[Cdt-l] Fwd: : wild horse roundup

Jim and_or Ginny Owen spiriteagle99 at hotmail.com
Thu Dec 30 00:07:03 CST 2010

Bim - 
I should really stay out of this, but --- I've been through this discussion before and I just can't resist 
instigating.  Not gonna write anything myself except to point out that without the ranchers - and the 
cattle, there would be no CDT.  It's the ranchers who provide the water sources for both the cattle 
and the hikers.  

What I am gonna do here is to fill a lot of space with an article that appeared in the High Country News 
in Colorado about 8 years ago.  But I'm gonna redact the name of the author for both obvious and 
non-obvious reasons.  And I'm gonna add that what he says here is exactly what I've seen happen to 
some places along the CDT. 
Y'all have fun with it - I have other things to do for a while. 
A message to environmentalists from a wildlife biologist 

I should confess up-front that, although I'm an environmentalist and a
wildlife biologist at a Western university, I admire ranchers. I should
further confess that I live on a small piece of property near real ranches--
ones big enough to be home to cattle and the shy kind of wildlife you don't
see on smaller places. 

My wife and I try to pay our dues for living among these large and beautiful
pieces of land by helping our neighbors. We keep up our irrigation ditches,
we keep weeds off our property, and we lease our grass and water to them. 
I confess these things because I know that my corner of Colorado would be
better off if our place were to be part of a larger piece of neighboring
land. It would be less fragmented and more attractive to the kind of
wildlife -- songbirds and carnivores -- that shuns land with roads and cats
and dogs and houses and lights. 

I make those confessions in the hope that my fellow environmentalists who
are intent on pushing cattle off the West's 420,000 square miles of public
land will make a confession of their own. I hope they will confess that
their "cattle-free" movement has absolutely nothing to do with the health of
the land and everything to do with their selfish desire to recreate on the
public land. I would like them to also confess that through their
short-sighted desire to walk on trails free of cow pies, they are helping to
subdivide the West. 

I am convinced that the cattle-free people have struck an unholy alliance
with developers. Under their pious statements about "saving the land" and
punishing "welfare ranchers," they are playing into the hands of the boomers
who would turn the open spaces we love and prize into a sea of malls and
roads and housing developments. 

How can this be? The devil is in the details. Late each winter, the mother
cows in the West drop their calves. Some of those cow-calf pairs, as they
are called, spend the summer on private lands and are sold in the fall. But
on the 21,000 cattle ranches that have federal grazing allotments, cow-calf
pairs get trailed onto Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management land,
where they spend summers and part of the fall. 

During that time, the ranchers generally raise hay on their private,
irrigated property. This is the property Westerners see every day. It is our
best watered land, with the deepest soils. It is the land our most desirable
wildlife prefers to use. Deer and skunks and raccoons will happily live in
subdivisions. But bobcats and yellow warblers will only live on unfragmented
land, such as ranches. 

In the fall, the cows and their now 600-pound calves are brought back to the
ranch. The calves are sold; the mother cows live through the winter on the
hay raised the previous summer, and the cycle begins again. 
The point of this story is that the 170,000 square miles of private
ranchland and the 420,000 square miles of grazed federal lands are a unit.
Drive cattle off the public lands, and you've driven them off the private
lands. And once they're off the private lands, the ranchers can do nothing
in most cases but sacrifice that land for development. Cows won't graze the

That's the argument. We need to keep the productive and private
low-elevation lands in ranching to protect diverse wildlife. Our
high-elevation public lands are beautiful. But for the most part, they are
the leavings of the homestead era. The homesteaders took the land with the
best water and richest soils, and left us the rest. Those leftovers can't
support diverse wildlife by themselves. 

What about subsidies for cattle ranchers? It's a fair question, since
grazing permits are relatively inexpensive. But we should also ask: What
about "welfare recreationists?" Recreation is the West's most subsidized
activity. Even with the controversial federal-fee system, recreationists who
climb mountains, who snowmobile, who gape at Yellowstone's wonders, who fish
our streams, pay hardly anything for those activities. 

