Friday, July 31, 2009

The REAL Reason Behind the Push for Nevadas Removals and the People Behind the Push

In the Preliminary Environmental Assessments (EA's) for the Ely "gathers," buried within all the text claiming "rangeland declimation due to overpopulation of wild horses," (of course, no mention of any cows, who as we all know outnumber the horses by approximatley 200 to 1!) eluded to briefly in the paragraph (after pages and pages of text claiming "overpopulation of wild horses,).. the REAL reason behind the removals is given:

On the Seaman & White River EA, pg. 5 (top) and, on the Caliente (EA) pg. 1.o (top) it states:

" Implementation of the Proposed Action(s) are needed at this time to achieve and maintain established appropriate management levels, to improve watershed health, and .....(now get this:) to make "significant progress towards the achievement" of Mohave/Southern Great Basis Resource Advisory Council (RAC) Standards for Rangeland Health......

What is the Great Basin Restoration Project and what is their idea of "rangeland health and what are their plans and who are the people (Orgs) Behind the Push for the Plan?

Well it all started back in 1984 with the Southern Nevada Land Management Act
which led to the formation of the Eastern Nevada Landscape Restoration Project and which led to the formation of the

Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition

whos members are, among others;

Bighorns Unlimited, Bureau of Land Management, Ducks Unlimited-Nevada, Fraternity of the Desert Bighorn, Friends of Nevada Wilderness, Great Basin National Park, Mule Deer Foundation, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Nevada Cattlemen's Association, Nevada Farm Bureau Federation, Nevada Wool Growers Association, Red Rock Audubon Society, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and The Nature Conservancy-Nevada.

So now we can see the REAL reason they want the horses off the land, all boils down to "other" resouce managment (big game & duck hunting) and exploiting the land in new and expansive ways (mineral, mining, water resource development, wind farms, right of way lines for over and under the ground, and, of course, community development. There is alot of "land swapping" going on back in forth in Nevada between state and federal properties. It is an aligning of dark forces with their own ideas and agendas of what should be done with our public(and private) lands (ouch)and let us not forget about that all consuming monster of a law, "Eminent Domain." When the gov't want to get your land, there no stopping them. No one is immune to its bite.

For all the talk about rangeland restoration in these reports, there is no mention of how their plans will effect the status of the grazing permits that are allotted on these lands they intend to develop. My Best guess is that, once the horses are gone, the cows will "quietly" stay as development occurs around them. Some day they will be gone too, and that would be a shame also. There has to be a better way. We must find that "happy median" if either of them are to continue to exist.

Read more about these laws, the plans and the coalition. Chances are, something along these lines (of deception) may be going on in your neighborhood too.

Read More about it by clicking onto the post title above;

Extra! Extra! Read All About It: Sec of the Interior Warns Grazing Permit Holders Against the Selling, Sub-leasing or Transfer of Same

Houston Has a Good Idea back in 1918, but his message went unheeded.

Click on title above to see the Jan 13 1918 NY Times article;

*The selling and transfer of grazing permits continues on onto this day, thanks to a rider quietly slipped into the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934,.....grazing permits, in many cases, create a "vested interest" for the ranchers who hold them, with the full force and effect of a transferable title and are in fact a hot commodity and much desired in todays speculative market. Banks are taking them as colleradral for huge loans. Foreigners and other wealthy speculators are buying them them up whenever they can. Grazing permits and the rights they bestow to the holders are a "stock" perferred by the players second only to gold!

Once a grazing permit is issued, the value of the holders own home increases significanlty and, in many cases, the holder can do what he wants, will it, transfer it, sub-let it, sell it or DO NOTHING with it at all (let it remain un-used even for his own grazing!) Worse yet, if a grazing permit needs to be cancelled, the holder is entitled to compensation of the loss at full market value of his property!
Administration of the Grazing program cost taxpayers BILLIONS of dollars each is the biggest, most secretive social welfare program in the USA that benefits only a handful of ranchers. No wonder they refuse to give up ranching although their is little, if any, profit to be made. The permits they "hold or own" are worth infinately more than their cattle operations! No wonder they want to hold on to their permits even if they are not using them. Privately owned cows on our public lands are insurance, sort of like a bond held contigent upon transfer or sale. The cows MUST remain if the permits are to hold their value as "futures speculation."

Imagine the financial crisis that would be created for the holders (and all other interested and involved parties and/or speculators) if grazing permits were revoked!
The permits they hold, own or have a financial interest in would be rendered worthless and the value of the holders own properties would go waaay down.

