14 April 2010

Federal public lands ranching is major threat to wildlife in the West


Cattle Grazing and the West's Wasteland by Anai Rhoads - When we think about threats to wildlife in the West, hunting, logging and encroachment often top our lists. But most of us don't realize there is a much greater threat, one supported by the United States government and paid for by taxpayers' dollars - federal public lands ranching.

Public lands ranching is one of the most destructive practices committed by humans in the western U.S. Each year, ranchers graze millions of cows and other animals on public lands - to the detriment of the native wildlife, taxpayers and the environment.

Public lands ranchers have been responsible for some of most atrocious acts ever committed against wildlife. Wolf eradication, the round up of wild horses and burros, and the obliteration of prairie dog towns have all been carried out to benefit these ranchers.

By far, the largest users, and abusers, of natural resources in the West are public lands ranchers. A 2005 report issued by the U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO) showed that in fiscal year 2004, the federal government allowed 22.6 million animal unit months (AUMs) on about 235 million acres of federal lands for public lands grazing. An AMU is the amount of vegetation a cow and calf (or five sheep) eats in one month. Grazed lands include national forests, designated wilderness areas, national parks, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, national monuments, wildlife refuges, national conservation areas and military bases.

Given the vast tracks of land used and the hundreds of millions of dollars spent every year, some may be surprised to learn that public lands ranching makes up less than 3 percent of all beef production in the U.S. Yet the United States continues to aggressively fund and support this outdated and destructive industry – despite the consequences.

"Welfare" Ranching

Public land ranchers are often referred to as "welfare ranchers" because of the millions of taxpayers' dollars spent each year to keep the industry afloat. According to the GAO, the federal government spent at least $144 million in 2004 to support public lands ranching. The GAO admits that its conservative figure does not include other costs directly related to the industry, including the round up of wild horses and burros, restoring areas damaged by grazing and predator "control."

Of the taxpayers' funds spent on public lands ranching each year, only a small fraction (about $21 million in 2004) are collected back in grazing fees. The majority of grazing fees collected are not reinvested into the general fund, but are instead diverted to pay for fencing and other grazing-related infrastructure projects.

In 2009, public lands ranchers paid only $1.35 per AMU to graze, far less than the fair market value of $15.90 for comparable private and state lands. This is actually a reduction in the price public lands ranchers were paying in 2005.

Because of all of the taxpayers' money spent, it would seem plausible that public lands ranchers are significant contributors to the West's economy. Well, in fact, they are not.

In Arizona, public lands ranching make up a fraction of 1 percent of the state's economy. The majority of public lands ranchers don't even rely on their ranching businesses to survive. Half are classified as "hobby" ranchers, most have been in business less than a generation, and many public lands grazing permit holders are banks and large corporations.

Interior Secretary Salazar - A Public Lands Rancher's Best Friend

According to his official bio, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar comes from a long line of cattle ranchers, and considers himself to be a "champion" of the industry. Since being confirmed as Interior Secretary, Salazar has taken that champion role to heart, making a number of decisions benefiting public lands ranchers at the expense of wildlife and the public.

In March of 2009, Secretary Salazar pushed forward Bush administration plans to delist the grey wolf from the Endangered Species Act in most of the Northern Rockies. And in an unexpected move, he also gave Idaho and Montana authority over the wolf populations in their states - to the cheers of public lands ranchers. With Salazar's blessing, both states quickly implementing wolf hunts.

Secretary Salazar is also stepping up the war against wild horses and burros, who are seen by public lands ranchers as competitors for food and water.

His appointment is definitely seen as a step backwards by opponents of public lands ranching, especially since one of his predecessors, Bruce Babbitt, has been a vocal critic of the practice.

Salazar's War Against Wild Horses

For years, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has rounded up wild horses and burros, in violation of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. The federal government has also taken away tens of millions of acres of public lands Congress explicitly designated for these free-living animals.

