LIVESTOCK GRAZING ON THE PUBLIC LANDS: LESSONS FROM THE FAILURE OF OFFICIAL CONSERVATION

by George Cameron Coggins

A MUST read: http://www.law.gonzaga.edu/law-review/files/2013/11/Coggins.pdf

Welfare Cattle herded into Antelope Complex as wild horses are being rounded up ~ photo by Terry Fitch

Welfare Cattle herded into Antelope Complex as wild horses are being rounded up ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Article reviewed by Grandma Gregg with favorite quotes listed below:

“As the title of my speech implies, the story of the law of public rangeland management is dismal. In 1979, I was invited to serve on a National Academy of Sciences committee that was set up to study and recommend reform of public rangeland management. I thought this would be an excellent experience, but the study was a disaster. It started back-asswards, and, after two years, just when the committee was getting ready to make detailed recommendations, the Bureau of Land Management refused to continue the study. Perhaps coincidentally, the BLM Director knew the recommendations would be unfavorable to the agency’s way of doing things.”

“Those who hold grazing permits are a far more diverse group than the simple description of “rancher” would suggest. Only one in every twenty-two livestock raisers enjoys this peculiar status,” a fact that occasionally prompts some resentment from non-western ranchers. Public land grazing is dominated by big operations. Approximately fifteen percent of the 22,000 permittees control more than 80 percent of the grazing lands, while at the other end of the spectrum, more than 4,000 permittees each have fewer than 28 AUM’s under permit.”

“The range wars and other politics of those bad old days only served to foster the belief among the ranchers that they had some sort of right to denude the land if they so desired. Cowboy movies would have us believe that the nineteenth century West was a lawless place. Whether or not generally accurate, that impression is certainly true in the case of public land grazing. The United States Congress refused to take any effective action to protect this federal property, and the states were only interested in keeping the peace and discriminating against sheepherders.35 The cattlemen had their own primitive legal code, sometimes enforced at gunpoint.” SOUND FAMILIAR???

“…the ranching beneficiaries have usually controlled the weak agency responsible for regulating the public land grazing. 0 The results of allowing the western livestock industry to police itself have been about what one would expect.”

“…any real improvement program must start by reducing the permitted levels of grazing. Some range scientists argue that grazing reductions alone will not repair the damage of a century, but nearly all concede that physical changes alone, whether by chaining, reseeding, brush eradication, water developments, or rest-rotation grazing schemes,” cannot restore productivity if heavy grazing pressures continues. All these expensive measures have as a common denominator the forlorn hope that somehow the grass can be brought back without antagonizing or discommoding the permittees.”

“Again, a relevant question is why the ranchers would oppose improvement even if it means temporary loss of what may merely be paper privileges? The answer is that the subsidy of the reduced grazing fee has been capitalized, falsely, into the sale or mortgage value of the private base ranches. Any loss in the number of permit AUM’s thus means proportionate loss in the rancher’s private property values. The courts, including the United States Supreme Court in 1973, have firmly rejected the notion that the permittees have any legally recognized property interests in the public lands. However, the ranchers, their ranch purchasers, and their bankers have persisted in treating these permits as legitimate, vested property interests.”

“The Bureau of Land Management was formed out of an inappropriate merger of two other agencies in 1946 and was almost destroyed by Senator McCarren in the process. The agency did make some good faith efforts in the 1950’s and 1960’s to control the worst grazing abuses, but most of these efforts came to very little, and many of the reform advocates within the agency found themselves prematurely retired or contemplating the view in Nome, Alaska. The latter technique remains popular with the present Administration.”

Read the entire article: http://www.law.gonzaga.edu/law-review/files/2013/11/Coggins.pdf

