Starting at the top, Todd Macfarlane is a rancher, writer, entrepreneur, property/natural resource attorney, and property rights advocate. More importantly, he is also a husband, father, and grandfather. He has extensive unique and diverse experience with government and believes that local government is important enough that, as a matter of principle, it should be based on sound principles rather than treated like a high school popularity contest, based on personality factors, including a person’s last name, or which side of the tracks (or side of the county) one lives on.
Todd and his family bought ranch property near Kanosh, and have lived in Millard County for approximately 15 years. In a previous article, written several years ago, Todd explained why they moved to Millard County. SEE: Why We Moved to Millard County — the Sound of FREEDOM.
Todd is essentially an open book. If you want to find out who he is, where he comes from, what he believes in, what he’s done, and what he stands for, it isn’t hard. READ ON.
Todd entered the world on a cold winter day while his parents were running the Nebeker Ranch at Bear Lake on the Utah/Idaho border. Fortunately, his mother had gone back home to Cedar City for the delivery, because on the day Todd was born it was -35 below at Laketown, and the only vehicle on the ranch that would start was a Ford 9N tractor. After the family relocated to Redd Ranches in Southeastern Utah and Southwestern Colorado, Todd’s earliest memories are of winters in LaSal (San Juan County), and summers at the Club Ranch on the Uncompaghre Plateau of Southwestern Colorado, while his parents worked for Redd Ranches, before ultimately moving to Sanpete County when his dad took a job for the FmHA. One summer on the Uncompaghre his dad killed 27 bears that were bothering Redd Ranch livestock. Todd has taken his children back to hunt the Uncompaghre several times in recent years. If you play your cards right, you can get tags to hunt elk, deer, bear and turkeys all at the same time.
Todd’s own story would not be complete without saying something about his wife, Heidi Esplin, and her story. Heidi’s family settled in Long Valley (Orderville) after what was known as the Muddy Mission closed in Southern Nevada. Her paternal grandfather, Lawrence Esplin, Sr., homesteaded a ranch in East Zion when he returned from France at the end of WWI. Her dad served as an MP during WWII, and upon his return was a bachelor sheepherder until he met her mother when he was 35. When Heidi was growing up her family operated an LDS church farm and dairy heifer finishing operation northwest of Cedar City.
After serving a mission, attending SUSC (now SUU) on a football scholarship, serving in the Utah National Guard, and ultimately graduating summa cum laude and nominee for scholar of the year, Todd worked for several years as a paralegal for the Cedar City law firm of Chamberlain & Higbee. After subsequently spending a stint working as a paralegal in upstate New York, Todd and Heidi returned to Utah when Todd started law school at the University of Utah, and ultimately served as executive editor of the Utah Law Review, while Heidi worked at Primary Children’s Hospital.
After graduation and passing the bar exam, Todd opened a branch office for Chamberlain & Higbee in Kanab, on the Utah/Arizona Border, and also became licensed to practice law in Arizona. Fresh out of law school, he was appointed co-chairman (along with Bob Johnson, a local rancher and Kane County School Superintendent) of the Kane County Water Conservancy Task Force. They hired Warren Peterson, and Waddingham & Peterson in Delta to help organize and establish the Kane County Water Conservancy District. SEE Water Lawyer — Whiskey’s for Drinking; Water’s for Drinking. After organizing the district, Todd worked for free for another year until the district could afford to pay its bills. When the district was finally able to move forward, Todd quit his job as Kane County Attorney to manage and operate the Kane County Water Conservancy District, on a part-time basis for the next five years until it was ready to turn into a full-time job, at which time he stepped away from KCWCD so that Mike Noel, who then retired from the BLM, could become the full-time manager.
After practicing law for 10 years, Todd took a sabbatical to catch his breath and write a book manuscript entitled Making Rain Where the Sun Shines — Lawyers are Supposed to be Golfers — Paying My Dues as a Country Lawyer, as a memoir of his early years starting out as a country lawyer on the Utah/Arizona border. It was supposed to be patterned after the British Vet, James Herriot’s memoir series, starting with All Creatures Great and Small. Like Herriot’s books, (SEE The Real James Herriot), Todd’s memoir was written under a pen name — Mancos MacLeod. SEE About My Name — Just Call Me “Mac” The manuscript won a prestigious cash award from the Utah Arts Council, but Todd has not yet made any serious attempt to have it published in hard copy book form. For chapter excerpts from Todd’s Memoir, Making Rain Where the Sun Shines — Lawyers are Supposed to be Golfers — Paying My Dues as a Country Lawyer, SEE Lawyers are Supposed to be Golfers; Water Lawyer — Whiskey’s for Drinking; Water’s for Fighting and Johnson Canyon Water Prophet.