Yes sir ree indeed. The "vested property interest" that comes along with these grazing permits gives new meaning to the name "stock-holder," and I dont mean the four-legged kind.

There should be NO DOUBT in any reasonable persons mind that Wall St and Big Banksters have a HUGE interest also in keeping privately owned cattle on our public long as they "hold the notes" or are somehow connected "financially interested parties"

Once again it boils down to self-dealing and enrichment schemes and we all know our govt in all of its branches (as well as wall st and the banks, which in fact as time has proven, IS our govt,)...has always been rife with secrecy, corruption and dirty dealing at public expense, but the Grazing Administration and the mis-managment and deception of the BLM take the proverbial cake, while the rest of us common-folk Americans get crummed.

Wake up Americans, its time to take our public lands back from the hands of the wealthy few. Do like former Sec of the Interior Huston advised us way back in 1913,...remove the "vested right" privlidge and forbid the transfer of grazing permits and mandate that they be used by the holder or lost.

Grazing Permits as Transferable Property Rights: The Latest "Hot Commodity" on the Market Today

Click on title above for a scholarly work tracing the roots of the biggest social welfare program in our county designed for a handful of govt ranchers at the expense of American taxpayers totaling MILLIONS of dollars a year!.

"Grazing Permits are Transferable Vested Property Rights" thanks to a Nevada Senator who quietly slipped in a rider to the 1934 Taylor Grazing Act! Public land grazing is not just about cows anymore,....its about commodity-trading in property rights, future development and exploitation of our public lands and, of course, profits! In order for those permits to retain their value,......the cows MUST remain, least for now. There is no doubt in my mind that we will soon see the day when there are no more cows on public lands. Of course they will have to be removed when all allotments have become the private property of the permit holders, the cows will eventually have to go.....when the contractors get ready to start developing the land. Although removing the cows would be a good thing, selling the rangeland to private investors is not. Of course, all other public access and activites will have to go also, and that is not a very good thing. The wild horses and all other public uses such as ORVs and ATVs will go too.

Thanks to the secret rider in the TGA, the instant a grazing permit is issued, the value of the holders personal real estate property significantly increases, as the permit is considered a part and parcel of his own domain.....the ranchers can assign, rent or sell it to whomever they dam well please...grazing permits are as good as gold and are in big demand for "futures speculation" and development.

Waste of the West; Chap. 2 / PUBLIC LANDS RANCHING TODAY

Privately owned sheep grazing on National Parklands

Note the overwhelming predominance of "range livestock" throughout the West; the major use of some of the "nonfarming" areas is also ranching.

From the good folks at Waste of the West

Public land does not belong to the government,
nor to ranchers,
nor to any other special interest group.

More than a century has passed since that first wave of grazing exploitation left the Western environment in shambles. Looking back on those reckless times, most of us believe things are much different now. The great trail drives and bloody range wars ended long ago. We rarely hear of cattle rustlers being shot, much less hanged. The clearest picture most of us have of living livestock these days is the sight of them grazing along rural roadsides.

Many things are indeed much different now.

On the other hand, the situation overall has actually changed very little, despite claims to the contrary by the ranching establishment. Though less blatant, stockmen's power remains similarly overwhelming. They use subtler and more palatable methods to achieve their goals, but retain political and social hegemony over most of the rural West. As the following analysis will show, the range itself is in many respects even more degraded than 100 years ago, as our natural resources continue to be plundered year after year. And, sorry to say, the public is now being swindled more than ever. (The many reasons for our collective misunderstanding of modern ranching are explored throughout this book.)

The West is literally covered with livestock, from the highest elevation tundra to the driest sagebrush basins ... Livestock graze seven out of every ten acres in the West ... --Florence Williams, "Who's at Home on the Range?" (Williams 1990a)

As it has been for a century, about 70% of the 11 Western states is "open range" managed for livestock ranching (Ferguson 1983). Basically, that's 7 of every 10 acres behind barbed wire fences with cattle, sheep, and/or other livestock grazing on them on some regular basis. That's roughly 525 million acres, representing more than 2 acres for every person in the United States.


