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Bowman County law outlines cattle guard responsbilities

Bill Bowman

A cattle guard ordinance six months in the making is coming to a close in Bowman County, and commissioners and ranchers will know who is responsible for taking care of the pasture entries with no gates.

"What we are trying to do is get a policy that all the landowners can agree with," Commissioner Bill Bowman said.

The ordinance specifies maintenance rules for cattle guards across county roads and section lines, according to the resolution. If passed, landowners will pay the county for installation for the first time. If replaced, the county will pay for it.

There are 34 county-owned cattle guards in Bowman County which cost $3,000 apiece.

The Bowman County Commission initiated the ordinance after hearing concerns from ranchers about who is responsible for the cattle guards, Commissioner Pine Abrahamson said. They are working "to get the landowners and the county on the right page," he said.

"When we get this ordinance put together, we want it put together right so it benefits both of us," he said.

The county has an outdated policy, Bowman said. Commissioners want to address problems such as who keeps the cattle guards clean. It is important to make sure it is up-to-date, he added.

"A cattle guard is basically for one reason, and that is so the landowner doesn't have to fence part of the fence," he said. "After a lot of them were put in, we got all this oil traffic down here and then some of them got damaged. Who pays for that?"

Oil companies have paid to put cattle guards on roads to oil wells through Bowman rancher Wayne Mrnak's land and he expects them to take care of them.

"Most of the cattle guards we have go into pasture and they put them in there for convenience so they don't have to open and shut gates when they are working back in there," he said. "If they are on a county road, I would surely think the county needs to take care and maintain them."

Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the ordinance Tuesday at 1:15 p.m. at the Bowman County Courthouse. Bowman hopes it is a policy everyone can agree on.

"You give a little and you take a little," he said. "It's a two-way street when you are dealing with the public."