All this was just a few short years after creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Kane and Garfield Counties. At that time, the new monument management was seriously pushing to curtail or completely eliminate livestock grazing in the massive monument.
During the middle of Todd’s sabbatical year writing in 2000, a situation blew-up on the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, involving widowed rancher, Mary Bullock, who was an old Macfarlane family friend. Todd has written about the Mary Bullock story elsewhere. To learn more about the Mary Bullock Story, click HERE.
After dealing with Mary’s situation and finishing his book manuscript, Todd and his family were ready to distance themselves from the changes that were occurring in Kane County, including those caused by the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM), so they bought a portion of the old Marion Kesler Ranch in Kanosh, and moved to Millard County. In a previous article, Todd explained WHY Macfarlanes chose Millard County.
Todd also went back to work as an attorney — this time as corporate general counsel, doing exclusively transactional work — mostly land, water and natural resource deals — for Terra Fina Capital, Oquirrh Wood Ranch, and the Pole Canyon Project in northwestern Utah County, a large real estate investment project which was ultimately annexed into the community of Eagle Mountain. At Pole Canyon, which is a 3000 acre, mixed-use master-planned community, with a 1000 acre industrial park, Todd worked with both the Economic Development Corporation of Utah (EDCU) and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED).
In 2010, Todd was solicited to participate in the Federalist No. 86 project, and helped write a series of three short books about American Government, in the tradition of the Federalist/Anti-Federalist Debate.
Todd later began writing for Stockman Grass Farmer, and has written a series of articles, mostly about sheep and goat ranching, some of which have been republished on Rangefire, including one about the Macfarlane Family Navajo-style Grazing Operation, and a variety of others, including Sheep vs. Goats, the annual cycle at Lava Lake Land & Livestock, and Sheep and Goat Marketing.
Although the entire Macfarlane family (now including grandchildren) are blessed to enjoy time spent at Turkey Track Ranch (named among other things for the abundant wild turkeys there) along the banks of Corn Creek just outside of Kanosh, Todd has often recognized that while Kanosh may be a great place to live, it’s a tough place to make a living. Economic opportunities in Kanosh are minimal. And after having tested the waters at attracting freeway traffic, Todd has concluded that cracking that nut is easier said than done.
Todd is surprisingly well-acquainted with the challenges of making a living in Millard County. During the economic downturn of the Great Recession during 2011-2012, as a 50 year-old professional, Todd agreed to participate in a rural “under-employment” study. As part of that study, despite being an attorney, Todd actually registered as a temp worker, and did stints working for a number of Millard County employers, including Great Lakes Cheese Plant and Graymont Lime Plant. He also worked in a machine shop rehabbing mining equipment, sheared sheep, and worked as a milker at a dairy, and wrote about his experiences and submitted his findings as part of that study. According to Todd, it was a very eye-opening experience.
After local attorney Jim Slavens was killed in a car accident in 2012, Todd agreed to help out by taking over 4-5 of Slavens’ pending cases — primarily including federal civil rights cases. At least three of those cases were against Millard County for Civil Rights and Due Process violations. That gave Todd new and unique opportunities to see the ugly underbelly of Millard County government, including policies, practices, and plain old good ol’ boy politics — stuff that most people probably aren’t even aware of. And once his eyes were opened, he has had multiple opportunities to observe that side of the equation since then. Todd has written extensively about challenges with Millard County land-use ordinances and administration, including how the unreasonable, boilerplate, one-size-fits-all ordinances were adopted with little, if any, public input, and little, if any, understanding by the county commissioners, and the challenges of balancing property rights and economic development in Millard County. SEE the latest — The Current Status of Property Rights in Millard County — the Struggle Continues and/or Due Process & Equal Protection in Millard County — a Case Study.
Todd’s views have been shaped by many years of experience and close observation of, among other things, infringement of fundamental, inherent rights, including property rights, governmental overreach, and the devastation that can result to lives, families, generational lifestyles, and local economies. For example, In 2016, Garfield County declared an economic state of emergency based on the economic devastation wrought by the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. SEE Garfield Count Declares Unique State of Emergency. Todd has written extensively about this subject matter. SEE also: Stanton Gleave and the Piute Posse.
