The Union County Commissioners voted to put a one-year moratorium on grazing at the Mt. Emily Recreation Area on Wednesday due to the public opinion that cattle get in the way of recreational activities.

Originally, the proposed moratorium was for five years, according to the MERA Committee’s documents submitted to the commissioners. The five-year period was concerning to Commissioners Donna Beverage and Paul Anderes because the uneaten grass could create a fire hazard.

“The impacts of grazing on the landscape and recreation as well as site suitability were discussed in detail,” according to the MERA staff report. “Cost analysis has been considered in the report as well.”

MERA, a publicly owned recreation area used for hiking, biking and equestrian activities, has had grazing leases for cattle from June 1 to Oct. 15 every year.

Multiple people submitted testimony in support of the five-year moratorium on Wednesday. All of them use the area for recreation and stated the cattle slow them down when they’re there.

Commissioner Matt Scarfo said the business deal of the grazing lease was a “bad business deal.”

The county receives between $3,000 and $6,000 in annual revenue for the grazing lease, but it costs approximately $15,900 to $18,900 every year to repair the damages caused by the grazing cattle.

Because the commissioners felt there was no valid reason to grant a five-year moratorium, the commission approved it for one year.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the commissioners denied a request to update the Second Amendment Ordinance that the county’s voters passed in the November election.

The ordinance expands the definition of firearms and prohibits the enforcement of laws that regulate the manufacture, sale and possession of firearms in Union County. It will require the sheriff to review any state or federal laws affecting firearms or firearms accessories to determine whether or not they are constitutional. The ordinance makes “unconstitutional in Union County any law or regulation that restricts a person from possessing firearms, ammunition and firearms accessories,” according to the text of the measure.

See complete story in Friday's Observer