Charter’s last stand? Ranchers, Signal Peak may prove that coal and cows can’t coexist

Steve Charter looks at grazing land high atop the Bull Mountains in Musselshell County (Photo by Darrell Ehrlick of the Daily Montanan).

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ROUNDUP – When Signal Peak Energy began the process of kicking Steve Charter and his cows off his own land, they made two mistakes.

First, they didn’t send the notice by certified mail – a ministerial technicality that may delay the inevitable process for another six months.

Secondly, they didn’t really reckon with a wiry old rancher who, like his father, valued the land for something more than the money it could fetch.

He lost his wife to a car accident more than a decade ago, and countless neighbors who have either retired or given up the fight against the twin forces of coal companies or large meatpacking industries, both of which have made it harder to eke out a living not too far from Montana’s largest city.

But with gaping cracks in the land and high plateau aquifers that literally trickle when they used to gush, Charter believes the silence has lasted too long.

The checkerboard problem

The battle between Charter and the various coal companies that have cycled through

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