Once rounded up, wild horses and burros are confined in holding pens, where many spend the rest of their lives. Most are sterilized, and some are sold to private interests. Now, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has proposed a plan that would expand the capture and confinement of wild horses and burros. Tens of thousands of additional mustangs (mares and neutered stallions) would be rounded up and sent to holding facilities in the Midwest and Eastern U.S. - essentially government-run zoos. The plan would eliminate many of the wild herds that currently exist and mandate the "aggressive sterilization" of the remaining wild horses and burros.

According to American Herds, there are fewer than 15,000 horses and burros are left in the wild, while over 36,000 are confined in BLM holding pens. Every month the government spends more than $3.3 million to hold these animals. Salazar’s plan would add an additional $42.5 million to the taxpayers’ tab over the next few years - all to benefit public lands ranchers.

The Effect of Public Lands Grazing on Wildlife and the Environment

Welfare ranching supporters claim that public lands ranchers have made the West what it is today. To a certain degree, they are correct. Federal and state governments, at the behest of ranchers, carried out one of the most systematic extermination campaigns ever committed against of free-living animals. Between the early 1900's and 1970's, the federal government hired hunters and trappers to eradicate scores of wolves, jaguars, grizzly bears and other predators seen as impediments to the ranching industry.

These eradication programs had a devastating effect on wildlife and the environment of the West, completely wiping out wolves and other predators.

Even today, the federal government still carries out eradication programs against predators, as well as other wildlife thought to compete with grazing animals for food. Ninety-eight percent of prairie dog communities have been eliminated for cattle ranching since the beginning of the 20th century.

The killing of prairie dogs and other wildlife for public lands ranching has gravely affected the natural balance of the West. For example, the black-footed ferret relies almost solely on prairie dogs for its survival. The decimation of prairie dog communities has made this animal one of the most endangered mammals in North America.

The massive environmental damage caused by public lands ranching is truly unfathomable. Ranchers like to say that they are 'stewards' of the land. But the truth is, most of today's public lands ranchers have never seen the areas they graze in a natural, healthy state. Generations of grazing has destroyed entire ecosystems, imperiling the wide-range of animals who depend on them. Soil erosion, the introduction of invasive plant species and the loss of ground cover are all attributed to public lands ranching. And because his practice occurs mostly in arid regions of the West, where water and rain are scarce, it can take decades for these ecosystems to recover.

In addition, cows grazed by public lands ranchers consume the vast majority of available grasses, which would otherwise be eaten by native wildlife. These ranchers have also destroyed 80 percent of sensitive waterways in the West. Seventy-five to eighty percent of wildlife species in arid regions depend on these streams and rivers for survival, including endangered fish, mammals and birds. In southern Arizona and western New Mexico, public lands ranching is the number one threat to endangered species, and is one of the top five threats to endangered species in four other western states.

Citing its catastrophic environmental effects, in his 2005 book Cities In The Wilderness: A New Vision Of Land Use In America, former Interior Secretary Babbitt said that public lands grazing "is the most damaging use of public land."

Public Lands Ranchers and Wildlife Today

Public lands ranchers are some of the most vocal opponents of programs designed protect endangered species and reintroduce wolves, bears and other predators to their natural habitats. It is wildly understood that the elimination of predators has caused immeasurable damage to the ecosystems where they once lived. And while wolf predation on livestock amounts for only a fraction of the losses ranchers see each year (and is usually caused by poor ranching practices), these "welfare" recipients have impeded the wildly popular reintroduction programs at every opportunity – even resorting to violence. Since the federal government reintroduced the Mexican grey wolf into the Blue Range Wilderness of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico in 1998, at least 31 have been illegally shot and killed. To put this number in perspective, in 2009, there are only 42 reintroduced Mexican grey wolves and their offspring in the wild.

The states of Idaho and Montana have implemented hunts following Secretary Salazar's decision to delist the wolf, in large part to appease public lands ranchers. More than 500 wolves have been killed in these states alone since the delisting - 257 by hunters, and roughly 250 by state and federal agents in the name of "livestock protection."

