Congress’s Impossible Mandate, States Playing Politics, and Tragedy on the Range

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

We are witnessing the passing of an era, a changing of the guards if you will. Like the change our country went through from being an agrarian society to an industrial one, we are witnessing the slow but steady transition from the Old West to the New West. Like a train gathering speed, this change has been in the process and happening for a long time. The Bundy standoff is just one episode, happening in real time, in the long struggle of those fighting to keep the Old West. Those clinging to the past feel the change acutely as their way of life gives way to the new. Though it feels like an anomaly, it is not. Many throughout our history have been caught in such transition zones and either had to adapt to the tides of change, or suffer while tenaciously refusing to give. But it is worse than that, Bundy and those like him are pawns in the ruthless game of politics in this stage of the game. They are not real players.

Right now Utah is in a legal battle against the U.S. Government for control of its federal lands. The Governor of Utah is spending $3 million dollars of the state’s school trust fund to fight a legal battle that does not stand a chance at winning, and they know this, so why are they doing it? In the The Story of Kleppe vs. New Mexico Robert L. Fischman and Jeremiah I. Williamson say,

“Why would Utah throw millions of dollars down the drain of futile litigation? Indeed, why even promote end-run tactics around federal authority instead of employing existing statutory avenues to influence public land management? The answer, of course, is politics. Utah is investing in fuel to stoke the fires of local frustration with federal control over public natural resources. The political movement feeding on this frustration, compounded by judicial setbacks, goes by many names today. But the original label is the Sagebrush Rebellion.”

Fischman and Williamson go on to say that, “…litigation itself, even when it yields no judicial relief, can serve as a powerful organizing tool for political movements.” They go on to explain that the process of fueling anti-federal social and political movements can be sustained through “successful failure.” They don’t care if they are engaging in a frivolous lawsuit that wastes precious money that could be spent in better and more responsible ways, they don’t care about the ranchers and people supporting their cause, they don’t even care that they are going to lose since they know they are going to; they care about their own political expediency and agendas.

Governor of Utah Gary Herbert, Photo Courtesy of utahpoliticalcapital.com

Governor of Utah Gary Herbert, Photo Courtesy of utahpoliticalcapital.com

After the Civil War, when the western territories were being admitted into the Union, Congress had specific stipulations for their entry based on a real fear of loyalty, or lack thereof. Given that most of the Eastern U.S. is private land, they could secede from the Union. But, if Western states were largely federal land, it would be much harder to secede. Congress was particularly worried about territories with people who were seen as outside of the mainstream. In The Price of Admission: Causes, Effects, and Patterns of Conditions Imposed on States Entering the Union Eric Biber states,

“A review of the types of conditions that have been imposed on admitted states, and the historical context for those conditions, reveals a significant pattern: Congress has imposed conditions on the admission of states where it has concerns about whether the citizenry of the new state can be assimilated as a loyal, democratic unit of government within the United States, sometimes because that citizenry has been perceived as fundamentally different from mainstream American politics and society. For example, admitted states that had conditions imposed upon them for their admission (or in some cases, readmission) to the Union include Louisiana (predominantly French at the time of its admission in the early 1800s), the Southern states during Reconstruction, Utah (populated by Mormons that were perceived as disloyal and different from the rest of the Union), and New Mexico (with a substantial Mexican population). These conditions have also often been part of a broader process of assimilation and “Americanization” which the admitted state went through-voluntarily or not-in order to become a member of the Union. (2)”

When the Sagebrush Rebellion was at its heyday, it lost in court because it was literally a rebellion against the United States by the states themselves. They pitted their rights and powers against the Federal Government’s and lost. They lost under the Property and Sovereignty Clauses of the Constitution and that is why they will continue to lose, to say nothing of the relinquishment of the lands within their borders as stipulated in their own state constitutions in exchange for statehood. It is troubling, however, because this started over bad law and legitimate complaints by ranchers in the beginning.

In the early 1950s the American public became outraged at what was happening to wild horses and burros on the western range lands by profiteers rounding them up, often utilizing appalling tactics, for pet food (1). “Low-flying airplanes drove the wild horses towards mounted cowboys who fired shotguns at the horses to make them run faster. Captured horses were tied to large truck tires to exhaust them and make them easier to handle. Exhausted, they would be packed into trucks so tight that only their weight against each other held them up. Foals, weighing less, often were abandoned to die. Seeking maximum profits, often six and a half cents a pound, the hunters seldom fed or watered the horses and many died en route to the slaughterhouse.”

