Horse News

BLM is a Ranching Industry Tool

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Soil Conservation Service (SCS) reports “estimate that ‘Western rangeland is losing topsoil, mostly due to ranching, at least 4 to 5 times faster than it’s being replaced. Meanwhile, ranching industry servants like BLM are working to put more cattle on the land.”

Source:  San Diego Free Press

Pinyon-Juniper Forests: BLM is a Ranching Industry Tool

Public lands ranching is destroying the Western United States

Cattle watering station near Cave Valley, NV

Cattle watering station near Cave Valley, NV

by Will Falk

Public lands ranching is destroying the Western United States. It has pushed native plant species to the brink of extinction. It causes soil to erode so quickly the land cannot keep up. Livestock are poisoning and depleting water supplies, killing perennial stream flows, and are making it increasingly difficult for surface water to accumulate. Stockmen and the animals they raise have devastated populations of iconic American animals like bison, elk, pronghorn, and sage-grouse. Ranchers, ever jealous of the trees their stock cannot eat, encourage the clear-cutting of forests.

Livestock grazing is the single most ecologically destructive activity happening in the Western United States today. To stop the continued destruction of pinyon-juniper forests, to stop the continued destruction of the entire region, public lands ranching must cease.

I cannot decide whether writing this essay in the wake of Ammon Bundy’s arrest and Lavoy Finicum’s death at the hands of the FBI and Oregon State Police after their occupation of Northern Paiute land at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is good or bad. It could be good because this story has finally forced public lands ranching, or “welfare ranching,” and the policies of federal agencies like the Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service into the public’s consciousness.

On the other hand, there is the risk that while Bundy and his angry white men waved their rifles in the faces of law enforcement complaining about federal agencies like BLM and the Forest Service, the public developed too much sympathy for those Bundy threatened. These agencies might look like the good guys against Big Bad Bundy while the agencies’ own atrocities go over-looked.

Do not feel sorry for BLM. Those of us who care about life in the region really should be angry with how these federal agencies are run. Now, I am certainly not saying we should be angry for the same reasons as Bundy. No, we should be angry with BLM and Bundy together because they play for the same team: the ranching industry.

In my last essay, Pinyon-Juniper Forests: BLM’s False Claims to Virtue, I explained how the Bureau of Land Management lies to support deforestation across the Great Basin. Undermining BLM’s bad science took up the bulk of the essay, so now I turn to answering why BLM lies like this.

[M]any commentators have confused the Forest Service and BLM with conservation. Neither the Forest Service nor the BLM have ever been concerned with the health of the land—except where the health of the land benefits livestock production.

BLM lies because BLM exists—and has always existed—to serve the ranching industry. Simply blaming BLM for pinyon-juniper deforestation without indicting the ranching industry fails to address the roots of the problem.

Lynn Jacobs gives an excellent history lesson and shows how both the Forest Service and BLM were created to serve the ranching industry in his book “The Waste of the West: Public Lands Ranching.” One of the problematic themes to emerge during Bundy’s occupation is the way many commentators have confused the Forest Service and BLM with conservation. Neither the Forest Service nor the BLM have ever been concerned with the health of the land—except where the health of the land benefits livestock production.

It is true that in the 1890s, powerful ranchers looked at range-lands and saw depletion of water supplies, soil, game animals, and economically useful vegetation. But, they never asked if livestock grazing was feasible. The only thing they were concerned with was how the declining health of the land affected their profits. Powerful ranchers watched the pie their livestock fed off be consumed by smaller nomadic herders, too. Instead of ensuring the survival of the pie, the most powerful ranchers were only concerned about gaining a larger slice for their livestock while restricting weaker ranchers’ access to that pie. Despite some conservation verbiage being used, the Forest Service and BLM were actually formed to ensure the dominance of already powerful businessmen over everyone else. This is a scenario that plays out continuously through the history of capitalism.

In 1905, the Forest Service was formed and Jacobs says that powerful ranchers were instrumental in placing it under the jurisdiction of the US Department of Agriculture instead of the Department of the Interior where it logically belonged. Many ranchers became district, forest, regional, and national Forest Service range and administrative officials and this is still true today. One of the first regulations enacted by the Forest Service set up grazing regulations, created allotments, issued permits, and charged a fee of five cents per month for each cow or 5 sheep grazed. This regulation effectively ended nomadic herding on Forest Service land.

BLM was formed in 1946, again under the influence of powerful ranchers … “In short, the Forest Service and BLM (and states etc.) functioned more as grazing industry tools than true regulatory agencies.”

