Case Summary

The ranchers and cowboys who ride Wyoming’s Upper Green River Drift offer a living connection to the history of the West. But several radical environmentalist groups and their lawyers are trying to shut down America’s most historic remaining cattle drive. They’ve filed a lawsuit in federal court, hoping to ban ranchers from this historic range land. As a result, these hard-working ranchers ride with the knowledge that their next cattle drive could be their last.

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Status

Court

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Case History

The Green River Drift cattle drive takes place every year on one of the most storied and dramatic landscapes of the American West. On the very edge of the Continental Divide, it unfolds like a scene from one of Hollywood’s classic Westerns. There, among the high desert mesas of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, cowboys drive several thousand head of cattle back to their ranches, over some of the most splendid country there ever was.

The route and manner of the cattle drive are largely unchanged since the 1800’s, and it is operated by the descendants of the families of homesteaded the area and began the cattle drive in the 19th century. 

The Green River Drift is the oldest continuously used cattle drive in Wyoming, if not the entire country. It has a special cultural importance. So much so that it is officially recognized as a “Traditional Cultural Property” on the National Register of Historic Places. It is the only Traditional Cultural Property devoted to ranching and Western stock raising culture.

Mountain States Legal Foundation filed a motion to intervene in the case in order to defend the rights of these American ranchers to access federal land, as they have for generations, and to protect the legacy of the people who built the West.

MSLF attorneys are fighting to ensure America’s most storied cattle drive lives on

Against all evidence of this long history, radical environmentalist groups filed a lawsuit, falsely claiming that these grazing practices, which have been practiced soundly for well over a century, will harm grizzly bear populations in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

In reality, grizzly populations in the region have recovered to the extent that Fish & Wildlife Service officials have twice recommended that the Greater Yellowstone Grizzly be removed from the endangered species list, most recently in 2017. And there is no evidence that the cattle drive harms grizzly populations.

The only thing that’s endangered here is the ability of ranchers to earn a living—along with a critically important piece of our nation’s history.

Our clients in this case include the Upper Green River Cattle Association and the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, as well as several family ranches: The Price Cattle Ranch, Murdock Land & Livestock Co., and Sommers Ranch, LLC. 

Love for the land is close to the heart of these ranchers. The “land ethic” is a part of this historic way of life. So it comes as no surprise that the Sommers Ranch won the Leopold Conservation Award in 2012 for their remarkable stewardship of Wyoming’s Upper Green River Valley.

“These families have cared for the land far longer and far better than any agency or activist has,” said Brian Gregg, MSLF’s lead attorney on the case. “The Green River Drift provides 124 years of evidence that ranchers are the real conservationists.”

Despite Wyoming ranchers’ long, documented record as faithful stewards of the land, there are radical environmentalists who have decided they will never stop their legal attacks until all public lands ranching is destroyed in this country. This lawsuit is only the latest of their efforts to harm ranchers. 

These ranchers are the folks who put food on Americans’ tables. We must do all we can to defend them. And we must also preserve this important part of our cultural history.

MSLF’s faithful supporters stand beside our clients, including Charles Price of the Price Ranch, Albert Sommers of the Sommers Ranch, and Jeannie Lockwood of Murdock Land & Livestock, defending them from the environmental extremists’ attack.

Ranchers have a right to make a living off the land, as they have for generations. MSLF attorneys are fighting to make sure the Forest Service’s decision to authorize grazing in this region is upheld and America’s most storied cattle drive lives on. 

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