CHALLENGING THE NARRATIVE. Todd has often found himself challenging popular, conventional narratives. One of his favorite sayings is “there is virtually always more to the equation than meets the eye.” In 2014, he stood up to challenge the popular, conventional narratives in Millard County, and saw peoples’ eyes beginning to open. In 2016, with the Rangefire! blog, Todd joined forces with CJ Hadley, editor/publisher of Range magazine, Marjorie Haun, editor of Free Range Report , and Trent Loos with Rural Route Radio, to challenge the conventional, single-dimensional narrative being presented by the mainstream media about what was going on in the West, particularly with respect to public lands issues, including the whole story regarding the Hammonds, Bundys, Finicums, Gleaves, and Woods, as well as Dan Love and others, in the propaganda War on the West that was being waged at the time by environmental preservationsts and the Obama Administration’s as part of their national monument PR campaigns in both Southeastern Utah and Southeast Oregon.
Todd is a regular contributor to Range magazine, and to a variety of other publications and media sources, including Newsbud, Rangefire! and Stockman Grass Farmer, and has written fairly extensively about attorneys, cases, the court system, and legal issues. SEE Speaking of Juries, Welcome to the Neighborhood of Sharp Knives and Rogue Stallions; A View from the Trenches; Welcome to the New Normal, and; Addressing Judicial Bias — the Elephant in the Room. For his latest, SEE: In Search of Atticus Finch.
Todd was also solicited by the Libertas Institute to write a public policy brief about the the status of property rights in the State of Utah, and the fundamental right to use one’s own property. SEE: the Fundamental Right to Use One’s Own Property.
As someone who has extensive experience in the trenches of private enterprise economic development and real estate development, Todd has learned that the single most important incentive to economic development is healthy respect for property rights, resulting in reasonable zoning and land-use ordinances, and user-friendly regulation and administration.
Todd is an unabashed fan of the PBS Masterpiece Theater Series Poldark set in Cornwall, England, in the 1780s, following the American Revolution. According to Todd, for those who are haven’t had a chance to gain an understanding of fundamental principles through personal exposure and experience, watching Poldark is a great way to get educated about applied fundamental principles, while being entertained at the same time.
Not surprisingly, sometimes attempts are made to point fingers, resort to hollow labels (“radical,” troublemaker, rabble rouser, malcontent, etc.), and blame Todd for divisions and dissension in Millard County, based on his property rights advocacy and efforts to challenge popular local narratives. Having gained much understanding from spending the majority of his life in what is generally known as the Sevier Drainage of the Great Basin, however, Todd maintains that bitter divisions, dissension, and cross-county rivalries in Millard County are a lot older than he is, and he has been well-aware of Millard County’s deep-seated political issues for most of his life — since long before moving to Millard County. And he has written about it — long before now. SEE Water Lawyer — Whiskey’s for Drinking; Water’s for Fighting. Growing up in adjoining Sanpete County during the 1970s Todd had close friends with deep roots in the Millard County West side, including at least one friend a generation older (born in the ’40s), who said it had been that way as long as he could remember. Despite what some people may say or think, Todd didn’t cause the deep division(s) in Millard County, and realistically, ever “fixing” those issues appears to have been well beyond the collective ability of all the people who have lived in Millard County for the past 100 years, let alone the capability of any one person.
Just to help illustrate Todd’s long-standing awareness of equally long-standing Millard County “issues,” having attended Manti High School, Todd often competed in sports against fellow student athletes from Delta and Millard High Schools. Except for tennis (and sometimes basketball), Manti didn’t have much of a sports program back then — especially compared to Delta and Millard’s dominant, powerhouse sports programs — but Todd was still fortunate enough when wrestling Delta and Millard athletes, that sometimes he did actually manage to win.
Todd will always remember the Manti/Delta wrestling dual his senior year. Because he had an athletic scholarship offer and was planning to play football at SUSC (now SUU), he didn’t wan’t to drop weight, so he wrestled as a light, unlimited heavyweight his senior year. The Delta/Manti dual that year was at home in Manti. Delta was the defending state champ in wrestling, and very dominant. By the time the dual had worked its way to the heavyweight match, Delta wrestlers had pinned every single Manti wrestler up to that point, and it wasn’t looking good. When Todd somehow managed to beat Delta’s state champion heavyweight to remain undefeated in the region, Coach D (names deleted to protect the innocent . . . or guilty, as the case may be) wouldn’t let the “disgraced” wrestler on the team bus, and told him he would have to find his own way home. Todd could only imagine what the penalty might have been for losing to Millard — Delta’s long-standing and bitter rival in every sense, well above and beyond high school sports.