When these tactics were exposed by the media, the American public demanded action and Congress passed the Wild Horse Annie Act, which prohibited poisoning watering holes and hunting horses on motorized vehicles. But it wasn’t enough because hunters then just went out on foot. Because these hunters would not abide by the law, and for whatever reason could not be held accountable under the law, Congress passed a protective law: The Wild and Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act (WFRHBA). In essence, the WFRHBA made the wild horses and burros property of the United States that could only be managed and handled by federal land management agencies.

Photo Courtesy hedweb.com

Photo Courtesy hedweb.com

There are many problems with this law, first and foremost being that Congress did not consult ecologists, and thus protected what has become an invasive, non-native, and destructive species on the range. But furthermore, the horses started competing with cattle on the range for forage and water. While the ranchers were paying for grazing permits, learning to rotate their cattle to ensure the health of the land, and paying for range improvement projects and drilling for water, the horses were using those lands and resources at the ranchers’ expense. “While rangeland reform of the 1930s aimed at soil conservation imposed new regulations on public land graziers, that purpose served the long-term interest of ranchers. In contrast, the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act displaced ranching as the de facto priority use of public rangelands and helped trigger the Sagebrush Rebellion. The Act indirectly required ranchers to subsidize horse and burro access to water with extra fuel to run well pumps and repair horse and burrocaused damage, thus increasing the operating costs of an already marginally profitable industry.(1)”

Furthermore, the ranchers were not being compensated for this added expense. The ranchers were legitimately concerned. They didn’t have any problem with the horses, only the management of them. In New Mexico a local rancher named Kelley Stephenson, appealed to the BLM to handle the horses, who told him no. So he went to his state for help and they rounded up the horses under state sovereignty. But when the BLM heard of it, they demanded the horses back. Under the WFRHBA, only the BLM can remove the horses. Of course the rancher sued. The problem, in my opinion, with the argument brought before the courts is that they argued the limits of federal power. They based their argument on state’s rights, not individual rights. And of course they lost.

I am no lawyer, but I would argue that the ranchers are getting unfair treatment under the WFRHBA. They are currently a minority in this country and their rights are being trampled on by horses. When they pay their grazing fees, they have a right to their grazing allotments and resources on it and therefore, the horses and by proxy the U.S. government, is taking their property without due process. It is not about the states, it’s about the individuals. I would argue under the 14th and 5th Amendments. Furthermore, let’s talk about the conflicting and impossible mandate that Congress has given the BLM and Forest Service to manage rangelands for optimum health and to protect endangered species, while also protecting and managing a species that does not belong there. They cannot do both in the same time and space. And all without adequate funding!

As Fischman and Williamson point out, “The new law could not change the fact that wild horses and burros alter the ecosystems by consuming native plants, competing with native mammals such as the Desert Bighorn Sheep, fouling springs, and contributing to erosion by wearing trails on the steep desert hillsides (1).”  Furthermore, they are 10,000 head over the carrying capacity of the land (1). Congress is being delinquent in its duties by letting the BLM and other land management agencies take the brunt of it. While they may have jumped on the public bandwagon against brutal hunting practices against horses, they have also trampled on individual rights and current environmental law in the process. Should all invasive species be given protection under the law? How about kudzu, cheatgrass, or the quagga mussel? Should tumbleweeds, also a symbol of the west, get special protection? You see how absurd it is. The Federal Government stands to lose nothing by letting the states handle the horses. Where the states went wrong was when they got into a pissing contest with the Federal Government over whose power supersedes whose.

But if Congress were to pass the Ranchers Heritage and Tradition Act, they would be in virtually the same place, passing law that conflicts with current law which cannot be carried out adequately. While it is true that no livestock is native to the West, and cattle and sheep do immense damage to the range, I would make the distinction that the people have rights to be there and unlike the wild horses, can be held accountable for their livestock. It is the native species such as buffalo, bighorn sheep, and mule deer that deserve the protection as native, indigenous species. While I think that grazing is immensely harmful and economically unsustainable, I do believe that the traditions and heritage of ranching have immense value and should be given some credence. The American public can decide if the massively subsidized grazing industry is worth continuing to pay for. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, in 2005 the program brought in $21 million in fees paid by ranchers, but cost $144 million to run (Think Progress Article.) Perhaps we could let the free market decide, but that being said, we subsidize a whole lot of industries, which leads me back to the reality that the government cannot please everyone, hence giving credence to law being the final arbiter.