BLM is a younger agency than the Forest Service and its roots are found in the congressional Taylor Grazing Act of 1935. Jacobs notes that the Act’s namesake, Representative Edward Taylor—a rancher from Colorado and “sworn enemy of conservationists”—pushed the bill through Congress with the express intent of eliminating nomadic herding. The Act created the Division of Grazing under the Department of the Interior and attacked nomadic herders by providing that only those with well-established, substantial private ranch holdings near public land could gain grazing leases.

The first director of the Division of Grazing was a Colorado rancher, Farrington Carpenter, who cemented the ranchers’ power over the Division by establishing local “grazing advisory boards.” The boards were elected by local ranchers. Jacobs explains that these advisory boards were “composed mostly of the same large scale, aggressive, politically savvy ranchers who helped create the Forest Service and Taylor Grazing Act and awarded themselves federal grazing permits…” The Division of Grazing was reorganized into the Grazing Service in 1939.

BLM was formed in 1946, again under the influence of powerful ranchers, when the old Grazing Service and General Land office were combined. Jacobs states that “grazing and ranching abuses and political, economic, and social injustice continued largely unchecked.” Jacobs describes the way many ranchers behaved after BLM was established. Notice how he could be describing the Bundy situation perfectly. “For many years, ranchers refused to obtain permits, pay grazing fees, or follow any regulations whatsoever. When agency personnel attempted enforcement, traditional grazing industry power neutralized the challenge by applying political, social, and economic pressure where needed. In short, the Forest Service and BLM (and states etc.) functioned more as grazing industry tools than true regulatory agencies.”

The same must be said of these agencies today.

“Soon, those who thought they were going to do something positive for wildlife learn to identify with their captors. The ones who bow down the most to industry rise to be managers.”

To be clear, there are many BLM and other federal agency employees that truly do desire what is best for life in the region. There are individuals of good heart in these agencies who strive to do the right thing. Unfortunately, BLM leaders remain captured by the livestock industry and non-stop intimidation like that expressed by Ammon Bundy make it incredibly difficult for employees charged with enforcing environmental laws to do so.

Consider what my friend, Katie Fite—a biologist and a woman with more experience advocating for the natural world against bad BLM policies than perhaps anyone in the world, has said about some BLM staff. Fite encourages us to “make a distinction between BLM the Agency and some of the staff that try to enforce protections that are supposed to exist … These people too become victims of the cattlemen—forced to lie, bury their heads in the sand, and bow to rancher thugs on a daily basis.” And, as so often happens in our dominant, capitalist culture where destruction is rewarded, Fite explains, “Soon, those who thought they were going to do something positive for wildlife learn to identify with their captors. The ones who bow down the most to industry rise to be managers.”

Fite’s insights, however, should not be an excuse. Despite the intentions of some good-hearted BLM and Forest Service staff, the operations of these agencies have been a disaster for life in the region.

In addition to providing essential historical research, Jacobs’ “The Waste of the West: Public Lands Ranching” is a comprehensive examination (602 text-book sized pages) of the physical impact of ranching on the lands comprising the Western United States. Jacobs research on what ranching does to plants, soil, water, and animals in the West paints a grim picture.

“Western rangeland is losing topsoil, mostly due to ranching, at least 4 to 5 times faster than it’s being replaced.”

Jacobs begins by explaining that grass and small herbaceous plants that cows, sheep, and goats eat form the “plankton of the land.” These countless trillions of small plants form the base of the complex food web that supports all of life in the Great Basin. These plants provide oxygen to the atmosphere, nourishment to animals, and maintain soil, water, fire, and atmospheric dynamics. Tragically, according to Jacobs, “Livestock grazing has destroyed the plankton of the land in the Western United States—and around the globe—more extensively than has any other human pursuit.”

Next, Jacobs notes that soil has been called “the soul of life itself” and reminds readers that “without adequate and fertile soil, most terrestrial plant and animal life ceases.” Of course, he means human life, too. Jacobs writes, “For over 100 years livestock grazing has been the major cause of both increased soil erosion and decreased soil fertility on Western public land. Most soil loss and damage is a result of livestock stripping off and trampling vegetation…”

To make this even scarier, Jacobs cites United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Soil Conservation Service (SCS) reports to estimate that “Western rangeland is losing topsoil, mostly due to ranching, at least 4 to 5 times faster than it’s being replaced.” Meanwhile, ranching industry servants like BLM are working to put more cattle on the land. It does not take a mathematical expert to conclude that if ranchers have their way, rangelands will run out of topsoil.

Read the rest of this article HERE.


20 replies »

  1. Your battle will be lost if your don’t join forces with the ranchers

    The BLM wants all of you off the land both ranchers and wild horses for the land is rich in minerals and uranium

    Hammond’s land thru Hillary Clinton when she was Sec of State gave the mineral rights to China as well as their land…that’s why they are fighting this battle

    BLM burns down the ranchers homes steals their cattle and sells or kills them and refuses to renew their permits and cuts their cattle off to water all with the intent to steal the ranchers private land

    Most of the ranchers have already been run off by the BLM and in the interim have lost everything

    As I have always been taught…

    There is power in numbers


    • To be realistic, given their mindset, it is highly unlikely the ranchers will ever consider that, even if we are 100% open to debate. For the overwhelming majority of them the only good horse is one a kill truck.


