If you really care about environmental impact of cattle on public lands stop eating meat. Animal products contribute almost 20% of the carbon footprint on this planet as well as destroy public lands, threaten wildlife and erode land, waste and pollute water. Raising animals for meat is a stinky business. As K.D. Lang once said "Meat stinks."
No mention in this article about how the cattle industry/ranchers have worked so diligently and successfully to push the wild horses and burros off of the public lands so that they can graze their "stink'n" cattle on the cheap. While these iconic and beautiful animals are rounded up, scared and tortured and eventually sold to the public (where they no longer are "wild") or slaughtered and sold for dog food by people who see them as varmint (BLM and Dept of Interior), the media acts as a propaganda machine for the ranchers by telling the public that the horses/burros are destroying the western lands from overgrazing, failing to inform that there are less than 50,000 wild horses/burros in all of the western states and there are 4-5 million (or more) cattle on public lands. There may be some "conservation" groups out there working with some of the ranchers. There may be some ranchers that sincerely care about environmental issues (including the protection of wild horses/burros, mountain lions, wolves and bears) but who are we really kidding here? The numbers must be so small, the effect would be moot.
Fawn, you are delusional. Ranchers as a group have never been environmentalists. Far from it. There may be unique individuals who are considerate of the land's continuity, but from what I've seen in Arizona and read about in most of the West, ranchers have treated the land very badly with turning out way too many animals on their leased allotments. The San Simon Valley is a classic example. The Kofa Wildlife Refuge is another. The Kofa is where one of the Ferguson boys dumped a bunch of cows on that unique desert bighorn sheep habitat and hedged ever shrub on the Refuge. I doubt if it's recovered to this day. In Oregon, Gordon Meadows and Lava Lake, among other pastures, where destroyed by cattle. It's taken over 20 years after removing cattle from the Willamette National Forest to get the camas to grow back in the denuded hard pan that the cows tromped down. Now elk can graze there again. Public land would be way, way better off without any cowboys and sheepherders paying less than market grazing fees. The livestock industry slaughtered apex predators and is still fighting reintroduction of wolves and bans on hunting mountain lions with dogs in Oregon.
If by new things you mean invasive species and monoculture well, yes. But that's hardly a healthy ecosystem.
Ranchers have always been the real environmentalists. They need it right if they are to continue ranching. It's only since the wackos and psuedo enviros came a long that the public has been hoodwinked and sold a phoney bill of goods. ATVs, motorcycles and all off road vehicles, actually churn the soil and bring new things to life. Look at photos a couple months after the Barstow to Vegas races. It was beautiful carpeted with wild flowers.
How is that for enlightenment? "Back to the future."
The Malpais Borderlands Group is superb. Don't know about the Altar Valley one.
On the pipeline though, how does a buried pipeline fragment the landscape? Any one who's been there knows it's overgrazed dirt and scrub mescquites. No way digging a 15 foot wide trench and re-burying it is going to change much there.
Wouldn't it be nice to supply much needed natural gas to our friends in Mexico? Why is every project a big fight, no matter how small the project?
Keep those ATV,ORV, wantabe racers off the grasslands, desert flats and washes would make a big difference in the lands appearance and soil condition...
The Recreational Shooters, AKA old appliance killers, love to leave their spent shells , beer cans, old refrigerators, washer dryers etc on public -state trust land after they get done with their shoot fest.... The illegal aliens , BP and the party hunters leave their crap all over public and private land... lack of respect is the problem!!!!!!!!!!!!
There is a very good book that the author of this editorial should read titled: Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West.
I have to disagree with this article.
Let the Ranchers take care of their land however they want, but LEAVE MY PUBLIC LANDS ALONE! A healthy population of predators (wolves, lions, bears...) will do a better job of keeping grasslands healthy than any herd of cattle.
This article fails to interview a single dissenting voice. The Nature Conservancy can hardly be considered a ranching opponent, having long since adopted the hats and belts and cows on their own properties. Why not talk to a conservation advocate who opposes public lands livestock grazing and get to the "why" of their argument, instead of generally suggesting a polarity and then giving just one side of the story?
As someone who has worked for 9 years to end public lands ranching, I can assure you that not every operation is as well funded, well studied, or "progressive" as the situations described here. A majority of livestock grazing operations these days are corporations holding onto permits for tax breaks, water rights, or cheap feed. Feedlot operators turn cows out onto National Monuments because it's less expensive at $1.35 per month per cow on BLM lands than it is to feed them in their stinky CAFO. There is no happy medium in situations like this. No Ma-and-Pa Cowboy can keep thousands of head around waiting for enough winter annuals to support a range herd. There are only big industries looking at the bottom line.
