I live on a farm with beef cows in MN, LeAnne. Back in the early 1970s, my hubby and I almost went in with stoner friends and bought a 80 acre “farm” in Parowan, Utah. So I will pose sone thoughts that assume I have a sense of your setting.
The carrying capacity of BLM land in Arizona is probably low. I haven’t looked it up, but let’s assume scores of acres per cow.
Mineral rights to land all over the US were sold many, many years ago, but that doesn’t mean every acre has mineable minerals. Strip mining is expensive, lots of permits that take years to get. A mine in a mountain has a specific entrance and cows could graze around the mountain.
I am not sure why the sale of mineral rights would mean a rancher would lose access to his BLM rights. The government leases BLM land and could raise the price and he could protest like those crazy guys who did that stand-off and went to jail. The owner of the mining company could have an illegal scheme not related to mining that he wants to hide from prying eyes, but he’d have to bribe someone in the Interior department government to deny the hero’s lease.
Saving the ranch has to be justified by some factor other than BLM land, IMO. What else is going on in the hero’s life?