Wildlife are not the only animals suffering at the hands of public lands ranchers. The cows, sheep and other animals that are grazed often suffer the harshest treatment. Much of the public grazing land is arid desert, populated by cacti, scrub brush and other sharp plant life. Temperatures in these places can reach well over 100 degrees for months on end. Not the picture most people imagine when told about "free-range" ranching.

Time to Let the Sun Set on Public Lands Ranching

Public lands ranching is clearly not worth the price - considering the catastrophic effects on wildlife, the billions of taxpayers' dollars spent to prop up the industry and the millions of acres of land destroyed in its wake.

Innovated efforts to "retire" grazing permits and pay ranchers to removal cows from public lands have seen success, and are gaining acceptance in Washington, D.C. But Congress and the Obama administration must do more to end this costly and damaging practice.

A simpler, and cheaper, solution would be to remove the livestock from public lands. But given his ties to public lands ranchers, it is doubtful that Secretary Salazar will even consider this option.

This Dish Is Veg contributor Anai Rhoads is the Founder and Executive Director of AnaiRhoads.org, a non-profit media group est in 1996. A prominent vegan and advocate for human and animal rights since 1991. Her work was featured in the Organization of the Islamic Conference Annual Report on Islamophobia in 2007, UNAIDS Global Coalition on Women and AIDS, Iranian-American Council, and she has been quoted in the New York Times, Seattle Times, the Associated Press, Pacifica and dozens of other prominent media outlets.


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Photo Credit: cc: flickr.com/photos/foxypar4

13 comments:

  1. 1) An AUM has nothing to do with the amount of vegetation. It is a unit (equal to a cow/calf pair or a bull) to which is used as the basis for charging ranchers to use public lands. Not knowing this basic fact makes it difficult to take you seriously on your other 'facts'.

    2) Horses and Burros are not wild. They are feral. In case you did not know, horses and burros were introduced to North America by the Spanish. In fact, if wanted to us a very clear definition of these animals, ‘invasive species’ fits best.

    3) Here is a little info on how the law defines the grazing fees. http://www.idrange.org/fact-sheet-blm-grazing-management. As a note, the law was never set up to match expenditures with revenue from grazing.

    4) Your numbers don't add up. If the federal government issued 22.6 million AUMs @ $1.35/AUM (minimum set by law) that is $30.5 Million, not the $21 Million you report.

    5) When a species is taken off the ESA, management is automatically given to the states. These were not two separate decisions.

    6) Predators are no longer ‘eradicated’. Problem animals that depredate on livestock are often killed, but there are no wholesale slaughters of these animals. Most coyote, wolf, bear, mountain lion, bobcat populations are all holding steady or even increasing in states where federal grazing is prominent.

    7) Most of the historical Black Tailed Prairie Dog habitat is in areas that are mostly private lands (MT, ND, SD, WY, KS, NB, OK, TX, CO) and has little to do with public lands grazing.

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  2. *Takes Breath*
    8) “ But the truth is, most of today's public lands ranchers have never seen the areas they graze in a natural, healthy state” Natural and Healthy? This is just a nice stereotypical buzz-phrase that does nothing to quantify the relative health of any area.

    9) Cows do not consume the vast majority of available grasses. Ever heard of stubble heights and utilization measurements? There are very strict management and monitoring markers that are in place that ensure that federal lands grazing does not over utilize an area.

    10) Wolf predation is only a fraction of the overall losses, but they do represent a significant portion of the losses on livestock that are located in areas where wolves were reintroduced. Most of these depredations are not caused by poor ranching practices, but hungry wolves. And where is the support that the ranching community is responsible for the illegal killing of the Mexican Grey wolves you cited? Could it be that it was mostly poachers instead?

    11) The wolf hunting season in Montana and Idaho was mostly to 1) help stabilize or reverse crashing elk populations caused primarily by an increase in wolf populations 2) help generate revenue lost by a reduction of elk populations and 3) help to keep wolves away from communities and ranches (depredation of both pets and livestock is a problem in certain areas).

    12) This is not the first year that wolves were killed due to livestock predation. They have been killed for many years prior to this year, even though they were listed under the ESA. The control actions were carried out by the USFWS. If you want to go do a little research here is a good website: http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/. Go read up on the Annual Reports.