The problem with politicians is that they are always playing politics. Of course, part of that role is legitimate when the public demands legislative action, as they are beholden to represent their people, but part of it is playing and maneuvering for political gain. It seems that they largely due this with the Nation’s purse strings. We saw this in the battle over the Affordable Care Act in 2013 when the government got shut down over it. I suppose that sometimes it works in their favor, otherwise they wouldn’t do it. But when one of their favorite departments to hold hostage is the Department of Interior, it hurts all of us. It seems to be first on the chopping block when important legislation must be passed. That being said, the general sentiment amongst ranchers that “the policy arena was distinctly biased in favor of environmental values,” arose for a variety of reasons, including the fact that the BLM’s only effective tool for managing horse and burro populations in accordance with the law was to reduce livestock grazing allotments.

But what fundamentally stoked the rebellion was the ranchers’ loss of control over federal lands. Until the WFRBHA, “overt competition for use of specific areas of public lands was rare, and local ranchers held sway over rangelands (1).” Congress had, under the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), the drafting of which was dominated by westerners, “peppered FLPMA with several provisions inviting states to influence federal management through the tools of cooperative federalism. The BLM resource management plans, in particular, must be attentive to state and local management goals. The legislation promotes consistency in planning between levels of government. But the Sagebrush Rebellion had little patience for jumping through the hoops to qualify for FLPMA consideration. What distinguished the Sagebrush Rebellion from other efforts to promote traditional and local economic interests was its rejection of cooperative federalism. (1)”

FLPMA was the attempt to consider all levels of government in deciding how to use and manage public lands. Indeed, FLPMA placed new environmental restrictions on BLM authority, including limits on grazing that caused unnecessary and undue degradation. Sudeenly ranchers had to compete not only with wild horses and burros, but also with anyone else who wanted to use the public lands, including recreationists and environmentalists. In addition to providing the BLM with expansive rangeland management authority, including the ability to designate and regulate areas of critical environmental concern, FLPMA explicitly affirmed that the public lands [will] be retained in Federal ownership. (1)”

What is unfortunate, however, is that land management agencies cannot do their jobs without adequate budgets, and then get caught in the crossfire between Congress and the public, often suffering lawsuits that further dwindle down their already insufficient budgets. It is time to hold Congress accountable. If they are going to continue passing laws that require adequate funding to accomplish, especially conflicting laws, then they need to back it up with a realistic budget. It is time to look at who routinely slashes budgets for the Department of the Interior and hold their feet to the fire and then maybe, just maybe, these range wars can be put to bed. Perhaps we the people can do something that helps the ranchers, the rangeland ecosystems, and this country. The states have not done a very good job, and are now actively trying to stoke the flames of angst and unrest rather than work to really help the people they represent.

Because states have these avenues to work with the federal government over public land management, yet continue to pull the wool over the public’s eyes in regard to public land management, they are partly to blame for encouraging people like the Bundy’s in their brazen stands against the government. They are selling misinformation and misleading the public for their own political gain at the expense of the ranchers in these standoffs who will certainly pay the price. This is how Bundy and those like him have gone wrong and actually hurt their own cause. They are not sympathetic characters; they are scary and irrational people who are terrorizing the country. The law does have avenues for addressing these issues, though it does not guarantee you will get your way. Law abiding ranchers and all citizens are being hurt by the actions of this radical minority.

What we need are people with solutions, not people who insist on settling disputes with guns. This is not the Old West anymore. Federal land management employees should not be thrust onto the front line and put into harm’s way because Congress is derelict in its duties, and ranchers should not be pushed to the point of desperation or led to believe in false notions and wishful thinking by their own representatives who are only looking out for their own political future and gain. With the changing times we may decide that range health is the most important mandate, thus trumping all livestock on the range, but until then the land is managed on a multiple-use mandate. Right, wrong or indifferent competing interests must learn to compromise and work together under the law. Perhaps someday the Brave New West will set out on uncharted territory by implementing a suggestion that someone who commented on this blog suggested, “One New West solution would be to let market forces sort things out by legalizing permanent retirement of grazing permits by buyout.” We shall see.

