Remembering my Mentor in Coordination, Bert Smith

Two years ago, today I wrote a tribute to my good friend and mentor in coordination Bert Smith who passed away on March 31 of that year, 2016. Bert was 96 years young and was still “mentally in it”. I think of him almost daily at one point or another as I hear, talk, read or write about coordination, or western issues or even just the state of Utah. I have asked that the tribute be posted on the website in its entirety because I want Bert to be always in the forefront of our thinking as we move toward development of the Coordination Institute.

He was known by some in the Press as “the Godfather of the Sage Brush Rebellion.” After he returned from the Pacific theater of the Second World War, he and his brother bought a ranch at the eastern foot of Ruby Mountain in Elko County, Nevada. He told a 2012 Utah Freedom Conference that at the age of 26 he got “mad at the BLM and the Forest Service” and had “been fighting them ever since.”

Not one to just sit around grousing, Bert decided he would do something to combat what he found to be the entangling rules of the two agencies that made no common or range sense whatsoever. He was one of the Founders of the National Federal Lands Conference which brought speakers and educational workshops to communities to help ranchers better understand the issues and what could be done about them.

I will think of Bert at every step of the way toward establishment of the Institute of Coordination, as we strive hard to assure that the process will go on without interruption when the old horses are all gone.

I will make sure that our Board members all know the Bert Smith story.

One of the tributes to how dedicated and successful he was is the way in which he was treated by the radical anti-grazing press. It referred to him as espousing “a legally flawed” constitutional principle, as “spreading a false gospel” that leads to violence, and as “just one more shadowy element propping up Utah politicians in their efforts to seize our public lands” When these folks take the time to disparage you, you can be sure you’re doing the job well. They do not bother to disparage those who are not successful.

Bert once called me to congratulate me on an insult that had been printed about my work in an anti-grazing publication. A Native American resident of Siskiyou County in California was upset at my success in helping the Supervisors up there convince Secretary of Interior Salazar to refrain from issuing the decision to destroy the dams on the Klamath River. The Tribes favored destruction of the dams. This gentleman was quoted in the Press as saying when I spoke of coordination, “Fred Grant is selling snake oil” Bert said “you must be doing it right. Keep on with the snake oil.” And I have. And now will as I work as hard as I can to help get the Institute established before I move on as did Bert.

The struggle against the regulators gets more difficult the older we get. And the fight gets harder and more destructive every day for our ranchers, miners, loggers, and farmers. And often it seems that the fight is so wearisome that one thinks “its time to sit and ruminate and just enjoy the sunrise and the sunset and sleep in between.”

The evening before I wrote my tribute, Bert’s wife Kathy wrote to me in an e-mail: “Carry on and never give up is what Bert would say.” She was so right, and she has walked where she talked, never quitting in these past two years to further Bert’s work.

I won’t quit either until we get the Institute established. To quit now would let down both Bert Smith and one of my favorite professors Karl Nickerson Llewellyn at Chicago who told us one day “If you want to be an office lawyer get out and go over to the business school. A lawyer ought to love the fight, the jabs and chops that make the courtroom a magnificent battleground—so learn to fight.”

I give thanks to my God that He brought me into the presence of such men as Bert Smith. God rest your soul, Bert. I know you are a confidante of all who rule Heaven.

— Fred Kelly Grant

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