Environmentalists Call for Fair Grazing Fees

larry j audsley audsley at azstarnet.com
Fri Mar 12 14:17:05 EST 1999

As a newcomer to this group, I'd like to ask anyone with the patience and 
inclination to please clarify for me a couple of fundamental issues 
concerning the public lands grazing controversy.  I make this request 
fully recognizing that these issues undoubtedly have been discussed here 
before and that anyone confessing to any degree of naivete concerning an 
important environmental issue is likely to become dogmeat on any 
newsgroup in very short order, but maybe someone will take the time to 
run through these things with me. 

Does severe overgrazing still occur on public lands, or is this one of 
those past abuses that has largely been corrected?  Back in the 70s I 
recall seeing some badly overgrazed land here in southern Arizona, but in 
my wanderings on public leased lands in the 80s and 90s I haven't seen 
anything nearly that bad.   In fact, most public lands looks to me to be 
in pretty good health.  Has the problem been corrected (if it has been) 
through improved terms and conditions of the leases (such as stating how 
many cattle per acre are allowed) or through better enforcement?


Some of things I read suggest to me that today's environmentalists object 
to allowing ANY livestock to graze on public lands and would like to see 
fees increased to the point that grazing leases, and maybe ranching in 
general, would no longer be profitable.   As one who considers himself an 
environmentalist and an advocate of preserving wild lands, I have a real 
hard time understanding this.  Ranching imbues public lands with an 
economic purpose and at the same time permits public access for 
recreation and/or just enjoying nature. The principal alternative uses 
for ranch lands seem to be either the residential subdivision or the rich 
guy's estate.  What is desirable about transforming ranch lands into 
subdivisions or private European-style country manors?

By the way, I'm not a rancher, nor do I have any friends or close 
relatives who ranch.  I work in the aerospace industry and I have 
appreciated hiking, camping, fishing, hunting and photographing on public 
lands, much of it leased for grazing, here in Arizona for the past 25 
years.  I'd like to keep doing it.  I see a lot of villains in the 
environmental picture (don't get me started on mining), but I don't see 
why ranchers in general are being cast in that role.  I'm wondering if 
enviros aren't in need of a paradigm shift. In the face of a growing 
threat from the "ranchetting" of the West, couldn't environmentally 
conscious ranchers become the good guys?

Do enviros hate ranchers, period, or just bad ranchers?  I get the 
impression that environmentalists hate both cows and ranchers regardless 
of how lightly both might manage to tread on the land.  I don't know why. 
Does it have anything to do with the fact that livestock is not native 
anywhere in the U.S. and that some people believe that we should be 
returning to natural areas everything that was indigenous and eliminating 
anything that was not?  How important might this kind of thinking be in 
shaping the actions of Forest Guardians or American Lands?

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