Sources:

(1) The Story of Kleppe vs. New Mexico: The Sagebrush Rebellion as Un-Cooperative Federalism: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1454&context=facpub
(2) The Price of Admission: Causes, Effects, and Patterns of Conditions Imposed on States Entering the Union: http://scholarship.law.berkeley.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2031&context=facpubs

Nevada Cattleman Association Press Release on Bundy: http://www.nevadacattlemen.org/CMDocs/NevadaCattlemen/NCA%20Post%20Gather%20Statement.pdf

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Posted on April 18, 2014, in Nature and the Environment, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. A number of interesting ideas here, thanks Greta. Nothing hammers the land in the arid West like public land livestock grazing. It is ironic it could not happen without public subsidy. Wild horses are vastly outnumbered by sheep and cows. All three are alien species. One New West solution would be to let market forces sort things out by legalizing permanent retirement of grazing permits by buyout. Individual ranchers want and need that right, money is available to pay them, but politics gets in the way.

    • Yes, I agree that grazing is very damaging, but I also think it is just a matter of time before it gets phased out and will really only be seen in pockets of history and heritage, much like Tombstone in Arizona. Free market would work it out I think. I think they should pay their fair share, which they are not, but it has been such a battle over the decades that I don’t know if it will happen legislatively, but you never know. It is interesting, and perhaps I will go back and edit this post to put the numbers in, but in an article this morning it was stated that “The federal lands grazing program is like supercharged food stamps for bovines. And it is massively subsidized. As the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported in 2005, the program brought in $21 million in fees paid by ranchers, but cost $144 million to run.” That is not sustainable. People need to know these numbers, they speak for themselves. It does not make a lot of sense. But in regard to horses, according to one of the articles I referenced, there are 10,000 more horses than the land can sustain. In other words, they are beyond carrying capacity also. I guess my point in bringing this up is that there has got to be another way to address the range, and ecological health (which is most important in my mind) would trump both horses and cattle. I haven’t even begun to look at sheep, but I have read they are horrendous.

      http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/04/17/3428051/nevada-rancher-re-run/

      • Right, and the GAO’s accounting is conservative. It doesn’t count fencing, cattle guards, water projects and did I mention all those damned fences, fences, fences. Public land grazing is our pet peeve at Torrey House Press. Greta, take a look at a project we are working on called “Green Shorts” and see if you don’t have something you might want to contribute. http://torreyhouse.com/2013/07/08/green-shorts/

        -Mark Bailey

      • Mark, thanks, I will take a look. I agree with you about cattle grazing, but the human side of me is sympathetic to the ranchers who are just trying to maintain a way of life. I did update that blog post however, so take a look. 🙂

      • I took a look and that is awesome! I don’t have anything as long as you are looking for, but I could. I have been toying with writing a “book” about this issue in particular – maybe I will. I recently wrote a piece about the gierisch mallow getting designated an endangered species but it is around 5,000 words I believe. It deals with ranchers again and the balance between preserving life while keeping the species a part of the local story with the local people rather than making it separate and outside of it. I will submit it if you think you might be interested. I was toying with posting it on the blog, just hadn’t made up my mind yet.

      • Another stat for you. the BLM permits 12.4 million animal unit months (AUM’s). For cows an AUM is the cow and its calf. It is more for sheep. Compare that to wild horses. And that does not include Forest Service permits. There does have to be a better way.

      • Yeah, you are probably right. It gets back to competing interests and how do you please everyone? I wish all the ranchers could read these comments and see that just as many people have gripes as they do, but they aren’t trying to settle it with violence!

  2. You made an interesting point that I had not considered regarding the wild horses using what the ranchers have paid for. I agree in some respects but, isn’t the issue of the horses eating *their* grass just the cost of doing business? The cattle are invasive, too, but we just happen to use them as food (Did you know that there are wild cattle, too?). Ranchers have a long history of eliminating species that compete with or prey on their cattle. The grey wolf is a prime example.

    It definitely seems like a lose-lose situation with the wild horses. The BLM gets criticized no matter what it tries to do. If they leave them alone, they overpopulate and starve. If they round them up for adoptions or, in severe cases of sickness, euthanasia, the animal rights groups get upset.

    Yes, sheep are very horrendous on the land. They mow the grass down to nothing. On the USFS land that I worked on, they were only allowed to graze high up on the mountains and not down in the canyons because they are so destructive.

    • Yes, I suppose it is part of doing business. And yes, ranchers do shoot predatory species for ranching which makes me sick. Wolves at least contribute to the ecological health of the ecosystem. Since Bundy’s cattle are grazing illegally on public land perhaps we could introduce some grey wolves to feed on the public cattle? Just kidding.