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  3. *Takes Breath*
    8) Cows do not consume the vast majority of available grasses on public allotments. Ever heard of stubble heights and utilization measurements? There are very strict management and monitoring markers that are in place that ensure that federal lands grazing does not over utilize an area.

    9) Wolf predation is only a fraction of the overall losses, but they do represent a significant portion of the losses on livestock that are located in areas where wolves were reintroduced. Most of these depredations are not caused by poor ranching practices, but hungry wolves. And where is the support that the ranching community is responsible for the illegal killing of the Mexican Grey wolves you cited? Could it be that it was mostly poachers instead?

    10) The wolf hunting season in Montana and Idaho was mostly to 1) help stabilize or reverse crashing elk populations caused primarily by an increase in wolf populations 2) help generate revenue lost by a reduction of elk populations and 3) help to keep wolves away from communities and ranches (depredation of both pets and livestock is a problem in certain areas).

    11) This is not the first year that wolves were killed due to livestock predation. They have been killed for many years prior to this year, even though they were listed under the ESA. The control actions were carried out by the USFWS. If you want to go do a little research here is a good website: http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/. Go read up on the Annual Reports.

    12) Cows, sheep and other animal that graze suffer because of cactus? The temperature only reaches 100 degrees on public land. Come on. Cactus lives on private land as well as public land. To my knowledge, temperature patters don’t follow fences. What has any of this to do with public grazing? Would you rather have them cooped up like sardines on some factory farm in the Midwest where they get to lay in their manure all day, eating out of a trough? I’ll take my beef free-ranged, thank you.
    Biased articles such as this give little credence to the folks that spend their time on the ground attempting to manage this nation's public lands for what is in the best interest of the entire public, not just a few select special interest groups. In addition, the distortions, misrepresentations and outright pandering used in articles like this not only damage your credibility, but it legitimately harms the entire movement; most who are truly informed on the subject and are attempting to initiate change for the benefit of everyone, not just their clique.

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  4. I could take a breath also but I'll just stop at disputing one of the above "facts" mitochondrial DNA proves the wild horses are indeed native and not just invaders brought over with the Spanish.

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  5. Really? What is your source on that assertion?

    From Wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mustang_(horse)):
    "Mustangs are often referred to as wild horses but, since all free-roaming horses now in the Americas descended from horses that were once domesticated, the more correct term is feral horses.[1]
    .......
    Today, the only true wild horse is the Przewalski's Horse, native to Mongolia. However, the horse family Equidae and the genus Equus evolved in North America. Studies using ancient DNA as well as DNA of recent individuals shows there once were two closely related horse species in North America, the "wild horse" (Equus ferus) and the "Stilt-legged Horse;" which is taxonomically assigned to various names.[4][5] Thus, primitive horses lived in North America in prehistoric times. However, the entire equus genus died out at the end of the last ice age around 10-12,000 years ago, possibly due to a changing climate or the impact of newly-arrived human hunters.[6] Thus at the beginning of the Columbian Exchange, there were no equids in the Americas at all. Horses first returned with the Conquistadors, beginning with Columbus, who imported horses from Spain to the West Indies on his second voyage in 1493.[7] Domesticated horses came to the mainland with the arrival of Cortés in 1519.[8]

    The first Mustangs descended from Iberian horses[9] brought to Mexico and Florida. Most of these horses were of Andalusian, Arabian and Barb ancestry. Some of these horses escaped or were stolen by Native Americans, and rapidly spread throughout western North America."

    If it were not for human intervention, there would be no feral horses in North America.

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  6. Hi anonymous, I am the author of this article. My responses below.

    Part One:

    1) An AUM has nothing to do with the amount of vegetation. It is a unit (equal to a cow/calf pair or a bull) to which is used as the basis for charging ranchers to use public lands. Not knowing this basic fact makes it difficult to take you seriously on your other 'facts'.
    I think it is you who does not know the facts. According to the Government Accounting Office (GAO), an AUM is “the amount of forage (vegetation such as grass and shrubs) that a cow and her calf eat in a month (or one bull, one steer, one horse, or five sheep).” http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d05869.pdf (page 2). Are you challenging the government’s definition of an AUM?

