Environmentalists Call for Fair Grazing Fees

Larry Caldwell larryc at teleport.com
Mon Mar 15 00:15:40 EST 1999

In article <36EBB1FD.34B7E39B at forestmeister.com>, 
redoak at forestmeister.com writes: 

> I'm reading a fine book now called "Lasso the Wind" by Timothy Egan. He
> talks about the Gila Nat. Forest in New Mexico where a Mr. Kit Laney is
> illegally ranching 150,000 acres of public land. He has threatened the
> USFS rangers that he'd shoot them if they try to evict him. He'd have
> 100 of his friends there fully armed. The author visits the ranch and
> describes the destructive practices going on.

Sounds like an interesting novel.  What century is it set in?  As 
romantic as it may be to imagine a rancher and a few of his buddies 
holding off the whole US of A in an armed standoff, it's a joke.

You easterners always were suckers for a dime novel.
> This may be the most blatantly anti government attitude among ranchers
> on public land, but many other ranchers have the same attitude; that the
> land should be theirs, not the public's.

The discussion sort of circles around who is the public.  There are 
hundreds of small rural communities that depend on the production of that 
land to survive.  Cattle or timber is a major part of their economy, and 
many people out west don't understand why it should be managed for 
nonproductive purposes by absentee landlords who live their whole life 
never even seeing it.  
> Then the author point out- "As it turns out, the world has plenty of
> cheap meat. Cattle feedlots are stuffed with steorid-pumped,
> ready-to-slaughter-and-wrap beef that can find its way into a hamburger
> bun much quicker and cheaper than anything a lone cowboy in southern New
> mexico can do."

Evidently the author has never heard of a stocker operation.  This is a 
rancher who raises calves on range for feedlots.  The advantage is that 
there are millions of acres of land suitable only for grazing, but the 
cattle do all the work.  They don't require fertilizer inputs, steroids, 
antibiotics or any other adjuvant, because they are growing like cows are 
supposed to grow.  They are sold to feedlots for finishing, which 
normally takes only about 90 days.  Oddly enough, all the vitamin A in 
the cow's tissues turn the fat yellow, which causes consumers to reject 
it at the display counter.  They put the cow on dry feed to let the 
vitamin levels in its fat drop to the point that the fat is white.

Besides, if PETA has its way, feedlots will be banned in the USA, and 
grazing will be the only allowed way to raise cattle.  
> Ranching on public land is uneconomic and continues only because of the
> raw political power they have through their state Senators- because
> often the Senators from these low populated states get on critical
> committees- and allow the ranchers and loggers to exploit OUR PUBLIC

The reason ranching continues is that every time there is an 
investigation of these supposed abuses, they seem to vanish in the light 
of reality.  You hear all sorts of wild stories, like your novel, but 
when you actually go look at what is happening, it's not anywhere near 
that bad.  Certainly cattle and wildlife coexist peacefully on range 
land.  When they banned cattle grazing on the Hart Mountain Refuge, the 
pronghorn population began losing 50% of its population per year.  
They're down to under 500 pronghorns left on a range that historically 
supported 3000, and an equal number of cattle.
> The history of logging and ranching on public land has been a history of
> unmitigated disaster. This is why environmentalist are so against this
> exploitation; not because they are sissy bird lovers; as the exploiters
> and their defenders would have us believe.

The history of logging and ranching on public land has been spotty.  
Generally the problems have been caused by absentee landlords using the 
resources for political spoils a la Ronald Reagan rather than accepting 
responsibility for long term management.  I don't see the 
environmentalists doing any better in the management category. 

-- Larry

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