Privately owned welfare cattle being herded onto public land and wild horse habitat DURING a BLM roundup at Antelope Complex, NV. ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom FederationGrazing Permit Retirement Needed
By published on The Wildlife News
“Across the West, livestock grazing is one of the most destructive land uses…”
Some 250 million acres of public lands are grazed by domestic livestock including those administered by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, as well as national wildlife refuges and even some national park units.
This use is not benign. Livestock pollutes public waters with their waste. Livestock compact soils reducing water infiltration. Their hooves break up biocrusts which hold the soil together and reduce wind erosion. They spread diseases to wildlife, for instance, pneumonia to bighorn sheep. They spread weeds. They eat forage that might otherwise support native herbivores from ground squirrels to elk. They socially displace native animals like elk from the best lands. We kill predators like wolves, cougars, bears, and coyotes to facilitate livestock operations. Fences on public lands block wildlife migrations and serve lookout posts for avian predators that prey on sage grouse and other endangered species.
And to add insult to injury, we charge ranchers a ridiculously low fee for grazing our public lands. Currently, the fee is $1.35 an AUM (animal unit month) or the amount of forage a cow and calf can consume in a month. You could not feed a pet goldfish on $1.35 a month.
While livestock grazing on public lands is a privilege—that can be revoked at any time—it is rarely done. From a public policy perspective ending public lands, grazing is desirable. However, given the entrenched political power of the livestock industry, removing livestock from public lands is difficult.
Range conservationists also have a vested financial interest in maintaining livestock grazing. If there are no cows or sheep on the land, there is no need for a range con. So, the range conservationists will do just about anything they can to maintain livestock even in the face of tremendous ecological damage. Since it’s not their money, they will propose new grazing plans, new fencing, more water developments, more range riders, or whatever, to keep livestock on the range when in most cases, merely eliminating livestock is by far the best policy from both an economic and ecological perspective.
However, there is one mechanism that has the potential to free our public lands of the livestock yoke—livestock grazing permit retirement. READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE HERE.