by Carol Dunn
HUERFANO- Dennis Williams, Brand Inspector for Huerfano and Las Animas counties, was guest speaker at the August meeting of the Huerfano Basin Stockgrowers Association and cast some light on what “open range” really means. According to Williams, open range is not a law, but rather a land use. Landowners have the option in Colorado to fence livestock out of their property. If a property is not fenced and cattle encroach on that property, the landowner has no legal recourse to sue for damages. The owner does have the right to pen the cattle and request that the stockgrower remove them. This is referred to as taking custody of the animals for trespassing. If a landowner chooses to pen the animals, they are legally responsible for their care and feeding.
If animals breach a “lawful fence,” then the landowner has a right to file a civil lawsuit. Williams advised stockgrowers to get to know the neighbors of the properties they are grazing, particularly subdivisions, and give them contact information in case there is a livestock problem. He warned that there are people who are “ready to sue at any time.” The responsibility for a fence between two agricultural properties is shared by the landowners. According to Colorado law (35-46-101), a “lawful fence” is “a well constructed three barbed wire fence with substantial posts set at a distance of approximately twenty feet apart, and sufficient to turn ordinary horses and cattle, with all gates equally as good as the fence, or any other fence of like efficiency.”
For more information, get the brochure “Fencing Your Home on the Range,” available from Dennis Williams or the Denver Brand Office at (303) 294-0895.