  2. This is Nebraska article from 2014 showing the extras Ranchers get from Farm Bill like BLM grazing reimbursement for drought or fire on Federal lands. Its also pointing out how they get paid for dead cattle due to Wildlife and explains why they keep claiming there are Sssoooo many predators killing everything. They get to hunt and then claim money for deceased cattle and taxidermy it and celebrate with steak on the grill all on OUR tax dollars on our Public lands. Read the entire article its eye opening. Each state has different scenarios


  3. This is an excellent article but it doesn’t mention the 2.7 million predators killed in one year to “benefit” ranchers and farmers or how our wild horses are being “managed for extinction”. The whole balance of nature is being destroyed.
    Watch the documentary, Cowspiracy, the Substainability Secret.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Just ONE example from an 82 page document…and the Wild Horses & Burros are BLAMED for range degradation?

    Desatoya Mountains Habitat Resiliency, Health, and Restoration Project

    Click to access Desatoya_Habitat_Restoration_EA_March_2012_No_appendices.pdf

    Areas of decadent sagebrush and rabbitbrush would also be thinned using hand or mechanical means as well as herbicide treatments. Treatments would include the use of rubber-tired/-tracked or metal-tracked mechanized equipment with a mastication or mower head, post-hole diggers attached to tractors or backhoes, trenching machinery, chainsaws, prescribed burning of piles, hand held post hole diggers, and harvest of fuelwood or biomass depending on the site. Temporary spur roads would be necessary and maintenance of existing roads would occur including minor rerouting, installation of drainage control structures, and blading/recontouring.

    Tree Cutting and Partial Tree Removal — PJ would be cut with hand and small mechanized tools. A portion of the wood would be removed as firewood or other biomass utilization under permit within designated boundaries either for personal use or for commercial resale. These areas would be determined by the BLM on a yearly basis based on public demand and project needs. Individuals would need to obtain a permit or contract from the CCD. Firewood cutting treatment areas would be located near existing roads. Woodcutters would be permitted to drive off established roads only as needed to load and remove the wood. Vegetation remnants (slash) would be left in place by wood cutters. If needed to meet objectives after termination of firewood cutting, slash would be treated further under BLM supervision by either shredding or scattering, emphasizing the need to cover vehicle tracks to avoid establishment of new permanent travel routes. Harvest or mechanical shredding of woody material would not be employed in canyon and foothill sites where slopes limit vehicle access.

    Rabbitbrush Control —2, 4-D herbicide would be applied during the spring growing season according to label specifications to eliminate monotypic stands of rabbitbrush that have encroached into meadow areas in Dalton Canyon.

    Spring/Wet Meadow Exclosure Fencing and Range Improvements
    Monitoring for baseline conditions would be assessed prior to treatment to gauge trend, evaluate outcome of treatments, and to inform an adaptive management strategy. Depending on funding availability, a pipe rail or a standard BLM 4-wire fence built to meet specifications regarding cattle, horses and/or wildlife would be constructed (BLM Handbook 1741-1). A standard 4-wire fence consists of a smooth bottom wire and two strands of barbed wire and a smooth top wire or a combination. The wire spacing is 16″, 22″, 30″ and 42″ and 16 1/2′ spacing between T-posts. Fence construction would involve the use of pick-up trucks, post-hole diggers attached to tractors or backhoes and other equipment as necessary.

    Excess Wild Horse Removal


  5. Idaho wildlife biologists delay plan to poison ravens to help sage grouse

    TWIN FALLS, Idaho – A plan by state wildlife biologists to kill 4,000 ravens in three Idaho areas by feeding them poisoned chicken eggs was postponed due to federal environmental permitting delays. Idaho Fish and Game officials won’t start the two-year program aimed at boosting sage grouse numbers, the Times-News reported Tuesday.

    State officials said the U.S. Department of Agriculture through its Wildlife Services is the only entity in the state with permission to administer the poison that experts say kills only birds in the corvid family, which includes crows, ravens and magpies.
    The federal agency didn’t get a supplemental environmental assessment completed on time to put out the poison, called DRC-1339, this spring, said Jeff Gould of Fish and Game.

