Land expansion makes landowners 'willing sellers'

Siskiyou Daily News

Siskiyou, CA - 1/18/02 - The ongoing war between the Lemos family and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over the boundaries of the Horseshoe Ranch has taken on new life with the BLM proposing to add even more private property to a deer wintering range managed by them in northern Siskiyou County.

The Horseshoe Ranch was established in 1977 when the California Department of Fish & Game purchased 7,700 acres of private property for a deer wintering range south of the Oregon border and just west of Irongate Reservoir. Fish & Game contracted with the BLM to manage the property and in 1993, the western boundary was extended to Interstate-5 with 7,766 additional acres of private property and 9,642 acres of public land being added.

Ed Lemos, whose family operates a cattle ranch on private property inside the 1993 boundary lines, contends that the western boundary of the Horseshoe Ranch was changed in 1993 without notice to him or any of the other affected property owners in that area. It was not until 1999 when a land trade involving some property within the 1993 boundary of the Horseshoe Ranch went before the Siskiyou County Land Exchange Commission that it became known that the western boundary had been moved from its original location to Interstate-5 to the west. Public outcry, a letter writing campaign of over 700 letters and meetings with the board of supervisors and BLM representative, Chuck Schultz in 1999 persuaded the BLM to start the process of returning the western boundary back to where it had been in 1977.

That process was delayed, however, when the BLM became involved in public hearings about the designation of 52,000 acres of ground in Southern Oregon as a national monument. During the final days of the Clinton Administration, Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt came to Medford, Ore. several times to meet with BLM representatives there about the feasibility of a monument and what its boundaries should be. Babbitt personally assured the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors during those meetings that no California land would be included in the monument boundaries. However, opponents of the newest effort by the BLM to expand the northern boundary of the Horseshoe Ranch along the California-Oregon border view it as an attempt to increase the size of the Soda Mountain Wilderness area by adding 38,000 acres of California property to it. BLM says the addition of this property to the south of the Soda Mountain Wilderness area would provide "more effective long term protection of the interstate deer herd."

The BLM focus in expanding the boundaries of the Horseshoe Ranch is an attempt by them to acquire scattered small parcels of private land within the boundaries of the Horseshoe Ranch from "willing sellers." Once boundaries have been set, Lemos contends that he and other private property owners within that area will be forced to become one of those "willing sellers," eventually transforming all of the property within the boundaries of the Horseshoe Ranch into public land. Grazing rights, water rights and motorized access to property within those boundaries could be restricted or even eliminated.

A public comment period has been established for people, whether directly affected by this proposal or not, to contact the BLM to express their opinion about this expansion. Ed Lemos and his cousin, Dave Lemos, have mailed out over 600 information packets to people in the area and have consulted with the county planning commission about their options. Lemos is on the agenda to present this issue to the board of supervisors on Jan. 22 and will be asking for a resolution expressing opposition to any expansion of the Horseshoe Ranch.

The BLM is proposing three possible alternatives that will be open for public comment until Feb. 7. Alternative 1 consists of entirely all public land and sets the boundaries of the Horseshoe Ranch as they were established when the project was first set in place in 1977.

Alternative 2, is being designated as the preferred alternative by BLM and proposes to add 22,000 of private property to the area and sets boundary lines between Interstate-5 to the west, the Klamath River to the south, Camp Creek and Irongate Reservoir to the east and the state line to the north. Located inside those boundaries is the entire town of Hornbrook, and all of the R-Ranch property, large property holdings by several ranchers and land developers, and property located within Klamath River Country Estates.

Alternative 3 keeps the western boundary of the Horseshoe Ranch to where it was expanded in 1993 and includes 7,766 acres of private land and 9,642 of public land. BLM had agreed in 1999 to return the western boundary back to where it had been set in Alternative 1, but never completed that change.

Ed Lemos and his cousin, Dave Lemos, have been working with BLM for three years to return the boundary of the Horseshoe Ranch to where it was established in 1977. During recent meetings with Chuck Schultz of the BLM, the Lemoses discovered for the first time that Alternative 2 was now being considered.

"We were supposed to be working with BLM on this amended proposal of the western boundary, but when they showed up at our house, they had a new line drawn on the map," Lemos said.

Lemos is critical of the BLM for never completing their goals on the initial 7,700 acres established for deer winter grazing in 1977. Fences are falling down, the entry road into the parking area is flooded most of the year and he said the only improvements he knows of was to knock down some of the brush. In spite of being a deer wintering range, Lemos said hunting permits are issued by BLM for deer hunting inside the Horseshoe Ranch during the rifle season every fall.

A public meeting has been scheduled at the Miners Inn Convention Center on Wednesday at 6 p.m. for the Bureau of Land Management to inform the public about this proposal and take public comments. Written comments must be submitted to Field Manager Chuck Schultz at the BLM office in Redding by no later than Feb. 7 and can be mailed to the BLM office at 355 Hemsted Drive in Redding, 96002.

"This is not a personal thing anymore," Lemos said. "This is not just about me. The government just should stop taking all this private ground for deer habitat and referring to us as willing sellers, when we are not. All this is an attempt by BLM to add more property to the Soda Mountain Wilderness area, in my opinion."


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