[Cdt-l] Ranchers

Trekker4 at aol.com Trekker4 at aol.com
Thu Nov 5 09:37:06 CST 2009


Great post, Steady! I'm sometimes a confrontational person, especially when 
 it comes to government, but have mellowed a bit as I get older.
 
Bob  "Trekker"
Big Bend Desert Denizen, and...
Naturalized Citizen - Republic  of Texas  

 
In a message dated 11/5/2009 9:20:42 A.M. Central Standard Time,  
rbelshee at hotmail.com writes:

Perhaps  some perspective would be useful. One approach is to ready oneself 
to  argue that the land is public and the ranchers do not have the right to 
 
keep you off of their property. Another is to gain some understanding of  
the 
ranchers' perspective.

Remember that the history of land  ownership in the West was that the 
government would grant you property if  you agreed to develop it. That 
starts 
with the Spanish Land Grants that  even predate the founding of the US (and 
are still recognizable on maps  because they do not have the familiar 
section/township grid pattern  established by the US). It was especially 
true 
when the US government  wanted to expand and populate the west. Land grants 
were the key to  getting settlers to move west. The deal was simple:  
promise 
to make  it productive land and it is yours for free.

Remember as well that in  most western states, the federal government still 
owns more than half the  land. In some areas they own over 80%. The Bureau 
of 
Land Management was  established to put that land into productive use 
(hence 
the nickname  Bureau of Livestock and Mining). Ranchers were encouraged to 
take what was  then considered unproductive land and develop it.

Today we have a  different perspective of land stewardship, and BLM policy 
is 
shifting  towards more balanced use of the land. Regardless, it is 
important 
to  understand that part of the culture of the west was based on a very 
strong  public policy of exploiting the land to harness it for productive  
use.

Most of these ranches were started several generations ago.  They took 
unfertile, unproductive land and dug wells, put in fences and  roads, and 
made it useful. They have fulfilled their end of the public  bargain for 
generations, and their ancestors are buried on that  land.

Keep this in mind when talking with the ranchers. Of course  public policy 
has shifted. We now can look at the original land grants as  stealing from 
the Native Americans. We can look at the cattle grazing as  ecological 
damage. We can look at the ranches as federal subsidies for the  beef 
industry. While these views have merit, so to does the point that  these 
ranchers have very much loyally served our public policy since long  before 
any of us were born.

We need to be careful to not have a  negative image of the ranchers. As I 
spoke with ranchers they were more  keenly aware of ecological concerns 
than 
many backpackers. On a simple  level, they are the ones who clean up the 
trash and debris from  trespassers and illegal migrant workers. But they 
are 
also the ones whose  cattle wells support the finches and other wildlife. 
Many are keenly  interested in the trail. At least one even re-ties the 
surveying flagging  tape that marks the trail over his ranch after 
windstorms 
rip it  down.

>From the ranchers perspective, this is their land.   Their situation is 
analogous to the land grants, except that the federal  government retained 
ownership to the land. Many would buy the land, but it  is not for sale. 
This 
is where they have lived for generations, and they  have developed they 
land 
with no help from anyone else. Now we show up and  demand that we have the 
right to trespass on their land.

While you  can attempt to "educate" the farmers on the legal status, they 
already  know more than you do on the legal status and that approach is  
confrontational rather than productive. Instead, start with understanding  
their perspective and ask their thoughts on how the trail should be  
managed. 
Starting from there I found several who were actively engaged  locally, 
some 
to help the trail and some to keep the trail off of their  property. Either 
way, once engaged they would help with suggestions of  routes and water 
sources. And either way, rather than confrontation, we  were just people 
coming to understand each other better. In the long run,  that will be what 
is best for both the ranchers and the  trail.

Steady (07)  

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