      Yeah, I know the BLM gets caught in the middle. This is why I was trying to take it back to Congress. But it is complicated and messy, which is why Cliven’s behavior is so childish and misguided. He is not the only person who has to compromise. Sheesh!

  3. Judging from the last 5 years, I don’t think we can depend on this Congress to pass any legislation that would benefit the environment or help land management agencies. Some of its members seem to sympathize with the anti-government fringe groups. Like you stated above, these fringe groups are pawns in a political game, but they’re so entrenched in their ideology that they don’t even know it. The end game for these politicians and the big money behind them is privatization. There is a lot of money in the public sector that these people would love to get their hands on. The more propaganda they can push that makes government entities look incompetent, the more the ill informed masses will believe. And ill informed people will vote against their own interests.

  4. Greta, please do submit your gierisch mallow piece. I would love to take a look. And keep thinking about the grazing book. We should talk. It is a long shot, but there may be some ways to round up a little funding. Email me anytime. mark@torreyhouse.com

  5. I agree with your assessment that grazing is doomed. I would have to say that due to some paradigm shifts over the last fifteen years or so, that the probability curve of that happening is on a downward trend for the last ten years. Still not good odds, but I think we are now at about a 100-1 as opposed to about a 1000-1 ten years ago. I actually think now that the possibility is beginning to emerge that it could actually reverse. Not a good chance, but a chance.
    It has been mentioned several times here that grazing is harmful. Is this just personal opinion, actual observation, or some scientific study? The BLM’s position on grazing can be found here: http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/grazing.html . Make up your mind. Either they are the experts doing their job and doing it properly, and just caught in the middle of everything, or they are lying. Which is it?
    Grazing is harmful. Really? Maybe. Possibly. But, is it as harmful as not grazing? This is just from my own experience. It only applies to right here. I can’t speak to other areas, where the climate and other factors are different. But, right here we have a semi arid climate. The vegetation grows in the spring and either dies or goes dormant by mid-summer. Left alone, there is not enough moisture for the dead vegetation to decay very quickly at all. Contrary to popular belief here, a dry year is not the real worry. The real concern is a wet spring. Given several fairly normal years, an area that has not been grazed will have a fair amount of dead, really dry cover. Then comes a wet spring. The vegetation absolutely explodes. Then comes June and it dries out and begins to die. Then, in mid-July the monsoon hits. The lightening hits and these areas with several years of dead vegetation on them go up like a bomb. They burn so hot it absolutely kills everything. Then the cheat grass grows in and you have the secondary powder keg waiting for a match. The areas that are grazed on the other hand, while they still burn, do not burn nearly as hot, and much of the vegetation will actually survive. Don’t believe me? One of the commenters here is from another of those maligned agencies, the US Forest Service. Ask them. A ways north of here the climate is different and dry years are the concern. There this same US Forest Service really shot themselves in the foot. Some ten or fifteen years ago, they decided they agreed that this darned grazing thing was just a bad thing. Unpopular and damaging to the environment. So they decided they needed to curtail grazing on a lot of the lands that they managed. A very popular decision and it worked out very well for a number of years. Then, a dry year hit. And, one after another, their forests went up like a bomb. The fires burned so hot, and with such intensity, that none of the vegetation survived. Normally fires there burn through quickly, burning the ground cover, but leaving the massive trees virtually unharmed. Not this time. So, they got rid of the dang cows, and burned thousands and thousands of acres of old-growth timber as a result. Now they are in a very bad spot. Grazing is so unpopular, they can’t just say “we were mistaken, we need to graze these areas to keep the fire fuel down”. They have tried, but no one wants to hear that. So, now, they are hiring crews to go through and reduce the fuels. Grazing may not be profitable, but it is certainly cheaper than that. Make no mistake about it, I do not like the BLM. I do not like the US Forest Service. I really, really have no use for either of these agencies. I have dealt with both of them on myriad occasions, in several different capacities, and over the last 35 years my opinion of them has done a one-eighty and is in a downward spiral. I thoroughly believe they bring too much of their personal viewpoints to the table and kowtow entirely too much to public opinion to avoid problems. But, if that reversal I mentioned earlier happens it will come from these agencies. They will stand up and say “Shut Up. We have tried what we believed, we have listened to your opinion and it DOES NOT WORK”.
    Your Forest Service commenter mentioned sheep and the damage they do. I ask you, does this really fly? If sheep really do this kind of damage, and they have been grazing there for over a hundred years, how is it possible that anything remains there for them to damage? The real story is that sheep do not like the forage found in a meadow setting. Sheep do crop grass short, but they are a browser, more like deer, not grazers like cows. They destroy the grass by cropping it so short? Really? Try mowing your lawn real short in one place and not mowing it at all in another. You tell me which part of your lawn is the healthiest. Now me, I absolutely hate sheep. I have herded them, I have lambed them, I have sheared them, and I have done my time at a sheep camp. I hate them. I have earned that right. But the idea that they somehow do some unbelievable damage to the environment is ludicrous. Bad sheepherders may do that, but that is not the fault of the sheep. They are browsers like I said and they are a very beneficial part of a well managed range.
    And, to get back to the point of your article, the mustangs. I actually do remember the shock and outrage I felt as a second-grader, when the current edition of the Weekly Reader arrived at our one room school with an article about Wild Horse Annie and her effort to get the wild horses protected. I became a political activist for the first time in my life. I wrote to whatever address there was, telling them that they had it all wrong, and that mustangs did not need federal protection. We protected our own. I had no conception of how the stories they were reporting could possibly be true. We ran mustangs, absolutely. We culled the herds sure enough. But, when the gather was made and the culls were chosen, the remainder were set loose once again. We didn’t run them off cliffs. We didn’t shoot them. It was a cooperative effort to keep the range in good shape, but there was never any idea where I lived that we needed to eradicate them. The culls were certainly shipped off for chicken feed (dog food and glue), but the horses had to be thinned. My sisters and I raised four orphaned colts on a bottle. One we had for years, one ended up with my cousin, one ended up with my grandfather, and one died. I rode a mustang mare for several years. So, you should know I have nothing against wild horses. They are the most destructive force on the range. The way they are romanticized leaves nothing that can be done with them. You think Cliven Bundy is romanticized? Mustangs are inviolate. The BLM can’t do anything, and neither can anyone else. It is environmental insanity. And us evil, anti-environmental, range abusing ranchers were saying it all along. At this time, my family had no dog in the fight. We were dirt-farmers with a Desert Land Entry. No grazing rights and no possibility of obtaining any. My dad always believed that the BLM and Forest Service grazing policies were highly flawed, as they involved no possibility of free market competition. We participated in gathering mustangs because as I said, it was a community effort. Dad knew it was a very bad idea, and a totally lost cause as soon as he heard about it. “The uneducated and the uninformed will destroy the range as surely as they will wreck our recreation.” James Parker 1972.

