By Warren Stucki
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With world-class scenery, a brand-new National Monument and the rosy prospect of fat tourist dollars, you’d think the citizens of Southern Utah would be happy. But they’re mad! Damn mad. To them the Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument is nothing more than the political equivalent to a football end run--a blatant land grab. Then when the Bureau of Land Management appoints a dedicated conservationist as the rookie Monument manager, things quickly shift from simmer to boil.
Coal miner Angus Macdonald and fur trapper Bucky Lee Eakins will be put out of business but if the environmentalists have their way, and it appears they will, it is also quite probable cattle ranchers Roper Rehnquist and girlfriend, Ruby Nez, will soon follow.
Before the BLM can buy back his Monument coal leases, Macdonald is brutally murdered, then Roper’s line cabin is burned to the ground and Assistant Monument Manager Ron Sparks is shot in the head and killed. This is a crime spree unprecedented in the history of U.S. National Monuments. Some think it’s eco-terrorists, but the ranchers are convinced it is a rogue BLM ranger and Monument management strongly suspects a newly formed, covert coalition of disgruntled ranchers.
Even though battle lines are quickly drawn, an uneasy unspoken truce settles over the vast new Monument. This fragile peace, however, is instantly shattered when the BLM suddenly revokes Roper and Ruby’s grazing leases. Roper realizes if he doesn’t do something fast, this little local imbroglio could quickly fan into a raging wildfire. It has all the makings of a 20th century range war, the likes of which have not been seen in the West since New Mexico’s Lincoln County war of the late 1800s.
Growing up in a farming/ranching family in southern Utah, Warren Stucki is very familiar with the ranching lifestyle and the ongoing feud between ranchers and the BLM, land stewards of a large portion of the American west. After leaving southern Utah, Dr. Stucki graduated from the University of Utah Medical School, eventually specializing in urology. He still practices medicine and lives on a small horse ranch just outside of St. George, Utah. Stucki writes in two distinct genres: historical fiction and medical mysteries. His two previous books, Boy’s Pond and Hunting for Hippocrates, were also published by Sunstone Press.
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