- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2016

MORGAN, Utah (AP) - Western ranchers usually tangle with federal officials over land use issues, but a northern Utah ranching family is locked in a clash with Utah state officials over the family’s right to move cattle along a stretch of Interstate highway.

On Thursday, the Pentz ranching family went ahead and moved a herd of cattle along Interstate 84 despite the ongoing dispute with state transportation officials that led the family to sue earlier this year.

Members of the Pentz family placed boards over a cattle grid at an on-ramp to I-84 to allow about 90 cows between concrete barriers flanking the road, the Deseret News (https://bit.ly/293rI7C ) reported. The state put up the barriers to keep the family from using the route to move the cattle to a new pasture, said the family’s attorney Aaron Bergman.

Utah Highway Patrol escorted family members riding horses and ATVs as they trailed their cattle to an exit about eight miles away. The cattle were moved to higher ground for summer grazing without incident.

The decades-long dispute led the Pentz family of Morgan, Utah, to sue the Utah Department of Transportation this year to retain access to a route it says it’s used before the highway was built.

Department of Transportation spokesman John Gleason says he can’t comment because of the ongoing legal battle.

The decision to sue came after family negotiated for years with state officials about getting reimbursed for trucking the cattle or building an alternative route, Bergman said.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” said Max Beddoes, a family member said Thursday. “I’ve been doing this since I can remember. We’ve always chased them up the freeway.”

The family has moved the cattle along the route twice a year for more than six decades. The old highway was torn up and a wider highway built in the late 1950s. Bergman says the Pentz family brought up the access issue as far back as the 1970s.

By the mid-2000s, Berman says the state ordered the family to stop using the highway to move the cattle.

At issue in the lawsuit is whether Utah has a legal obligation to create an alternative route. The state says it doesn’t, arguing the highway is a restricted access road. The family says state law requires transportation officials to build livestock trails when highways are used for livestock movement.

Of the two options -trucking the cattle or making a new route - the Pentz family prefers the second alternative because it’s faster and puts less stress on the cows.

“It is a lot quicker and easier if we trail them rather than truck them,” Steve Pentz said.

But a new 8.5-mile route would not be cheap: about $77,000 per mile, according to the family’s lawsuit.

Despite being allowed to move the cattle again Thursday, the family intends to continue fighting for a long-term resolution.

“It is sad that the state and UDOT have not simply owned up and done what the Legislature demanded they do,” Bergman said. “Instead they are repeatedly trying to weasel out of it.”

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