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Section A: General News


Editorial: It’s time for Texas to lose the ‘Old West’ mentality




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From the publisher...
October 26, 2010 | 2,762 views | 11 comments

There is a proposition on the ballots in Wilson County that is causing a great deal of angst among local voters and livestock owners.

Texas in general still uses open range law for its livestock, unless voters approve otherwise. Wilson County has traditionally been an “open range” county, but will have the opportunity to change that on Nov. 2.

The fact that we still are an open range county may come as a surprise to many, especially folks new to this area. To old-timers, that’s just the way it’s always been.

While today’s open range may not quite be like the open range of the “old West” when livestock roamed freely without worry of fences, it nevertheless may reflect the mentality of a bygone era.

The open range laws may have been fine in the days of dirt roads and speed limits well under 50 mph. Today, many farm-to-market roads post a 60-mph speed limit at night. That is no place for a stray animal.

If you’ve ever encountered a horse or a cow, especially a black cow, along a country road at night, you know how frightening that can be. On a dark night, these animals can be almost impossible to spot, and even then, such an animal is unpredictable in what it will do next. They are as likely to dart out in front of your vehicle as they are to turn and run in the opposite direction.

Even now, however, the open range law, does not apply to federal and state highway rights of way.

Since becoming a state in 1845, Texas has always been considered an open range state. As recently as 1999, the Texas courts have refused to impose as common law the requirement of livestock owners to prevent their animals from roaming at large.

However, the breadth of the open range doctrine is not

without its limitations. Rather, there are two basic exceptions to the open range doctrine. These exceptions constitute a livestock owner’s only duty to restrain animals from roaming at large.

The Texas Agriculture Code states, “[a] person who owns or has responsibility for the control of a horse, mule, donkey, cow, bull, steer, hog, sheep, or goat may not knowingly permit the animal to traverse or roam at large, unattended, on the right-of-way of a highway.” The statute defines a highway to include U.S. highways and state highways, but does not include numbered farm-to-market roads.

While the vast majority of livestock owners are upstanding and responsible when it comes to maintaining good fences to contain their animals, there are always a few exceptions. They are the ones who tend to exploit the open range laws, much to the chagrin of their neighbors.

The U.S. and state highways in Texas already are considered closed range, but that leaves the 40,000-plus miles of farm-to-market roads and county roads in Texas as open range. They remain open range unless voters approve otherwise.

Wilson County voters will have this opportunity on Nov. 2.

***********************

At the top of the ballot, the first two items read as follows:

Local Option Stock Law Election

Letting horses, mules, jacks,
jennets, donkeys, hogs, sheep,
and goats run at large
in Wilson County.
__ FOR __ AGAINST

Adoption of the Stock Law.
__ FOR __ AGAINST

To continue the status quo and keep Wilson County’s open range, voters should vote FOR the first one and AGAINST the second one.

To change the open range to closed range throughout the county, including farm-to-market and county roads, vote AGAINST the first one and FOR the second one.
 

Your Opinions and Comments

 
PRAIRIE GROUCH  
GRAND PRAIRIE TX  
April 17, 2013 6:30pm
 
Thanks Sam.......That should clear it up for all concerned.

 
Sam Eagle  
Muppet Land  
April 17, 2013 4:25pm
 

 
PRAIRIE GROUCH  
GRAND PRAIRIE TX  
April 17, 2013 11:01am
 
I found a notice from the County Judge after the 2010 election prohibiting cattle from roaming in Wilson county. It was effective Dec 16, 2010 I believe. No mention of any additional animals. Does anyone have a clarification ... More ›

 
Senior Citizen  
Wilson County  
April 17, 2013 9:04am
 
The issue of livestock on the roads comes up every few years in Texas. ... don't expect it to change!

 
PRAIRIE GROUCH  
GRAND PRAIRIE TX  
April 17, 2013 8:10am
 
Closed range and salsa made in New York city..the new face of Texas.

 
Harold  
Equatorial Guinea, West Africa  
April 17, 2013 2:42am
 
Have any of you commenters ever owned livestock? I have, and I'm here to tell you that a fresh strong T post, 9 gauge, 5 strand barb wire fence (this will most likely be the roadside requirement if the law passes) is merely ... More ›

 
Donna L Henderson  
Adkins, TX  
April 16, 2013 11:20pm
 
Is it still open range in Wilson County?

 
Cgbarn  
La Vernia, TX  
November 2, 2010 7:17pm
 
I did not know that Wilson County was an " open range" county. I just assumed you would be required to keep your livestock out of the road for their sake as well as the sake of others. I did vote against allowing ... More ›

 
New Guy  
Wilson County  
October 27, 2010 1:39pm
 
Sorry, I voted for it. There are numerous roads in Wilson County were I have come up on a cow or a sheep on the road. Do not blame this on the new folks, blame on the ranchers/farmers who do not care about their animals.

 
Rock'n chair Rambler  
Over Taxed, TX  
October 27, 2010 7:54am
 
I am as much of a traditionalist as the next guy and would like nothing better than to go back to the times when there were no fences and no need for them either. However, as far as I can figure, about the only advantage in ... More ›

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