Big Cattle, Big Gulp: Cowboys and cows are soaking the American West dry

Source:  New Republic

“Every stream on public lands grazed by livestock is polluted and shows a huge surge in E. coli bacterial contamination during the grazing season,” says Marvel. “No wonder we can’t drink the water.”

Marvel, who retired from WWP last year, spent two decades haranguing and suing the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the government bodies that are supposed to regulate ranching on the public domain. “Forest Service and BLM staffers see their job as the protection and enabling of ranchers. They are the epitome of what is meant by agency capture.”

by Christopher Ketcham

The American West faces its fifteenth year of low rainfall, sparse snowpack, and warming temperatures in what climatologists believe is only the beginning of a climate-change-induced megadrought that may last a century or more. Major cities across California recorded historically low precipitation levels in the last two years. At least 78 percent of the state is now categorized as suffering “extreme drought,” including the state’s Central Valley, the nation’s most productive agricultural region. California hasn’t been this dry in 1,200 years.

We tend to blame the exurban sprawl dweller for water waste. The profligate of the cul-de-sac, he obsesses over car washes, floods the Kentucky bluegrass on his lawn, tops off his swimming pool, takes the kids to water parks, and tees off at green golf courses tended among cacti. He is the wrong object of our ire, however. Personal and industrial consumption for drinking, washing, flushing, watering the lawn, detailing the car, and cooling nuclear plants, accounts for less than 10 percent of water use in the eleven arid states of the West.

We’d do better to look at what we eat when casting about for villains of the water drama. Food production consumes more fresh water than any other activity in the United States. “Within agriculture in the West, the thirstiest commodity is the cow,” says George Wuerthner, an ecologist at the Foundation for Deep Ecology, who has studied the livestock industry. Humans drink about a gallon of water a day; cows, upwards of 23 gallons. The alfalfa, hay, and pasturage raised to feed livestock in California account for approximately half of the water used in the state, with alfalfa representing the highest-acreage crop. In parts of Montana, as much as 90 percent of irrigated land is operated solely for the production of livestock feed; 90 percent of Nevada’s cropland is dedicated to raising hay. Half of Idaho’s three million acres of irrigated farmland grows forage and feed exclusively for cattle, and livestock production represents 60 percent of the state’s water use. In Utah, cows are the top agricultural product, and three-fifths of the state’s cropland is planted with hay. All told, alfalfa and hay production in the West requires more than ten times the water used by the region’s cities and industries combined, according to some estimates. Researchers at Cornell University concluded that producing one kilogram of animal protein requires about 100 times more water than producing one kilogram of grain protein. It is a staggeringly inefficient food system.

One obvious and immediate solution to the western water crisis would be to curtail the waste of the livestock industry. The logical start to this process would be to target its least important sector: public lands ranching.  READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE HERE.

8 comments on “Big Cattle, Big Gulp: Cowboys and cows are soaking the American West dry

  1. Regarding THIS piece, as posted—very good summation of the issues and in a short enough format I can send it to a lot of my carnivorous friends. Folks, we need to lay off the meat eating—bottom line. You simply can’t be a advocate for protecting resources and the wild critters who live there—be they equines or any other species—if you are noshing down the chicken, beef, and pork as if there is no connection to the deeper problems. Look at the diet— the drive to provide these DISCRETIONARY menu items from flesh foods is the root of the pollution, water degradation, weed incursions on wild lands and countless other human origins. Drop the meat (and that means chicken, too—-huge issues with pollution and feedstock costs) You will be a healthier human and can live life with integrity.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Susan for stating another inconvenient truth. The three pillars for a meatless diet: Health, Environment, Ethical, cannot be overlooked when someone is spewing their passion for the wild horses.

      Like

  2. There’s a new spotlight on Zinke

    Gov Rosello of Puerto Rico is demanding an energy contract of $300 million be cancelled

    The company is Whitefish

    Which is located in Zinke’s home town

    Zinke knows the owner of the company and his son worked for the company

    It has warranted an investigation

    Liked by 1 person

    • There was a segment on CBS about this company – seems the “office” is a private dwelling! It certainly does warrant an investigation – so does HE!

      Like

  3. Read Christopher’s other article: “They shoot buffalo, don’t they?” Incredible history of the cattle barons and demise of the bison, sheep wars 7-7-77. So many animals killed by these people. History of disrespect for the land, wildlife, native peoples: it needs to be stopped. We need to set our jaws like flint. “Eat less meat, save a mustang.”

    Like

  4. Have read other articles by Chris Ketcham – tells it like it is – certainly should be read by everyone! And it seems to be true – the Stetson & big belt buckle apparently make a big impression on politicians etc.

    Like

  5. From AMERICAN HERDS
    JANUARY 15, 2008
    Letter To The Hopefuls (excerpts)

    For too long, We the People, have been forced to look on as our representatives, officials and public servants have declared war on our Nation and our citizenry. Our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, our civil liberties and our right to meaningfully petition our government against grievances being committed against us is blatantly being subverted.

    At the inception of our Nation, great principles were laid for our foundation, igniting the Spirit of Truth in all people, that our Creator has endowed us with certain inalienable rights and among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

    Our forefathers understood through the tyranny they had overcome, that liberty is as essential to Life as life itself and this truth must be safeguarded and protected at all costs. The greatness of our Nation can only flourish if our essential liberties and the principles for which they stand are honored with firm commitments and unwavering hearts by those chosen to uphold and declare

    It was not coincidence that the American people and our Congress overwhelmingly and unanimously acknowledged our deep and abiding connections to the horse and burro and in 1971, we set about to honor those connections by lawfully mandating their right to freedom, preservation and protection through the passage of the Wild Free-Roaming Horse & Burro Act.

    There are many that also believe it is not coincidence that the attack on the Spirit of America as a Nation is entwined with the attack on these majestic icons and symbols of our freedom, chosen because they represented our own pioneering spirit, independence, and fierce need for liberty after millenniums of enslavement.

    While these symbols of our freedom are being replaced by corporate livestock interests, we see how many of our representatives no longer represent us but seek instead to lay a new foundation for America; envisioning the populace as nothing more than a corporately owned resource such as these same cattle and sheep – human animals – to be exploited, manipulated, managed, herded and harvested for the benefit of the few.

    Those lands, once dedicated for the preservation of the wild free-roaming horses and burros are also increasingly becoming the exclusive lands of the hunted and the hunter.
    Question To The Hopefuls:

    What will you do to investigate this travesty and restore the laws that guaranteed their protection and preservation for future generations?
    http://americanherds.blogspot.com/2008/01/letter-to-hopefuls.html

    Like

  6. From AMERICAN HERDS
    JANUARY 15, 2008
    Letter To The Hopefuls (excerpts)

    For too long, We the People, have been forced to look on as our representatives, officials and public servants have declared war on our Nation and our citizenry. Our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, our civil liberties and our right to meaningfully petition our government against grievances being committed against us is blatantly being subverted.

    At the inception of our Nation, great principles were laid for our foundation, igniting the Spirit of Truth in all people, that our Creator has endowed us with certain inalienable rights and among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
    http://americanherds.blogspot.com/2008/01/letter-to-hopefuls.html

    Like

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