Juan is a diverse county with divergent political factions. But one must ask what kind of person, regardless of ideology, attempts the inhumane killing of innocent animals to make a political point?

Mr. Franklin and Mrs. Franklin, aka Rose Chilcoat, as members and directors of Great Old Broads for Wilderness have long been outspoken advocates of “monkywrenching,” a term coined by Edward Abbey in his book, “The Monkey-Wrench Gang.” While Abbeyesque monkey-wrenching refers to the destruction of valuable private property in the form of heavy equipment, Rose and her fellow Old Broads, including former director Veronica Eagan–whose mission includes eliminating cattle grazing on public lands–have loudly and proudly expressed their derision for cows. Interestingly, since Chilcoat’s arrest, incidents of vandalism on grazing allotments and the illegal killing of cattle in the region has ceased.

There are other ways to accomplish one’s objectives which are legal and not sadistically cruel, but Chilcoat chose premeditated criminal trespass and vandalism. The O’Dell family, who own the cows, deserve protection from those who would destroy their animals and livelihood. The law was intended to provide that sort of protection.

San Juan County Commissioner, Phil Lyman said, “I know that Rose feels persecuted, but she will have her day in court and should take comfort in that. In her own words, ‘Those were intentional and willful acts that just can’t be tolerated in a civil society where you have to have some constraints.’ We will see if she is willing to stand by her actions, which she obviously felt were justified up until she was caught.”

And, it turns out, Lyman is correct; Chilcoat will have her day in court. On April 26, the 7th District Court rejected the defense’s “nobody likes me” argument, so the trial will go forward.

While the O’Dell family simply seeks redress for crimes committed on and against their private property, Rose Chilcoat seeks an out from the legal consequences of trespassing on private property and attempting to wantonly destroy O’Dell’s cows.

Whether or not Chilcoat is liked is irrelevant. The facts of the case are what they are. The crimes she committed did indeed take place, and witness accounts are supported by the evidence. Truth be told, this is a big case for Chilcoat, who looms large in the Colorado/Utah environmental activist community, which seems terrified that they may finally be held accountable by the people whose lives and livelihoods they seek to destroy.


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