Further, included in the ungrazed 30% of the West are inaccessible areas, dense forests and brushlands, the driest deserts, sand dunes, dry lake beds and salt flats, lava flows and cinder cones, extremely rocky areas, cliffs and mountaintops, cities and towns, roads and parking areas, airports, golf courses, your backyard, and every other place that cannot be used for livestock. In other words, in the American West almost every place that can be grazed is grazed. More than 2/3 of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Idaho is grazed, and if not for farmland and dense forest more than 2/3 of the West Coast states would be grazed too. Livestock graze in most grasslands, forests, brushlands, wetlands, and deserts in the West, on almost any land with enough forage or browse to keep a cow or sheep alive. (Navajo herders even carry small sheep up steep rock walls on their backs, one by one, to reach the grassy tops of mesas.)

(Image) Cattle and sheep are found nearly everywhere in the West.

Cattle strip vegetation from between irrigated date palms in Death Valley, CA -- the place with the overall highest summer temperatures and one of the lowest precipitations on Earth.

Of the grazed 70% of the West, 58% is publicly owned land used for commercial livestock. In other words, 41% of the West, or 306 million acres, is public land used for private ranching. An additional 5%, or 35 million acres, is grazed Indian reservation land.

Furthermore, the 11 Western states are home to about 98% of all public lands ranching in this country. The remaining 2% is mostly in the Midwest -- where about 325,000 BLM acres in 5 states and several million Forest Service acres (including National Grasslands) are grazed -and in the South, where roughly 1.7 million FS acres are open to ranching. An additional 100,000 or so acres of National Forest in the East and some other non-Western federal, state, and county lands are commercially grazed, as are about 8 million BLM acres by 17,400 reindeer in Alaska. (USDA, FS 1988; USDI, BLM 1988; and other federal publications)

Proportion of land owned by federal government (does not include state, county, and city land). Roughly 80% of this federal land and 70% of all land in the West is used for livestock.

Two government agencies administer 85% of Western public ranchland -- about 260 million acres, or an area the size of the 14 Eastern seaboard states plus Missouri. Of this 85%, the Bureau of Land Management administers 63% (163 million acres) and the Forest Service administers 37% (97 million acres). Roughly 90% of Western BLM and 70% of Western FS land is managed for ranching. There are 140 BLM resource areas (local divisions) in the West. Each is grazed by privately owned livestock. Likewise, commercial livestock are allowed and encouraged on all of the West's 102 National Forests. National Forests in 24 Eastern states also allow ranching. BLM land accounts for 61% and Forest Service land 39% of their combined livestock production. (1987 USDA and USDI publications).

BLM land, being the "land nobody wanted" (or, more properly, the land that was wanted least), generally is the least economically valuable land in the West. most is hot, dry, barren, rocky, and/or steeply sloped. Nonetheless, BLM administers many riparian areas, grasslands, and even forests. The lands administered by the Forest Service are of course mostly forested, but National Forests also include millions of acres of brushlands, shrublands, meadows, grasslands, and even deserts. Thirty percent of National Forest System land in the US is "open" rangeland (USDA, USDI 1979), and a forested area must be extremely thick with "dark timber" to be excluded from livestock grazing.

Publicly owned ranchlands also include many millions of acres of state, county, and even city lands; National Wildlife Refuges (administered by the US Fish & Wildlife Service); National Grasslands (FS); military reservations; and even some National Parks, Monuments, Recreation Areas, etc. (National Park Service); along with several million acres administered by several other federal agencies. Roughly half of designated Wilderness Areas (various federal agencies) are likewise grazed by livestock. Administration and management of these lands vary widely (see Chapter IX).

Our BLM lands of the West. Approximately 90% of their area is used for ranching, yet all this land produces only about 1.1% of US cattle and sheep. (USD4 map)

... the public rangelands exhibit examples of literally all of the recognized land forms ... [they] support all of the natural vegetation types known to the West....

--Fair Market Rental Value of Grazing on Public Lands, FS and BLM (Tittman 1984)

Is this public land practical for livestock? Of course, but because edible vegetation grows here, it is used for ranching.

The vast bulk of Western BLM and FS land is divided into individual grazing allotments ranging in size from less than 40 acres to well over a million (Com. on Govt. Oper. 1986). Average state allotment sizes vary from 68,583 acres in and Nevada to 2217 acres in comparatively well-grassed Montana (USDA, FS 1986; USDI, BLM 1986). Allotment boundaries are usually based on traditional and often obsolete ownership, fence, and grazing patterns; allotment configurations rarely make sense topographically or environmentally.