Some recreationists pay back indirectly. They buy fishing gear and backpacks
and snow machines, and food and gas and lodging in small towns near public
land. Some of them, recognizing their responsibilities, build trails and
pick up other recreationists' trash. They organize into groups to protest
mining and logging and dam building. They pay their way, more or less. 
In the same way, ranchers who have federal grazing leases pay their way.
They keep their private land In open space for us to look at and for
wildlife to live on. It's a more than fair trade. I hope that someday,
before they've helped to destroy the West, the cattle-free environmentalists
come to understand that. 



From: edkerr52 at hotmail.com
To: blisterfree at yahoo.com; cdt-l at backcountry.net
Date: Wed, 29 Dec 2010 19:31:27 -0700
Subject: Re: [Cdt-l] Fwd: : wild horse roundup

Your comment about wild horses are better for the range than cattle is not true. If wild horses are left unchecked, nature is the cruelist manager of all, overpopulation results in herd management by starvation or disease.  You have a biased attitude toward cattle and the industry, using the word "rancher" as some would use the "n" word.  I love the land, I enjoy ranching in the desert southwest, and I think we as a nation should use our resources, such as BLM range, to the best use which includes sustainable ag.  Some would have us lock up everything and not use it.  In that case, their would be no wildlife or wild horses in the west due to lack of water resources, which have been provided by cattle ranchers and maintained by those ranchers.  The CDT trail through Hidalgo County is over 75 miles with no water sources, other than those provided by cattle water, which provides this life giving liquid to deer, antelope, quail, javelina, mountain lion, and much more...
I would be glad to visit with you.  I would love to show you our part of the CDT trail through our cattle ranch.  We maintain cattle numbers to not use more than 50% of the forage and grasses that grow each year from natural rainfall.  The grass stays healthy and the cattle do well, along with all the wildlife.  We rotate our cattle through different pastures throughout the year, so that some pastures are rested 6 months or more each year.  No modern  rancher would ever overgraze.  In fact, it is impossible to overgraze, cows die before they eat all the grass or destroy it.  In a drought, the feed value of the feed goes down and the cattle lose condition, we always sell off our herd during dry years.  To do otherwise would be suicidal in a business sense.
Have you been through the CDT?

Ed "Bim" Kerr
Kerr Ranch Tours
edkerr52 at hotmail.com


> Date: Sat, 25 Dec 2010 23:52:57 -0500
> From: blisterfree at yahoo.com
> To: cdt-l at backcountry.net
> Subject: Re: [Cdt-l] Fwd: : wild horse roundup
> When we cut through the rhetoric, we recognize that wild horses, while 
> not indigenous to the West, are nonetheless ancestral to western North 
> America, and that the land is far more suited to their style of grazing 
> than that of today's beef cow. Of course the BLM's notion of 
> "sustainable conditions" is largely an economic principle. The grazing 
> allotment is for the benefit of the beef ranching industry, and that 
> industry, subsidized by the BLM, gets to decide when and with what they 
> share their range. From their point of view, overpopulation is mostly a 
> synonym for economic threat. But of course from a biological 
> perspective, overpopulation by cattle is simply the devastating status 
> quo that is pushing the land to the brink, evolving it to shape the 
> requirements of an industry at the expense of native biodiversity. The 
> industry's defense remains that this status quo is necessary, because 
> the only perceived alternative, however false, is for the rancher to 
> abandon his relationship with the land, to give up ranching altogether. 
> And this false binary logic maintains a culture of permissiveness on the 
> part of BLM out of fear of damaging the relationship, of losing what 
> little faith and cooperation the ranching industry continues to uphold 
> with the government.
> Had the wild horses of North America survived the last ice age, then 
> today we might be eating horse burgers and reading about how the 
> natives, skilled equestrians, successfully drove off the invading 
> Conquistadors and their cattle. Food for thought.
> - blisterfree
> _______________________________________________
> Cdt-l mailing list
> Cdt-l at backcountry.net
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