    He said putting out poison during the summer isn’t as effective because ravens aren’t gathered in large numbers. But he said poisoning will begin next spring


  6. A REAL Scientist

    Rachael Carson

    How ‘Silent Spring’ Ignited the Environmental Movement

    “Silent Spring,” which has sold more than two million copies, made a powerful case for the idea that if humankind poisoned nature, nature would in turn poison humankind. “Our heedless and destructive acts enter into the vast cycles of the earth and in time return to bring hazard to ourselves,” she told the subcommittee. We still see the effects of unfettered human intervention through Carson’s eyes: she popularized modern ecology.

    Carson became a science editor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency founded under the New Deal.

    Her willingness to pose the moral question led “Silent Spring” to be compared with Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” written nearly a century earlier. Both books reflected the mainstream Protestant thinking of their time, which demanded personal action to right the wrongs of society.

    Carson was initially ambivalent about taking on what she referred to as “the poison book.” She didn’t see herself as an investigative reporter. By this time, she’d received the National Book Award for “The Sea Around Us” and established herself as the naturalist of her day. This was a much folksier and less controversial role than the one “the poison book” would put her in. Taking on some of the largest and most powerful industrial forces in the world would have been a daunting proposition for anyone, let alone a single woman of her generation. She tried to enlist other writers to tackle the dangers of pesticides. E.B. White, who was at The New Yorker, which serialized Carson’s major books, gently suggested that she investigate pesticides for The New Yorker herself. So she did.

    She argued vehemently against aerial spraying, which allowed the government to dump pesticides on people’s property without their permission. She cited dairy farmers in upstate New York, whose milk was banned from the market after their land was sprayed to eradicate gypsy moths. As Carson saw it, the federal government, when in industry’s thrall, was part of the problem. That’s one reason that she didn’t call for sweeping federal regulation. Instead, she argued that citizens had the right to know how pesticides were being used on their private property. She was reiterating a central tenet of “Silent Spring”: “If the Bill of Rights contains no guarantee that a citizen shall be secure against lethal poisons distributed either by private individuals or by public officials, it is surely only because our forefathers, despite their considerable wisdom and foresight, could conceive of no such problem.” She advocated for the birth of a grass-roots movement led by concerned citizens who would form nongovernmental groups that she called “citizen’s brigades.”

    The well-financed counterreaction to Carson’s book was a prototype for the brand of attack now regularly made by super-PACs in everything from debates about carbon emissions to new energy sources. “As soon as ‘Silent Spring’ is serialized, the chemical companies circle the wagons and build up a war chest,” Souder says. “This is how the environment became such a bitter partisan battle.”
    In a move worthy of Citizens United, the chemical industry undertook an expensive negative P.R. campaign, which included circulating “The Desolate Year,” a parody of “A Fable for Tomorrow” that mocked its woeful tone

    Liked by 1 person

    • In one of the other articles connected to this one I found this from Mother Jones:

      “Ammon Bundy runs a Phoenix-based company called Valet Fleet Services LLC, which specializes in repairing and maintaining fleets of semitrucks throughout Arizona. On April 15, 2010—Tax Day, as it happens—Bundy’s business borrowed $530,000 through a Small Business Administration loan guarantee program. The available public record does not indicate what the loan was used for or whether it was repaid. The SBA website notes that this loan guarantee was issued under a program “to aid small businesses which are unable to obtain financing in the private credit marketplace.” The government estimated that this subsidy could cost taxpayers $22,419. Bundy did not respond to an email request for comment about the SBA loan.”
      So I guess that tells us how he is able to “afford” to be gone from his “job” and family! Like the rest of the Bundys, hes well-to-do. Not some poor rancher who is scraping by!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t know if anyone has read the article that NOAA put out last week but the studies they have done says that the this planets seas will be empty of fish by 2050 if not sooner along with the seabirds. There has been over fishing for decades and now its beginning to catch up us. A lot of the fishing boats have only been reporting half of the fish they claim they catch. You can’t run the large factory ships that have nets trailing behind collecting tons and tons off fish without it catching up to the planet and the population in every country. When the fish go so will every mammal in the oceans because they will starve with out forage fish which is thrown overboard as trash fish. The seals, dolphins, birds etc will go extinct because of no food. Whales are already washing up on beach’s all over the world in numbers not seen before. The greed of the human race can’t be stopped.

    Liked by 1 person

    • From what little I’ve read of Rachel Carson – thats what she tried to tell everyone in 1963 – 53 years ago. What really gets me is that the pesticide industry (DDT) agreed to back off here in the US, but were allowed to continue to ship DDT to foreign countries! Sounds familiar – thinking about the contraceptives that caused problems here in the US – but continued to be sent to other countries. Now premarin – the PMU farms now in China, although I’m sure there are still some in Canada today.
      How can these industries be allowed to continue – now its honey bees and butterflies & all kinds of small species being pushed into extinction. Not to mention whats being done to the rest of our wildlife (wild horses & burros included).
      Yes, Barbara – GREED!

      Liked by 1 person

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