Livestock operators are issued permits or, on some BLM lands, leases, allowing them to graze cattle, sheep, goats, horses and other equines on certain allotments (USDA, FS 1986; USDI, BLM 1986). Muchmore than permission to merely graze livestock on an allotment, the grazing permit is essentially a ranching permit, allowing each permittee to manage and develop (that is, to ranch) that allotment for livestock. Indeed, ranchmen themselves have had perhaps as much impact on the land as their livestock (see Chapter IV). Thus, public lands grazing is a great misnomer, and we refer to the industry as public lands ranching.

IMAGE Our National Forests of the West. Although nearly 70% of their total area is used for livestock ranching, only about 0.7% of US cattle and sheep are produced there. (USDA map)

Average size of BLM and Forest Service System allotments is about 8500 acres (USGA0 1988). Due to overlapping use, the average size of BLM and FS land allotted per Western grazing permittee is 11,818 acres (various 1987 federal publications). Including state and other government lands simultaneously grazed by permittees, the figure probably is closer to 15,000 (various 1987 federal publications). When a public lands rancher talks about "his" ranch he usually means his private property and "his" multi-thousand acre public lands grazing allotment. The public lands portion is usually many times larger than the private; in Arizona, for example, the average ratio is 7 public acres to I private acre.

Cattle and sheep have always comprised the vast majority of livestock on public land, with cattle currently accounting for about 8 times more total grazing pressure on Western federal rangeland than sheep (USDA, FS 1987; USDI, BLM 1988). (Nationally, cattle consume about 96% of the estimated total grazed forage [Joyce 19891.) Cattle, primarily grazers (grass and forb eaters), are nearly omnipresent in range and distribution. About 3/4 of public ranchers run cow/calf operations in which the basic "resource" is a herd of brood cows and the principal livestock income is derived from sale of "feeder cattle" (yearling heifers and steers) to commercial feedlots for fattening before slaughter. Most of the remaining 1/4 run yearling cattle operations -- generally, they buy calves in spring, fatten them through the summer, and sell them in the fall -- or sheep operations. (Williams 1990)

Sheep, which are herbivores (eaters of various types of plants), are in the US West raised mostly in relatively cool, wellwatered regions; on public land this usually means in higher elevations during summer. However, sheep are drought-resistant compared to cattle and prefer somewhat different vegetation, so they are found in many locales. Goats are primarily browsers (shrub and tree eaters), but are famous for their ability to eat almost anything organic. Although not nearly as numerous as sheep (there are only 1.6 million goats in the US, mostly in Texas), goats recently have gained popularity as "tools" for eradicating unwanted brush to increase rangeland productivity for cattle and sheep. Semi-domesticated buffalo and buffalo cross-breeds are grazed similarly to cattle in scattered locations, but are relatively few in number. Lastly, equines -- domestic horses, burros, donkeys, and mules -- which are all mainly grazers, are much less common than cattle and sheep; but many ranchers graze on public land for commercial as goats can be particularly destructive to the Western range because they will eat almost any vegetative material, including many types of plants that cattle and sheep would not. (Steve Johnson)

OUT them in smaller numbers well as domestic purposes.

The so-called "right" to graze livestock on federal public land is not a right at all, but a revocable privilege (Tittman 1984). Ranchers cannot legally own or have exclusive right to any federal land, claim resources thereon (except permitted use of forage and, unfortunately, water rights on some BLM lands), exclude any person from public land, or dictate any visitor's behavior. Stockmen granted the privilege to graze their livestock on the public's land are ostensibly required to pay their fees on time, adhere to all grazing and environmental regulations, mitigate environmental damage, and minimize conflict with other land users (see Chapter IX).

Grazing use is measured in units called Animal Unit Months, or AUMs. An AUM is defined by the federal government as the amount of forage and/or browse required to feed a cow and her calf, a horse, or 5 sheep or goats for a month. The AUM concept is somewhat arbitrary and malleable, so in practice AUMs vary from 600 to 1200 pounds of herbage (leafy plant material of any kind). Most fall between 800 and 1000 pounds, so an AUM averages roughly 900 pounds (USGAO 1988).

About 30,000 grazing permits and leases are issued on BLM and FS rangeland in the 11 Western states, with permittees paying an annual fee based on the number of AUMs (permitted and alleged to be) used. Some of these permittees graze more than 1 allotment, and 15% graze both BLM and FS lands, so the actual number of permittees grazing BLM and FS land in the 16 Western states is about 23,000. (Com. on Govt. Oper. 1986) Thus, in the 11 Western states only about 22,000 permittees graze BLM and Forest Service lands. That is 0.0088% of the US population, or 1 of 11,364 persons in the US, or less than the population of Barstow, California.