    2) Horses and Burros are not wild. They are feral. In case you did not know, horses and burros were introduced to North America by the Spanish. In fact, if wanted to us a very clear definition of these animals, ‘invasive species’ fits best.

    Wild horses were a part of the American landscape for millennia. The horses living on public lands today are direct descendents of the horses who once roamed these areas http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/magazine/ma05/indepth.

    You call them “invasive species.” But doesn’t the term better describe the cows and other animals, who have never been a part of the American landscape, and are being grazed for slaughter on these public lands? Wild horses are a proud and honored part of the West, and deserve to be left alone. Not captured and confined at taxpayer’s expense simply to benefit a few ranchers.

    3) Here is a little info on how the law defines the grazing fees. http://www.idrange.org/fact-sheet-blm-grazing-management. As a note, the law was never set up to match expenditures with revenue from grazing.

    Yes, there is a law that defines what the grazing fees – which was enacted to benefit public lands ranchers. That still doesn’t address the fact that grazing fees are much higher on private and some state lands, and taxpayers pay hundreds of millions of dollars each year to support a small number of public lands ranchers (half of which are “hobbyists”).

    4) Your numbers don't add up. If the federal government issued 22.6 million AUMs @ $1.35/AUM (minimum set by law) that is $30.5 Million, not the $21 Million you report.

    The $1.35 is the current set price per AUM, which is lower than the price charged in 2004. This is clearly stated in the article. The GAO numbers are here: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d05869.pdf (page 5). Do you have information to the contrary?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Part two:

    5) When a species is taken off the ESA, management is automatically given to the states. These were not two separate decisions.

    This is not true. Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), animals are still protected, even if they are not longer listed as “endangered.” Salazar did give the specifically give the states management control http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/13/AR2009031303211_2.html (bottom of page).

    6) Predators are no longer ‘eradicated’. Problem animals that depredate on livestock are often killed, but there are no wholesale slaughters of these animals. Most coyote, wolf, bear, mountain lion, bobcat populations are all holding steady or even increasing in states where federal grazing is prominent.

    Again, this is not true. There is an agency that does this http://www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage. Wolves and other predators are routinely killed to support public lands cattle ranching. This should not happen. Wolves, grizzle bears and jaguars were wiped out from their habitats to make room for cattle ranching. Are you trying to deny that the government did not killed off most of these animals?

    Reintroduced wolves are routinely killed, and yes, often it is often due to poor ranching practices http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/opinions/articles/1217mon1-17.html.

    7) Most of the historical Black Tailed Prairie Dog habitat is in areas that are mostly private lands (MT, ND, SD, WY, KS, NB, OK, TX, CO) and has little to do with public lands grazing.

    Again, this is not correct. http://www.sagebrushsea.org/pdf/factsheet_Grazing_Ecological_Impacts.pdf

    Maybe some of the remaining habitats might be in these areas, but considering that 98% of prairie dog town have been destroyed, you don’t have a lot of ground to stand on.

    8) “ But the truth is, most of today's public lands ranchers have never seen the areas they graze in a natural, healthy state” Natural and Healthy? This is just a nice stereotypical buzz-phrase that does nothing to quantify the relative health of any area.

    If you have you ever been to the West, you would see the striking differences between areas that are grazed and areas that have not been grazed. Bruce Babbitt, former Interior Secretary and Governor of Arizona, and who comes from a family of cattle ranchers, describes this in his 2005 book Cities In The Wilderness: A New Vision Of Land Use In America. There is photographic evidence everywhere online.

    9) Cows do not consume the vast majority of available grasses. Ever heard of stubble heights and utilization measurements? There are very strict management and monitoring markers that are in place that ensure that federal lands grazing does not over utilize an area.

    The vast majority of animals now on our public lands are cows. As such, they eat most of the grasses. Nobody challenges this.