Ot what about the lands that have already been degraded where the grass is gone and it isn't coming back? In agency-speak, this is having crossed a threshold. Their solution? Find some better areas that haven't been ruined yet, use taxpayer dollars to build new wells and pipelines and fences to bring water into those areas, and call it a "range improvement." No lie, I'm fighting a proposed $200,000 well that could dewater a riparian canyon that is home to endangered species all for the sake of a Superior Court Judge's hobby ranch in Graham County. Why should we be paying for that?
If that is cutting edge land management, we're all in trouble. It isn't, and this article fails miserably to portray the rule rather than the exceptions.
While I applaud efforts of some in the ranching industry to shake off a past of land destruction, sketchy business practices, direct killing of most large wildlife, and political strangle-holds, this is unfortunately still a rare breed.
Most of southern AZ is still heavily degraded by continued intensive grazing, causing the disappearance of grasslands, erosion of the best soil, and general loss of biomass, biodiversity, and enjoyable recreation opportunities.
While any cattle grazing in this region causes land degradation over no cattle grazing, better practices by a few ranchers can keep land in relatively healthy state. I am very thankful for efforts like restoration, returning fire to grasslands, protecting threatened species, and fighting development and of course terrible plans like a giant gas pipeline through southern AZ's premier semi-desert grassland valley.
Cooperation is an excellent objective, and there are ranchers who have an awareness that belies the history of livestock grazing on public land.
Historically livestock grazing denuded public land with many grazing lessees exceeding the number of permitted animals two and three fold. The result was destroyed public land, particularly in arid parts of the U.S.
Livestock men hornswaggled the Arizona State Land Department to sell off State School Trust Lands at pennies on the dollar, when Obed Lassen was the Commissioner.
Even today there is a resurrection of efforts to demand that the U.S. Government transfer ownership / management of vast tracts of public land to state governments with the expressed purpose of privatizing those lands, i.e. selling the land to livestock interests. That would be a tragic course of events and must not be allowed to happen.
While I am encouraged by cooperation among some ranchers with environmental organizations and land management agencies, I am not convinced that the whole industry is anything but the abusers of public land that they have been for the past century.
Glad to see a thoughtful well-researched article on ranching. My wife and I have been supporters of the Malpai group for years. Bill McDonald is one of the finest people in Cochise County. He treats the land with love and respect. I wish the Altar valley folks success in their efforts. Real ranchers have known for a long time that healthy grasslands are essential to their success.
Hometown girl? Check. Politically aware and active, generous with her time and energy & engaged with worthwhile causes? Check. Nice person? Undoubtedly; I'm sure she's a lovely person. She's recorded a lot of pleasant pop/rock music, she has an appealing voice, and at least one of her old 45s is a genuine classic. BUT...
Can any of the readers here watch those two videos and then explain to me why someone whose understanding of her material, and her emotional investment in it, seems to be on a par with a little girl playing dress-up in a talent show should be feted for making a significant contribution to the tradition she's dabbling in? I've struggled with this for 20 years and I still don't understand.
She has been and always will be my saving angle. As an original member of the Village People (the construction worker) Linda's music has traveled the world with me. I am an unashamed besotted fan of Linda's. I have recently counted 18 CD's of hers in my collection and there are still the vinyls that I can't bear to part with, so I actually have duplicates of everything she did. Let's not forget that she was also the first to bring the old standards back into vogue. I still have the sheet music to Different Drum from 1976.
What a wonderful article, Dan! I always enjoyed reading your stories about Linda Ronstadt and learn something new about Tucson's favorite daughter.
Marty, let me help you with some numbers. New Trier Township HSD 203 which is located in the Chicago suburbs and has the best high schools in Illinois and some of the best in the nation spends $20,807 per student, and the average teacher compensation is $107,493 (2011 school year). The average teacher has 14.5 years of experience. Or look at what a private not for profit school again in Chicago, unburdened by collective bargaining agreements, politics, etc charges for tuition, $15,000 out of total expenditure of $20,000. In education as in most things in life, you get what you pay for. AZ has made the determination that it is not going to spend money on elementary and secondary education, that other things, like low taxes are more important. The unavoidable consequence is that we do not have the work force that will attract business, industry and jobs. When the decision makers are driven more by protecting values other than education that is the unavoidable result.
Marty, if you think $8,500 is a lot of money, I suggest you look at high performing districts around the country. $8,500 is not a lot of money outside of Arizona and Mississippi. You need to look beyond "any other local district."
I have been there contact me if you want to assemble a team to go back
So, what was the motel guy's name, Habibe, Mustafa ? I remember when they opened the dump over 40 years ago, sounds like nothing's changed.
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