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Tag Archives: Livestock grazing

Sage Grouse Listing Denied

Today the US FWS announced today that the sage grouse, a once wide-spread bird of the West's sagebrush steppe, warranted listing under the Endangered Species Act, but would be “precluded”. A disjunct isolated sage grouse population along the California-Nevada border formerly known as the Mono Basin sage grouse was also determined to warrant listing but was precluded as well. Such a designation offers no protection to the bird.

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Cows or Condos: A False Choice Between Public Lands Ranching and Sprawl

The land area utilized for livestock production-including rangelands, pasture, and the production of forage crops (corn, soybeans, alfalfa, etc.)-occupies 65-75 percent of the total U.S. acreage, excluding Alaska, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics ( USDA 1997b). Four crops account for approximately eighty percent of all acreage planted per year in this country: hay, corn, soybeans, and wheat. All but wheat are grown primarily to feed livestock (USDA 1997a). In comparison, (and again, not counting Alaska), the amount of land taken up by sprawl and development is slightly more than four percent (USDA 1997a). In the West, urban and suburban landscapes, including fairly low-density subdivisions, occupy an even smaller fraction of land than in the country as a whole. Sprawl, though a serious and usually permanent blight where it occurs, is not the major ecological threat to the natural systems of the West for the very reason that it is-despite the connotation of the term-confined to a limited area.

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Montana An Accomplice To Grayling Extinction

Relics of the West's Ice Age past, Arctic grayling are in precipitous decline and their last refuge in the Lower 48 is in western Montana. While some biologists believe the fish's disappearance from certain river systems is natural, owed to naturally warmer water temperatures, other scientists say that dewatering for irrigation, siltation and pollution from cattle grazing, logging, and mining, as well as armoring of stream banks which has changed the hydrologic flows of rivers, is to blame. Global warming can then be thrown on top. In the column that follows from George Wuerthner, the conservation activist, photographer and provocateur, sets out to make a case for listing the grayling under Endangered Species Act protection. Here, in a unique twist, not only is Mr. Wuerthner a proponent of listing grayling, but he has been one of the activists who petitioned to make it happen. Do you agree?

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Guest Column: We Ought Not Grow Cows In Dry West

In a notoriously dry region like the American West, guest columnist George Wuerthner minces no words when it comes to the suitability of turning domestic livestock loose on the public range: Cattle and sheep, he says, do not belong. Portraying beef cows as a yoke hanging around the necks of wild ecosystems and fragile natural resources, he says livestock production is "by far the worse environmental catastrophe to befall the West." It's especially bad, he claims, because of the natural aridity. In an age of global warming when hotter temperatures are expected to cook the deserts even more, and where even wetter places will endure rises in heat that last longer and suck the moisture out of the ground faster, he believes it's time for society to truly assess if the mythical land of cowboys is really a good place to produce red meat. -Todd Wilkinson

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A Few Rambles On The Virtues Of Living In Town

As home-grown Westerners and transplants alike continue to flood rural and exurban landscapes in the Rockies pursuing the so-called American lifestyle dream, their presence is creating unprecedented conflict of an ecological, social, and fiscal kind. With more people building homes in historic flood plains and wildland-urban interfaces, they are asking that rivers be armored with riprap and wildfires be snuffed out. On wildlife winter ranges, their residences are displacing elk and other species. By overtaking productive ag lands, escalating real estate prices are making it difficult for younger farmers and ranchers to carry on in the face of higher taxes and carved up landscapes. And with more people escaping to the hinters, taxpayers are being asked to foot higher bills for police and fire protection, new schools, and city services that aren't covered by property tax revenues. In this essay, writer, biologist, conservation activist and local property owner George Wuerthner renews the call for people who care about saving the best of the Wild West and rural America in general to live in town.

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America Is Paying A Steep Price For Cheap Food

George Wuerthner has been called a brilliant provocateur who knows how to get under the skin of Western ranchers. With this essay, one that is certain to incite a strong reaction from readers, he examines the costs of America's cheap food policy on both the U.S. Treasury and the environment. Wuerthner writes: "Agriculture is the most destructive land use in America." As an activist, trained biologist, photographer and environmental writer, he has become a prominent figure in the campaign to eliminate livestock from public lands. The author of several dozen books, Wuerthner also has written prolifically about forest ecology, wildfire, the impacts of ATVs and, of course, the effects of non-native cattle and sheep on native species. His coffee-table picture book,Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West, set off a firestorm of debate over the impacts of livestock and the multiple ways that beef production is subsidized by U.S. taxpayers. His most recent book is Wild Fire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy. With this first piece, NewWest.Net is debuting a regular column from Mr. Wuerthner that will run twice a month on all things nature-related and anything that suits his fancy.

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