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By Ed Depaoli, rancher and former area manager, BLM
RangeNets agenda can best be shown by their Declaration which
leaves no doubt about their mission. It raises an unending list
of questions and doubts about results if this course is followed
and the real reasons behind it. I will address each of their 19
(1) The new century offers us the opportunity to rectify the mistakes
of the last
(2) The American public prizes its wild, diverse and vast public lands
as a common treasure
(3) For decades, awareness of the ongoing loss of wild ecosystems
on our continent has been growing
(4) There is also recognition of the power of natural systems to recover
when destructive activities cease
(5) Virtually all western public lands are grazed by livestock
(6) Domestic livestock grazing is the single most pervasive and damaging
activity on western public lands
(7) Livestock grazing on public lands has severely damaged western
seeps, springs, creeks, rivers and lakes, the organisms in them
and the vegetation around them
(8) Public lands grazing has caused massive losses of western soils
(9) Public lands grazing promotes the replacement of native plants
by invasive exotics and noxious weeds
These rights-of-way are fenced and not grazed and any weed is
easier to spread due to our vast and expanding transportation
network. Yes, livestock are capable of spreading weeds; so are
bison, elk, deer, wild horses and birds and any form of mechanical
transportation. There are certain methods of livestock grazing
that offer some measure of control of certain weeds and is affordable
but it is apparent that the RangeNet authors do not have a clue
regarding the extent of the weed problem and no realistic attempt
at the solution. They choose instead to single out and hammer
livestock grazing, a tool we have put to good use to combat weeds.
We till the soil for a reason prior to planting. Livestock can
do this for us if used in the right way and at the right time.
Its been done and documented.
For RangeNet, dwelling on the negative is the best way to raise
(10) Public lands grazing is the single greatest contributor to loss
of biodiversity and the imperilment of threatened and endangered
species in the West
(11) Domestic livestock on public lands directly compete with wildlife
which is of far greater ecological, aesthetic and economic value
(12) Public lands grazing involves the killing of large numbers of
wild animals every year, disrupting ecologically crucial predator/prey
Wildlife Services (formerly known as Animal Damage Control) now receives increasing requests from semi-urban or ranchette owners to eliminate coyotes because they are eating domestic pets.
RangeNet is correct when they say the predator/prey relationship
is disrupted. The privately financed Peregrine Fund in Idaho was
established to increase raptor populations. It has succeeded.
The Peregrine falcon has been removed from the endangered species
list, with no help from the government or environmental groups.
Sage grouse numbers continue on a downward spiral. RangeNet will
blame this on the loss of habitat, yet sage grouse also decreased
on areas where the habitat has not diminished. The Sheldon and
Hart Mountain refuges are examples. There is one common denominator
that crosses the line where habitat has diminished and where it
has notpredation. Should we protect one species to the point
that it diminishes another to the brink of being considered threatened
(13) [Federal agencies] too often mismanage public lands to serve the
Extremists like RangeNet bother, threaten and sue the agencies
to the point that they cannot do their jobs. Then they blame the
agencies for mismanagement.
(14) There are more and more examples of the recovery of natural systems
on lands where domestic livestock have been removed
What RangeNet does not address is that there are many more examples of deteriorating natural systems where livestock have been removed. When you remove livestock, you remove the caretaker. There is neglect, waste and no attention to detail. Fences are not maintained. Ditches and waterways clog and no longer function. No one controls the weeds. Buildings deteriorate without maintenance. The place falls into ruins and the public no longer respects it; it is vandalized and becomes an eyesore.
(15) Public lands grazing requires massive subsidies from taxpayers
(16) Public lands grazing contributes very little to the American economy
or food supply
Regarding contributions of public lands grazing, the monetary impact to the overall economy is not the only issue even though about 27,000 ranchers80 percent of whom take home only $30,000 annually as net incomeprovide about 20 percent of the calves going into Midwest feedlots. Public lands ranchers are required to own base property, the majority of which are private home ranches in the valleys, along streams and creeks, farmland and meadows, once again what The Nature Conservancy calls the last best places.
To subtract a critical percentage of grazing time during the year from a ranch makes it unworkable. To pull a six-month public lands grazing permit away from a ranch leads to the sale of that ranch. Then the highest and best use of the property is for home sites, the number and density being controlled by local politics.
RangeNet uses the word re-wilding. One can only guess what this means. However, replacing ranches with subdivisions is probably not the best way to get there.
RangeNet also alleges that public lands grazing involves heavy
ecological costs. In 1999 and 2000 some of the largest fires in
decades burned western rangelands. Almost seven million acres
burned last year. The lack of public lands grazing contributed
to these massive fires. As grazing is curtailed, fuel loads build.
Blame is often laid on the exotic annual known as cheatgrass.
These fires not only burned cheatgrass ranges but also extended
into large areas of native vegetation where fire was unwelcome
and damaging to wildlife habitat.
As western rangelands lose ranchers they also lose a caretaker
on the ground; someone who often sees the lightning strike, reports
it or does something about it; someone who informs the land managing
agencies about poaching, littering, vandalism, etc. Re-wilding
evidently calls for none of this. Does it instead support cleansing
such as the 200 homes burned in Los Alamos, N.M. last summer?
(17) The public lands grazing industry delays the necessary transition
to a healthy, sustainable economy in the American West
(18) As a resolution they call for a prompt end to public lands grazing
We, in ranching, are guiltyguilty of staying home working. Weve got to raise our heads and look around. If burned out on meetings, there are other things we can do.
Doing nothing is not an option!
You can read Undue Influence (see ad on page 70) and Ecology Wars by Ron Arnold which are excellent sources of information about these professional environmentalists and their agenda. RANGE magazine is by far the best source of information regarding the ranchers stewardship on our western rangelands.
Write, like I am trying to do. Call politicians, over and over.
Bother them. Make sure they get your message. Support those fighting
for rural communities like RANGE, Center for the Defense of Free
Enterprise, the Savory Center for Holistic Management, Paragon
Foundation and the Public Lands Council.
(19) We view the cessation of public lands grazing as an essential
first step in the restoration and re-wilding of western public
But the urban population also cant be allowed to take a drive out on the range just to get away, look around, photograph deer, antelope, birds, flowers and just enjoy the scenery. Taking a break from city pressures and road rage will conflict with RangeNets idea of re-wilding.
If RangeNet succeeds, our western heritage will have changed from that displayed in the art of Charles M. Russell and Frederic Remington to that of vegetarians wearing sandals and shorts.
I dont think we are ready for that.
Ed Depaoli is on the board of the Range Education Foundation, P. O. Box 639, Carson City, NV 89702. Tax-deductible donations would be appreciated.
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last page update: 04.03.05