Criminal charges have been filed against former Great Old Broads for Wilderness associate director Rose Chilcoat and her husband, Mark Franklin, for allegedly trespassing in Utah and endangering livestock.
According to a news release from the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, a Utah cattleman on April 1 discovered a gate to his corral had been closed, thereby cutting off cattle from access to water.
A trail camera the cattleman had placed at the watering site captured the incident, which occurred near Lime Ridge Road between Bluff and Mexican Hat, on a section of state trust land leased from the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration. Footprints also were discovered, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Three days later, the cattleman, working at the site, noticed the same vehicle that was captured on camera the day the gate was closed. He stopped it and notified authorities, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Deputies identified the occupants of the vehicle as Chilcoat, 58, and Franklin, 61, who admitted to closing the gate. Chilcoat initially identified herself as Rose Franklin.
On Wednesday, charges were filed by San Juan County against Franklin for attempted wanton destruction of livestock, a second-degree felony; and trespassing on trust land, a Class A misdemeanor.
Chilcoat was charged with trespassing on trust land as well as providing false personal information to a police officer, a Class C misdemeanor, the news release said.
Franklin and Chilcoat could not be reached Wednesday for comment.
The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, too, did not respond to requests for comment.
Chilcoat led the Great Old Broads for 15 years until she retired in June 2016, advocating for public lands and challenging livestock grazing permits, especially in areas of Utah near Cedar Mesa and Canyons of the Ancients.
According to Monticello, Utah’s newspaper, the San Juan Record, local cattlemen have complained about similar incidents where gates have been left open or vandalism has occurred in the past few years.
Tensions between environmental activists and Utah locals have come to a head in recent years.
In 2010, when the Great Old Broads were on a field survey in Recapture Canyon, they encountered signs with a skull and crossbones that read “Wanted dead or alive: Great Old Broads for Wilderness. Great Old Broads not allowed in San Juan County.”
Two years later, the Great Old Broads claimed locals had threatened their group at a campground in Indian Creek when someone hung a “hag” mask on a fence, vandalized a banner and locked the gate to the campsite, trapping campers inside.
“I find it ironic that these charges are being filed and publicized when the San Juan County sheriff took no action in 2012 when a gate was illegally locked in the night, keeping 30 elderly women trapped on private land,” said Shelley Silbert, Great Old Broads executive director. “In addition, a Great Old Broads banner was vandalized, and a mask with fake blood and a threat was left on the gate. Certainly, that was a dangerous situation worthy of investigation. Where was the sheriff then?”
And last summer, critics of the group hung various posters at trailheads declaring open season on Colorado hikers.
“The hunt is open anywhere in San Juan County, Utah,” stated one poster, supposedly distributed by a group called Protect San Juan County Association. “There is no limit on how many may be harvested. Any weapon may be used.”
According to the San Juan Record, an “exasperated” San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge is “urging more civility.”
Eldredge told the Record when another gate was left open near Bluff, three yearling cattle escaped and were hit and killed by a car. Graffiti was written on the gate, leading the Sheriff’s Office to believe it was intentional.
“Acts such as this increases the danger on roads, destroys herds and is a crime,” he said.