  6. Your boy Mark says “Nothing hammers the land in the arid West like public livestock grazing”. Once again, does this really fly? Unregulated grazing was occurring on the land in Nevada from the 1860’s to the 1950’s. The BLM arrived on the scene promising to stop the range squabbles, stop the overgrazing, improve the range, and increase the stocking capacity. They have been, by their own definition of their mission, an abysmal failure. They stopped the range squabbles by becoming the common enemy. Your commenters say they haven’t stopped overgrazing. You and your commenters say they haven’t improved the range. They have actually reduced the stocking capacity by more than thirty percent and say they need to go lower. Now maybe it is just me, but it would seem that changing livestock grazing has shown no effect on the range. It has just gotten worse. Why would that be? What has changed? Is it possible that what has changed is Mark’s and a whole lot of other peoples interaction with the range? Is it possible that grazing is not the issue here? Ninety years of unregulated grazing did not destroy the environment. Sixty-four years of regulated grazing is hammering the land like nothing else. Wow. Maybe it is due to those fences, fences, fences. Stopping the wind and causing climate change no doubt. Everyone has an agenda. Including me, do not doubt that. Sift through the BS and find the truth.

    • It actually does really fly Devin. There is so much documentation on the damage that grazing does; all you have to do is a little research. Even early settlers of the West, without the knowledge we have today, witnessed it with their very own eyes and started changing their grazing practices to minimize the damage. Cattle really don’t belong in the arid west. The BLM pretty much did stop the squabbles and it did help, by the scientific standards and knowledge of the time. The thing is, we keep learning more about our impact. That being said, we are going to impact the environment. There is no real way to avoid that, it’s just how are we going to impact it. Reducing the stocking quotas has been due in large part to horses and other competing interests. The 64 years of regulated grazing is monumentally better than the unregulated years. Part of the BS is the politics and self interests.

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