    10) Wolf predation is only a fraction of the overall losses, but they do represent a significant portion of the losses on livestock that are located in areas where wolves were reintroduced. Most of these depredations are not caused by poor ranching practices, but hungry wolves. And where is the support that the ranching community is responsible for the illegal killing of the Mexican Grey wolves you cited? Could it be that it was mostly poachers instead?

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  8. Part Three:

    I addressed the poor ranching practices earlier. The Fish and Wildlife Service agrees that wolf predation is an insignificant threat to cattle ranchers, yet, has a program that pays them for any wolf depredation http://www.fws.gov/Endangered/bulletin/99/03-04/24-25.pdf.

    Public lands ranching communities have been the most vocal opponents of wolf reintroduction of the. Thirty-one Mexican grey wolves have been illegally shot and killed since they were reintroduced in 1998. The selling of pelts is a non-issue. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “Mexican Wolf Blue Range Reintroduction Project Statistics,” Retrieved 05 April 2010 from: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/pdf/MW_mortality.pdf.


    11) The wolf hunting season in Montana and Idaho was mostly to 1) help stabilize or reverse crashing elk populations caused primarily by an increase in wolf populations 2) help generate revenue lost by a reduction of elk populations and 3) help to keep wolves away from communities and ranches (depredation of both pets and livestock is a problem in certain areas).

    Both states cited cattle depredation as a primary reason they needed to “control” wolf populations. Again, the FWS says that wolf predation is an insignificant threat to ranchers, and even has a program that pays those who have had livestock killed by wolves http://www.fws.gov/Endangered/bulletin/99/03-04/24-25.pdf.

    12) Cows, sheep and other animal that graze suffer because of cactus? The temperature only reaches 100 degrees on public land. Come on. Cactus lives on private land as well as public land. To my knowledge, temperature patters don’t follow fences. What has any of this to do with public grazing? Would you rather have them cooped up like sardines on some factory farm in the Midwest where they get to lay in their manure all day, eating out of a trough? I’ll take my beef free-ranged, thank you.
    Biased articles such as this give little credence to the folks that spend their time on the ground attempting to manage this nation's public lands for what is in the best interest of the entire public, not just a few select special interest groups. In addition, the distortions, misrepresentations and outright pandering used in articles like this not only damage your credibility, but it legitimately harms the entire movement; most who are truly informed on the subject and are attempting to initiate change for the benefit of everyone, not just their clique.

    Have you ever been to the West and seen cows on public lands? Especially in the desert? The overwhelming majority of land that is grazed in the West is public, not private, land. Cows suffer in the heat, and are often covered with cacti. This has to do with public lands grazing because the conditions the cows live in are atrocious.

    The only distortions, misrepresentations and pandering I see was done by you. Btw, what is your connection to public lands ranching?

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  9. 1) You are correct on your definition, although, an AUM is not tied into a specific amount of forage.

    2) Your link does not work.

    3)Fees are higher on private lands because they are oftentimes irrigated pastures, with much more forage available for use. Plus you don't have to comply with governmental bureaucracy and the public when you graze on private lands. Lastly, access to the area is oftentimes much easier for private lands. Forcing ranchers to pay the same cost for much less forage and more bureaucracy and tougher access will be a sure way to ensure that no one uses public lands for grazing.

    4)My information to the contrary was included by simply multiplying the minimum cost of AUM ($1.35) times the reported number of AUMs. These are both numbers you and the GAO reported. Something does not add up, so of course this has raised a red flag.

    5)From you link, "But Barkoff indicated that Salazar plans to let Idaho and Montana take control of the wolves' welfare," This 'plan' was caused by the action of delisting and not by some other, separate decision. If this had to be a seperate decision from the delisting, why did the states wolf management plans have to be submitted and approved prior to delisting (and subsequently, why Wyoming was left out of the delisting notice).

    6) Your link does not show any evidence of eradication. As I have said, problem animals are killed, but populations of species are in no way eradicated. If fact, is says one of the goals is to protect natural resources, which includes wildlife If you think about it, eradicating these populations are a surefire way to make sure then end up on the Endangered Species List and would make it much more difficult to deal with problem animals.

