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Environmentalist accused of endangering cattle faces jury trial

Rose Chilcoat and husband plead not guilty to Utah charges
A San Juan County (Utah) judge found probable cause Thursday to support charges against Rose Chilcoat, and her husband, Mark Franklin, who are accused of putting livestock at risk in southeastern Utah. Jury trials have been set for early next year.

A jury trial for local environmentalist Rose Chilcoat, who is suspected of putting livestock at risk in southeastern Utah, has been scheduled for Jan. 31.

In April, Chilcoat and her husband, Mark Franklin, were hit with several charges after a rancher near Mexican Hat reported the couple had trespassed onto his property and closed a gate to a corral, cutting off his cattle’s access to water.

According to Utah State Courts spokesman Geoff Fattah, Chilcoat pleaded not guilty to all charges at a preliminary hearing Thursday before Judge Lyle Anderson in Monticello’s 7th District Court.

Franklin, who also pleaded not guilty Thursday, has a jury trial scheduled for Feb. 1.

Chilcoat did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Chilcoat was originally cited on April 12 with two misdemeanors: one for trespassing on trust lands and another for providing false information for identifying herself to a San Juan County Sheriff’s Office deputy using her married name.

Six days after the initial charges were filed, Chilcoat was issued two new felony charges: attempted wanton destruction of livestock and retaliation against a witness.

Kendall Laws, attorney for San Juan County, said Judge Anderson dismissed the charge against Chilcoat for allegedly providing false information to a deputy.

“The judge felt like there wasn’t enough evidence presented to say she gave false information with the intent to deceive,” Laws said.

However, for all other charges, Laws said Judge Anderson determined there was enough evidence to go to trial.

According to an April 12 news release from the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, a Utah cattleman between Bluff and Mexican Hat reported on April 1 that a gate to his corral had been closed, denying his cattle access to water.

On April 4, three days later, the cattleman noticed the same vehicle, which was captured by a trail camera the day the gate was closed, prompting him to alert authorities.

The initial charges were filed April 12.

Chilcoat has maintained that she and her husband did not harass or endanger cattle, and that livestock had access to water at all times. She says it’s likely the charges are a form of retaliation for her conservation work in the area.

Chilcoat is a former associate director of Great Old Broads for Wilderness and founding member of Friends of Cedar Mesa, groups that advocate for wildland protections around San Juan County.

Environmentalists have clashed with some San Juan County locals in recent years, specifically over all-terrain vehicle use in Recapture Canyon and the designation of Bears Ears National Monument.

According to an audio recording of the police dispatch call obtained by The Durango Herald in an open records request, Zane Odell, the Utah rancher, admitted that his cattle did indeed have access to water throughout the ordeal.

“We had the fence cut where we were drilling a well so no harm was done,” Odell told dispatchers. “The cows did go around the corner and get in to get a drink of water. So I don’t have any dead cows. But their intent is still there.”

The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office did not disclose that the cattle had access to water in its April news release. The Sheriff’s Office denied a number of records requests made by the Herald.

Laws said Chilcoat and Franklin are slated to be tried separately. Prosecutors or the defense may request the cases be combined, but as of Thursday, neither party had made that request.

jromeo@durangoherald.com

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