Furthermore, according to the Committee on Government Operations of the US Congress, the 23,000 public lands permittees in the 16 Western states (including North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma) represent less than 2% of the 1.6 million livestock producers in the United States (Com. on Govt. Oper. 1986). Extrapolation shows the figure for the 11 Western states to be 1.375% or closer to 1%.

Many federal permittees graze livestock not only on BLM and/or FS lands but on other federal, state, and/or local government lands as well. Some hold a half dozen or more leases to various government and private lands. Thus, including all public lands there are approximately 30,000 public lands ranchers in the West, comprising less than 2% of US cattle and sheep producers. (Various government sources)

Less than 15% of original permits issued by BLM and FS remain with the family to which they were issued (Com. on Govt. Oper. 1986). The notion that most public lands ranching is done by descendants of the original settlers is another of the numerous powerful myths associated with the grazing industry.

Grazing permits generally are issued for a period of 10 years, and permit holders have first priority for renewal. In practice renewal is virtually automatic. Because of this livestock operators enjoy essentially permanent tenure on allotments and consider permits almost as private property (see Chapter VII).


The Forest Service requires each permittee to own an adjacent or nearby "base property' -- deeded land of a certain minimum acreage (usually 40,60, or 80 acres) which is used as a base for livestock operations on the grazing allotment (though, as mentioned, the original intent of requiring base properties was chiefly to exclude nomadic herders from the public range). Base property requirements for BLM permittees are somewhat different and vary from area to area; generally, the minimum size required is larger than what FS requires. When a permit is "sold" with a base property, it is returned to the government and nearly always reissued to the new property owner. (Most other land managing agencies require base properties, though the US Fish & Wildlife Service does not.)

In some cases stockmen are granted grazing permits based on ownership of water rights on private or public land. In fact, grazing privileges on BLM land can now be granted to a stockman based solely on ownership of water rights to a single spring.

The number of permits varies little mostly because almost all grazable land is already being grazed. If agencies acquire new rangeland, it is apportioned among existing adjacent permittees. If for some reason a permittee decides to abandon a permit (almost unheard of), the agency involved reassigns the permit to an established adjacent or nearby rancher. The Taylor Grazing Act, Forest Service mandates established at the agency's formation, and subsequent legislation have ensured that the federal permit system maintains the status quo.

Ostensibly, permittees are required to manage livestock operations in accordance with allotment management plans developed by the agencies in consultation with permittees. This results in each permit containing conditions specific to the allotment being grazed, such as maximum and minimum number of livestock, AUMs allotted, period and area of use, entry and exit routes, and so forth. Most public land is grazed during growing seasons, typically spring and/or summer but sometimes fall or even winter, but there are many areas in the warmer regions where it is permitted yearround (see Livestock Management in Chapter IV). The agencies have authority to adjust permit conditions or terminate permits at any time to allow for any number of variables, but they rarely do. Each agency has independent basic guidelines and regulations, but local agency administrators have wide discretion in adjusting permit terms. In practice, ranchers and rancher-staffed "advisory" boards often have more influence over permit conditions than do the agencies (see Chapter IX). (For a good discussion of the intricacies of BLM and FS grazing administration, see Chapters 3 and 4 in Wesley Calef's Private Grazing and Public Lands.)

... the little cattlemen have always fought the big one's battles, have adopted and supported their policies to their own disadvantage and to the great hurt of the West. --Bernard DeVoto (DeVoto 1955)

There are small public lands ranchers, but corporate ranchers and large individual operators predominate; 40% of federal grazing is controlled by only 3% of permittees (Ferguson 1983). On BLM land, just 5% of cattlemen, those with herd size over 500, control 58% of all herbage allotted to livestock, and 32% goes to medium-sized operations -100-499 animals. Only 10% goes to the small rancher who owns less than 100 cattle (Atwood 1990). Forest Service stockmen with herd size over 500 constitute 12% of permittees and use 41% of AUMs (Com. on Govt. Oper. 1986). And merely 6% of Western sheepmen own 63% of all sheep (Ferguson 1983). Nonetheless, despite myths and misinformation, most of the 22,000 Western BLM and FS permittees, even most of the so-called "small-timers," are quite well-off financially (see Chapter XI). (On the national scale, nearly 80% of all beef processing is controlled by only 3 agricultural conglomerates: ConAgra Red Meat Company, IBP, Inc., and Excel; many cattle that graze public lands wind up in their feedlots [Zaslowsky 1989]).