14 comments on “LIVESTOCK GRAZING ON THE PUBLIC LANDS: LESSONS FROM THE FAILURE OF OFFICIAL CONSERVATION

  1. So absolutely NOTHING has changed in 37 years! I still do not understand why the BLM was and still is allowed be the deciding factor in whether (in 1979) to “continue” the study or in the current study, to remove the single factor that does more damage to our public lands (cattle). This faction or agency of our government doesn’t answer to ANYONE except their own bureaucrats. The GAO has been very critical of them – the NAS is critical of them – several Congressmen/Senators have openly criticized them – We all have certainly been very vocal about this. What does it actually take to stop this greedy, corrupt bureaucracy? (By the way – thanks to GG for her comments!)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As I think most of us know … anything that comes out of the mouths of BLM/USFS about wild horses and burros is a lie. The whole thing these government agencies base their existence on is a lie. They wouldn’t know the truth if it hit them smack between the eyes because there is MONEY behind it and of course corrupt politicians and it is a vicious circle with the big lobbyists (livestock associations and mining and trophy hunting and oil/gas lobbyists etc.) buying (they call it “supporting”) politicians who then vote (or instruct behind the public’s eyes) the BLM to do this or that (and they don’t care HOW it is done) to please the big corporation lobbyists so they can get more money and on and on around in a circle and it is all about the money and votes/power and the use/abuse and selling of our public lands and our resources and nobody in these circles really gives a hoot about the wild horses and burros one way or the other. The wildlife (including wild horses and burros) are just a roadblock for the extraction (which includes the livestock and all the others I listed) industries to get all they can from our public lands. Follow the money to see the corruption. That is why we MUST continue our fight for what is right… to try to save our wild ones and OUR America.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you for giving background information about current grazing issues. It is clear what the problem has been. Now what can we do? I only know I can not support the big meat industry by not buying from them. Instead I buy from local farms I can visit. Even local businesses may have issues. For example I talked to a person who buys and owns herds of cattle he has never seen. Also, a local rancher sells his cows after a year and has no idea what happens to them. There is a lot of handling of cows solely as investment to other businesses people know nothing about. The business of cows is ambiguous and unchecked in my understanding.

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    • With all due respect, I think the author of that piece misses the point. Making bison the national mammal hopefully will bring more public attention to their plight, and more care – like the bald eagle. Without this, there isn’t in the national consciousness. It’s a good acknowledgement and a deference to the shameful mass slaughter of them during the earlier years of the nation. A righting of a wrong. There needs to be a way to do this for all threatened wildlife. Stopping slaughter is already slowing and like all things, takes a lot of time to accomplish. Slow-moving isn’t the word. Bison or wolf or wild mustang ought to be on our currency too, like the nickel.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ooops, that should read ‘without making bison the national mammal, there isn’t a national consciousness’. I don’t consider it greenwashing – to me, it’s another step in a long line of steps forward. An example of greenwashing to me is they hype around alternative energy, with no real commitment to mitigating climate change.

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      • Yes, I think you’re right – maybe, just maybe, this will bring more public attention to the buffalo & what’s been done and is being done to them. How disturbing is it that in order for the public to be aware of a species it has to be made a “national” mammal!
        Makes me wonder exactly what title or description could be given to our wild horses & burros that would bring them into the public conversation! Oh right, though, that would never get past the anti-wild horse groups, would it?

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      • Ida, Nevada has had wild horses on their quarters for some time now… and they do have the most wild horses of any state (for now).

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      • But sadly, being a “Natural Heritage Species” doesn’t mean diddly to the BLM or any other detractors! Until they are FORCED to stop treating our wild horses and burros as pests – this kind of “culling” will keep going on. Social media might be good for a few things – unfortunately, if the public doesn’t look away from their cells & realize unless they take an interest in something besides facebook & twitter – it will be too late for too many species of animals. Do we really want to be the only species left on this planet? Sounds kind of empty & dismal to me!
        I guess this really tells what age group I’m in, right?

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  4. I know that people tried to get going a wolf stamp in Montana, so that those who wanted to contribute to conservation, nationwide) would have a means to – amid cries from sportspeople (PC, blech) who love to scream that wildlife watchers and ‘non-consumptive users’ (more blech) don’t contribute to conservation!

    Well, hunters complained loudly and effectively put the kybosh on it, and are obviously afraid of this concept and losing their dominance, and I don’t know what the status of the wolf stamp is now – in limbo I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What is it about the early 70s that made the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (among many others) get signed into law (under the Nixon administration, no less!) and obviously important to the American people – and yet today, this law has been amended and flagrantly violated, and being broken right under our very noses and nobody, except for a very few, seem to notice? Today, under the Democratic Obama administration, some of the worst violations of wildlife protections are happening – wolf delisting, grizzly delisting, increase in wild horse removal, a big nothing for sage grouse. I still remember that NAS document that the Interior was waiting for, and nothing was ever done. Sally Jewell is always hobnobbing with hunters and promoting them as conservationists! They are not the only ones, and probably not at all!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Of course nothing was done after the NAS report came out – it disagreed with the BLM’s agenda! I’ve also wondered what was it that made it possible for enough people – young & old – to come together & made a difference back in the 70s.

      Liked by 1 person

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