In response to Jim Pearson’s column about grazing on Public Lands dated Oct. 4, 2007, I would like to set the record straight on some of his false “blanket” statements.
His statement that “grazing on public lands always equals overgrazing” just isn’t true. The majority of cattlemen with Forest Service permits are responsible managers and follow the regulations set forth in their permit, such as: utilization standards, when to turn out, where to graze, when to remove and how many head are allowed.
Reading his comments one would get the impression that public lands grazing was free or very inexpensive. This too is a fallacy. Studies have been done that conclude it’s actually more expensive than renting private ground when you consider all costs such as trucking, fencing, water developments, rounding-up and losses of livestock from both predators and theft. It’s much easier to rustle cattle in remote public areas than from a fenced private pasture. Most ranchers I know would dearly love to own enough private ground for their grazing needs but this just isn’t possible in an area where government agencies own a majority of the land.
The money that is generated from grazing is just part of the benefits gained by the public when you consider fire protection by removal of flash fuels (dry grass), controlling noxious weeds (partly by grazing and partly by the rancher caring for his permit area), developing watering sites used by both livestock and wildlife, and an unpaid, knowledgeable “watchman” who patrols these areas with a respect for the welfare of the land.
There is actually a good marriage between public lands grazing and the rancher’s private ground. Deer prefer to winter at lower elevations (private ground) and summer at higher elevations (Forest Service ground). The same is true for livestock, which shared the early spring growth, the hayfields and haystacks on private ground and shares the higher elevation grasses on public ground.
If Mr. Pearson loves the area as he says, he should endorse Public Lands grazing to maintain these ranches as viable operations so it won’t be necessary to sell and subdivide them.
Chairman Public Lands Committee
Okanogan County Cattleman