Based on his background, Todd has been well-aware of the deep and long-standing political issues in Millard County for well over 40 years — from the time he was just a naive teenager growing up in the Sevier Drainage. Despite what some people may say or think, Todd didn’t cause the deep division(s) in Millard County, and realistically, ever “fixing” those issues appears to have been well beyond the collective ability of all the people who have lived in Millard County for the past 100 years, let alone the capability of any one person.
Todd’s views have been shaped by many years of experience and close observation of, among other things, infringement of fundamental, inherent rights, including property rights, governmental overreach, and the devastation that can result to lives, families, generational lifestyles, and local economies. For example, In 2016, Garfield County declared an economic state of emergency based on the economic devastation wrought by the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. SEE Garfield County Declares Unique State of Emergency. Todd has written extensively about this subject matter. SEE also: Stanton Gleave and the Piute Posse.
Todd has written extensively about the essential concepts of fundamental rights property rights — including property rights — based on prior appropriation (first in time, first in right) and beneficial use (use it or lose it), both as they apply to land-use, and water rights, including in the Sevier River, as well as grazing, mining, and timber rights. As Todd was visiting with his friend, Piute County Rancher, Stanton Gleave, in preparation for writing a story about the Gleave Family for Range magazine (SEE Stanton Gleave and the Piute Posse), Stanton gave a great explanation as to how it all works.(SEE A Realistic Assessment of Utah’s Role in the Public Lands Debate), As Todd noted in that article, Stanton Gleave is one of few people, including ranchers, who really “gets” the concept of fundamental property rights, and how they work.
As Stanton and Todd were visiting and driving around Gleaves’ Piute County ranching operation headquartered in Kingston, Stanton said:
“Here’s a good example of what I’m talking about. . . . You know, Piute and Otter Creek Reservoirs raise some great fish.” Holding out his hands to demonstrate, he said “These reservoirs will raise 25-36” fish. They raise some really nice fish. . . . So now we’ve got all these fishermen and recreationists who think we ought to leave all the water in the reservoirs for raising fish and water-skiing. . . . But who do you think built those storage reservoirs decades ago? It was farmers and irrigation companies and water conservancy districts, that built the reservoirs to store water in the winter to irrigate with in the summer. . . .
Now, based on all the pressure from the sportsmen and recreationists, what do you think would happen if we went out and dammed-up the Sevier River and started trying to use all that water just for raising fish and water skiing? Or, what do you think would happen if I tried to keep and use all that water here in Piute County? . . . I mean, this is where it comes from. It’s ‘our’ water, right? . . . . Well, let me tell you, if I did that, I’d be in big trouble, because people downstream on the Sevier River have a superior right to that water. They have a superior right that was acquired by prior appropriation and beneficial use. They are the ones who built these storage reservoirs. If I tried to dam-up the river and steal their water, people downstream on the river, from Sevier and Millard Counties — people from Delta — would be here with picks, shovels, pitchforks, guns and lawyers, to protect and take back their water rights, because they are Rights. . . .
So Stanton Gleave summed it up in a nutshell. But the concept of fundamental rights — including property rights — seems to be both a sticking point, and an increasingly misunderstood concept. Property rights have always been a sticking point. (To be addressed in Unfinished Business, an upcoming article in Range magazine).
For the past 10 years, Todd has been concerned about what he considers to be a fairly narrow, single-dimensional narrative that has typically been presented about the operation of Millard County Government and county policy actions. Recognizing that there are always at least two sides to every story, as much as anyone in the county, Todd has strived to challenge and balance-out the conventional narrative, by telling the other side of the story. To that end, over the past 10 years, in getting proactively involved, Todd has probably written more letters to the editor and submitted more comments to the Millard County Commission and Planning Commission than any other two (or three) people. And he collaborated with a dozen or so other Millard County residents and property owners on The Pahvant Post to help challenge the conventional narrative. He has written extensively about some of the thorniest issues that vex Millard County. Why? For the money? What money? For the fame? What fame? He does it because he cares deeply about how we are governed as a people, with little regard for popularity considerations.
Under the legitimate rule of law, like the Pledge of Allegiance says, Todd believes there should be “Liberty and Justice for All.”