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.
FIRST ISSUE: OVERGRAZING
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?
SECOND ISSUE: WHETHER LEASING OF PUBLIC LANDS FOR GRAZING SHOULD BE DONE
UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES; WHY DO ENVIROS SEEM TO REGARD RANCHING AS EVIL?
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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