Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Range tenants: Cattle and wildlife could benefit from program
Tribune Editorial
Salt Lake Tribune

State Sen. Dennis Stowell, R-Parowan, wants to take a number of trophy game tags away from the public and give them to groups of ranchers who have had grazing permits partially suspended, reducing the number of cattle they can run on public lands.
The grazing associations would then auction the hunting permits to wealthy hunters and use the proceeds to grow forage and develop water sources with a goal of improving the carrying capacity so their grazing permits can be restored in full.
At first glance, Stowell's proposed legislation sounds like a terrible idea. It seems like the little guy, the wildlife and Utah's arid, fragile public lands would be the losers. It sounds like the ranchers and the rich hunters would win again.
But what if Stowell's plan would benefit wildlife as well as cattle; Joe Hunter as well as Joe Rancher? What if it resulted in better habitat, more game animals and more permits to hunt them?
A similar program conducted by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources in cooperation with public land management agencies already exists. Permits are given to sportsmen and conservation organizations for auction, and the groups use the money for habitat improvement projects under the watchful eye of DWR.
But could projects be developed that would benefit both livestock and wildlife? State wildlife officials and federal land managers say yes.
And would the public accept more cattle on public lands? That's the great unknown.
Grazing on Utah's public lands is a touchy topic. They're marginal cattle range at best, easily damaged by plodding, four-footed plant processors. If wildlife and the environment were the sole considerations, you'd remove all livestock from the scene. But that's not going to happen.
Ranching is a Utah tradition, and in some locales an economic engine. And federal Bureau of Land Management property, by law, is managed for multiple uses, which puts cattlemen and conservationists at odds.
Stowell's proposal could bridge that gap. If he clones the existing state permit auction program, and requires habitat restoration projects that benefit livestock and wildlife equally, it could work.
For hunters, it would mean fewer permits now, with the potential for a lot more later. For grazing groups, it would mean the restoration of suspended grazing rights. And for the rest of us, a healthier economy, and healthier public lands to enjoy.
The senator should proceed, with caution. His proposal could be a winner . . . as long as there are no losers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think the plan has the potential to help all factions. But, contrary to what many assume, cattle are not always or necessarily a negative force!

Studies reveal that cattle, like the buffalo, as ruminants, can assist in keeping the environment healthy!

As to land as resource that could be BETTER utilized, especially on this HUNGRY PLANET, is the issue of rangeland. More than 1.1 billion acres are listed as grazing land, roughly one half of the entire area of the U.S. Out of that 787 million acres are considered rangelands (and 82% of these rangelands are located in the 17 western states); 131 million acres are pasturelands; 157 million are grazed forest lands and 64 millions acres are croplands. More than 85% of all grazing lands are not suited for crop production, according to the USDA.

Grazing rangelands can definitely be an environmentally SOUND management tool; it converts dry matter, that could be called FIRE HAZARDS, into a food source; ruminants can convert the roughage easily into muscle/meat. Too bad MORE cows haven't had access to some of the western hills and ranges that are now burning!!??

According to one Oregon range manager, "Without controlled grazing, the forage on public lands will become wolfy (Not succulent), [and] big game will move to private lands." Moreover, grazing protects the environment by "building soils, protecting water and riparian areas, and enhancing habitat."

Indeed, in parts of Canada, ranchers and farmers are PAID to take cattle, sheep, and goats into the mountains to help protect from major wildfires.

Wouldn’t that be a great PROTECTION tool for OUR mountain and hill regions?????

As to the relationship of cattle to wildlife?
More than 75% of ALL WILDLIFE IN the continental U.S. (excluding Alaska) is supported by PRIVATE, NOT PUBLIC land. Private land, eg: ranches and farmlands, provide habitat, water, wetlands, and food for big game and waterfowl. In the eastern U.S., that figure increases considerably; almost all wildlife is dependent on private lands. Most of the spawning and rearing habitat for migrating fish occur on PRIVATE ranch lands.

From 1960 – 1990, it was estimated by BLM that public lands (rangelands) had seen a marked improvement in habitat and herd restoration: elk populations had increased by nearly 800%, big horn sheep by 435%; antelope, by 112%, moose by 500%; and deer by 33%.