[A 1982 US agricultural census] found that Arizona had 3346 farms and ranches that sold cattle. Of these, 9 7 farms and ranches accounted for $413 million of the $502 million in sales... --l-17-86 Phoenix Gazette

At this point, one might reasonably ask what all these facts and figures amount to, food-wise. There are roughly 260 million acres of BLM and Forest Service System "grazing land" in the 11 Western states -- 35% of the land area ofthe West -- but how much of this country's livestock is produced there?

Two percent by weight, value, or livestock feed (food of .any kind) (Com. on Govt. Oper. 1986). This will surprise most people, for we have always been led to believe otherwise. Ranching on federal land is insignificant to US food supply -- only I out of 50 pounds of combined beef and mutton. Alabama alone produces nearly this amount, mostly on pasturage!' Iowa produces more than 2 1/2 times as much, mostly with grain feed. (USDA 1987) The US imports more than 4 times as much (US Dept. of Com. 1986).

Even if all public lands in the West are considered together, their yield is insignificant. All Western public lands -- federal, state, and local together, roughly 306 million acres, or 41% of the West -- produce less than 3% of America's combined cattle and sheep feed. Nearly 6 times this amount is raised on the private ranchland that encompasses about 25% of the West. (Government publications)

Only 3% of US cattle feed is supplied by all Western public land. As for sheep, the Western grazing establishment has used deception and fabrication to persuade the American public that Western federal rangeland accounts for 40% or more of US sheep production. For example, USDA's Livestock Grazing Successes on Public Range claims, "Fully 50 percent of the Nation's marketable lambs and 20 percent of the calves going to feedlots are raised in the western public land states" (USDA 1989). "In the western public lands states" is a sneaky way of making it seem that Western livestock production is public, when in fact it is overwhelmingly private. The truth is that all US public lands combined supply only about 15% of US sheep feed, or less than 1/3 of the West's sheep feed. By value and weight US cattle outrank sheep nearly 50 to 1, so sheep are insignificant to US livestock production anyway. (USDA 1987, various government publications) Another misconception is that most US sheep are raised for wool; 78% are raised for their meat (Joyce 1989).

Furthermore, merely 21% of US cattle and sheep feed comes from all the West, public and private (USDA, FS 1986; USDI, BLM 1986). Arkansas raises more cattle than Arizona; Wisconsin supports almost 3 times as many cows as Wyoming; and Nebraska's cattle production value is 16.6 times that of Nevada's! (USDA 1987) Private land (including Indian reservations) produces 18% of the West's 21%. Private land includes feedlots, irrigated pasture, and farmland for livestock, which together account for much of this 18%. In addition, a relatively large proportion of the West's livestock is produced on the Great Plains of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico east of the Rockies. In short, private land is the true livestock producer in the West and the East is the true livestock producer in the us.

Note: When comparing this map to the similar historic maps in Chapter 1, keep in mind that each dot on this map represents 5000 -- not 2000 -- cattle. In the West, clusters and high densities of dots (and even many single dots) indicate areas of feedlots and irrigated pastures; only a minor portion of Western cattle are produced by open range grazing. Change in cattle distribution and numbers from 1964 to present has been insignificant.

Public stockmen counter that while they supply comparatively few livestock, their contribution is vital because their - continue livestock are the "solar factories" that harvest this country's "forage resource" that would otherwise be "wasted." The Department of the Interior itself discredits their claim in its "Information Bulletin No.89-93," stating that only 7% of US forage consumed by cattle and sheep comes from federal land (Atwood 1990).

The loss of the valuable renewable forage resource from public lands is, in effect, a loss to the entire nation. It is a loss our nation need not indeed cannot, afford...

--From a joint statement by the Western states Farm Bureaus, Cattlemen Associations, and Wool Growers Associations

If the object is to grow more feed for cattle, study after study shows the same investment (in range development money) in the Piedmont states -- or just about anywhere else it rains - would have a much higher payoff than spending it in the arid West...