    And name one case where the reintroduced wolves were killed as a part of a control action that did not first depredate on livestock. You cannot do it because it never happened. Wolves could be killed only after a necropsy was confirmed by USFW agents. Saying that wolves are killed to 'support' livestock operations is attempting to misguide the reader. And there is no denying that 60 and 70 years ago, the goerement exterminated entire populations. However, it is asnine to think that current management practices have evolved during that time.

    And again, your link to poor ranching does not work.

    7) Again, your link does nothing to contradict my claim the most of the habitat of the black-tailed prairie dog is located in areas that have very little federal public lands grazing. Just overlay the map of federal public land open to grazing with the historic PD habitat and you will see what I mean. Next overlay it with the private/state land. It will be easy to see that the vast majority of this habitat loss is due to private ranching, not federal public lands grazing. You are comparing apples and oranges here.

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  10. 8) I live in the West. In a state that is approximately 70% owned by the Federal Government. As I said, there are impacts to grazing and not everyone does a good job to protect public lands. However, to argue that all grazing in federal lands should be halted is just as short-sighted as those that over utilize their grazing allotments. And of course there is photographic evidence of this. There are quite a number of environmental groups that make their living off of this kind of stuff. Donations to their cause depends upon them 'bringing home the bacon'.

    Just because you tend to believe Babbitt (pretty much the founder of the War on the West) and the Center for Biological Diversity, does not make what they say or believe inherently correct. In fact, you might be interested in a little snafu that the CBD instigated and where they got caught by a rancher willing to fight back.
    http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/2005-05-26/news/the-rancher-s-revenge/

    9) So just because they are cows, they eat the vast majority of the grass? Doesn't matter how they are dispersed, how long they are on the range, topography, weather, location of streams/water troughs or any other externality? And how much of the grass that grows is not ate at all? There is no natural law that I am aware of that states that all grass that grows must be ate before the end of the year. Lastly, the Appeal to Popularity is considered a fallacy.

    10) Again, your link did not come through. Give me an alternate method (Google search and number of links down should work). It is true that ranchers are vocal about wolf reintroduction. They have much to lose and very little to gain. To be reimbursed for any livestock losses, they have to be confirmed by a necropsy by a USFWS agent. Finding a bloody ear tag and wolf prints do not count. Having the kill labeled as a 'probable wolf kill' does not count. And then they are only reimbursed for the cost of a replacement calf, not what the full grown steer/cow would have brought to market at selling time.

    Poaching is rarely about pelts. Poaching can be for anything, even just the fun of shooting something alive.

    11)I see that you have not actually read either state's wolf management plan. Go look at the Goals and Objectives of Idaho's plan and count how many times you see 'depredation' or 'livestock'. Next count how many times 'big game populations' appear. (http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/wildlife/wolves/manage/PopManagePlan.pdf)

    12) I’ve run cows out on public land here in the west, and in very arid areas (rainfall under 7in/yr). I have yet to see a cow covered in cacti (and yes we have them here). From where I am at, they run the cows up in the mountains hills where it is typically much cooler than in the bottom of the valleys and canyons. To me, it would seem like that it would be a great way to beat the heat.

    I grew up in a county that is about 90% federally owned where ranching, mining, and logging were very prominent. Now I watch this nation import nearly all of our metals from countries that have very questionable (or no) environmental safeguards, sawmills are being closed every day as we import more and more from Canada and China, and now even ranching is under attack by those that are not willing to differentiate between legitimate poor land management practices and a real sustainable industry.

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  11. HOORAY ANONYMOUS!! On another note, Ms. Rhoads, you need to READ the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act... You state WRONGLY: "For years, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has rounded up wild horses and burros, in violation of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971". Read it instead spewing propaganda!

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  12. Fantastic article. Very informative. Pay no attention to people who comment under "anonymous." Obviously they are not secure enough in their views to provide their real names or even pretend to have a name.

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