A Mississippi black in overalls isn't as photogenic as a cowboy with his pony, but he's sure a hell of a lot more efficient at raising beef.
--William Broly, "The Sagebrush Rebels"

To get a better perspective on range livestock production, consider the average amount of grazing land needed per cow:

A cow grazing on Western BLM and FS range requires an average of 50 times more land than one grazing in the East, while generally causing much more ecological damage and public expense. According to BLM itself, an average of 165 Western BLM acres are needed to feed a cow for a year, varying from 73 acres in Montana to 262 acres in Nevada (USGA0 1988). Therefore, even on the more livestock-productive BLM land it takes about 20 times more land to support a cow than in the East.

While supplying only 2% of US livestock feed, Western federal land supplies only 9% of total AUMs of rangeland livestock grazing nationwide (Com. on Govt. Oper. 1986). Thus, the notion that public lands are the backbone of American open range grazing is another myth.

Despite being much larger overall than private land, BLM and FS land supplies only 11% of total Western livestock feed, ranging from 1.5% in New Mexico to 0.1% in Washington. These federal lands supply an average of 17% of each Western state's overall livestock feed, varying from 2% in Washington (the 26th ranking livestock state in the US) to 53% in Nevada (the 38th ranking livestock state). (Federal publications)

All Western federal, state, county, and city lands combined supply only about 18% of Western livestock feed requirements. This is primarily because public land is less productive than private and generally too arid, rugged, inaccessible, etc. for practical livestock grazing. The remaining 82% of Western livestock feed comes from the more productive private rangeland, pasture, and farmland used for livestock crops. (Government publications)

Though some public grazing proponents warn that the Western livestock industry would collapse without use of public lands, an untainted assessment proves this not only unfounded but ridiculous (see Chapter XI). The Committee on Government Operations of the US Congress states that public lands permittees "account for only 7% of the 386,000 producers in the 16 western states" (Com. on Govt. Oper. 1986). Only 16% of the livestock producers in the 11 Western probably even greater. In short, public lands are little more than a supplementary food source for most "public lands" ranchers.

Public lands ranchers counter that public lands are vital as this supplementary food source and for calving grounds. What this actually means is that these ranchers have become habituated to using public land for these purposes. If they readjusted management, probably most of their ranching operations could survive without public lands. Obviously, reductions in overall livestock numbers would also have to be made, which is their main, underlying concern.

Why supplemental feed could not be obtained from private sources, livestock calved on private pasture and rangeland, or livestock numbers reduced remains unanswered. After all, a hungry stock animal eats whatever is available and cares not whether it is on public or private land. A cow can drop its calf anywhere, and the two can survive as well on private land as on public land (usually better). Depending on who you believe, only between 3% and 7% of all US calves are born on public land anyway. By public lands ranchers' logic, we could say that 100% of beef cattle are supported by this nation's highway system, since all of them spend at least some time there.

Without public lands grazing... 4 47% of all the beef cattle and
sheep stock that graze the 11 Western states would be

--Jeffrey C. Mosley, et. al. Seven Popular MYTHS About Livestock Grazing on Public Lands (Mosley 1990)

A cow can graze for about 3 112 months on the amount of forage produced in a month on an average grazing acre in Alabama, compared to only little more than a day on a month's production of forage on the aaverage acre in Nevada, generally with much less environmental damage and public expense.

Because they are less livestock-productive than private lands, most public lands supply only a fraction of the total livestock food used by their permittees. The average BLM grazing season is only 4 1/2 months per year (USDA, IS 1986; USDI, BLM 1986), while according to the Forest Service, "In the West, NFS ranges supply an average of 25 percent of the permittee's annual requirements for livestock feed." (Figures for most other public ranchland are similar.) Accounting for the relative difference in BLM and FS livestock production, this means that federal land supplies about 113 of public lands ranchers' annual livestock feed requirements, that an average permittee's livestock are on federal land only about 4 months per year. Further, while some of these permittees, hold permits to graze other government lands as well, many do not graze all or even most of their livestock on public land, so the discrepancy is states use public land, and, as explained above and elsewhere, of those who do relatively few are wholly or even primarily dependent upon it (USDA, FS 1986; USDI, BLM 1986). Even the highest figures provided by prominent spokespersons for the public lands grazing establishment itself claim that no more than 10% of US cattle ever touch public land (again, this for an average of only about 4 months each year) (Mosley 1990). Extrapolation from government figures suggests that the figure is closer to 7%.

The Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, Soil Conservation Service, and Arizona State Land Department all have range specialists who are deeply involved in working with ranchers on improving and monitoring the condition of the lands, including much of the deeded range land. These bureaus will confirm that by and large the ranges are in very good condition.
--Southern Arizona public lands rancher G.E. Morizingo, in a Benson, AZ newspaper

Eighty-two percent of beef production in the Western United States is attributable to private land, mostly irrigated pastures (12 million acres) and feedlots, with a smaller amount produced by the 184 million acres of private range that emcompass 25% of the West. The West's 306 million ranched public acres account for only 18% of the region's livestock. Hundreds of thousands of acres of public land would be needed to feed the cattle in the feedlot scene above.

In spite of more than forty years of federal administration, the condition of the public domain has remained virtually unchanged, judging from figures published under the auspices of the [BLM] itself. In 1936,84% of the western rangelands were producing less than half of their potential forage; in 1954,69% of the federal range was in fair condition or worse, and by 1974 this percentage had increased to 83%.

—Thomas R. Vale, "The Sagebrush Landscape" (Vale 1980)

Westerners are accustomed to the ubiquitous sight of barbed wire fences lining the roads in rural areas. Have we become so complacent about these fenced scenes that we fail to consider the land behind those fences?

In 1975 the BLM admitted that its own extensive survey data showed only 17% of its rangeland in good or excellent condition, 50% in fair, and 33% in poor or very poor condition (presented in Range Condition Report to the Senate Appropriations Committee, still the most current largescale survey data available). Altogether, 83% was in unsatisfactory condition -- essentially producing at less than 50% of its potential. The report concluded that although range conditions had improved in some respects since the early years of grazing, "public rangelands will continue to deteriorate. Projections indicate that in 25 years productive capacity could decrease as much as 25%." In other words, the overall condition of BLM rangeland was still deteriorating; the main "improvement" was that the rate of deterioration had been slowed (see Chapter XI). After this report came out, both BLM officials and the General Accounting Office criticized the data for understating the poor and deteriorating state of public range. (Ferguson 1983)

Forest Service range condition figures at the time were nearly as bad: 24% "good," 44% "fair," 26% "poor," and 6% in "very poor" condition (USDA, USDI 1979). And though comprehensive state land range condition studies are rare, it is widely acknowledged that conditions on state rangelands are generally worse.

Despite misleading claims by the ranching establishment, the situation clearly has not changed much since the surveys of the 1970s. For example, a 1985 report prepared by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) titled Our Ailing Rangelands: Condition Report - 1985 concludes that recent data from environmental impact statements prepared by BLM under court order show that of Western BLM land for which data was available (about 80%), more than 71% (84 million acres) is in "unsatisfactory" condition -- meaning it is producing (producing basically for livestock) at less than 40% of its present (as opposed to pre-livestock) biological potential. (NWF 1985) A follow-up 1989 report prepared by NWF and NRDC entitled OurAiling Public Lands. Still Ailing states that, "the data that are available do not reveal any significant improvement in range health since [1985]," and that "conditions are unlikely to improve" (NAT 1989). In the late 1980s, BLM itself stated that in areas of 5"-20" of precipitation (the vast bulk of BLM land) it may take 300 years, even under optimum ranching management, for livestock-damaged range to approximate original environmental health, summarizing that range managers "must be patient."

On a national scale, even John Block, Secretary of Agriculture during the Reagan administration, stated that at least 60% of all US rangeland is "overgrazed" (Akers 1983). Coming from people within the ranching establishment, few estimates are unbiased, nor do they take into account important and often obscure environmental factors; in truth, nearly all Western rangeland is being significantly damaged by livestock and/or their owners. Thus, "grazing" and "overgrazing" may be used almost synonymously in reference to Western livestock ranching.

This chapter summarizes the logistics of contemporary public lands ranching. But it doesn't explain what is happening to the land. The next 2 chapters attempt that. Ranching's environmental impacts can be separated into 2 groups -- those caused by the livestock themselves and those caused by range development by livestock owners and their government and private assistants. First, the livestock ....

I have a small herd of cows, but I had to buy my land.
I feel that the public lands should be for nature and wildlife.
If I plan to keep any of my land in a natural state,
I have to keep the cows out.

--Bob Bertin, Houston, Texas, personal correspondence

Long Ignored Federal Code Gives BLM Authority to Close Wild Horse County to Cows When Wild Horse Population in Danger

Something we all thought we would have to fight for has been in existance since 2003! Of course, utilization of this "option" is discretionary so I guess we can keep up the fight to make this law I smell another "proposal to amend" in the making? lol

(Code of Federal Regulations]
[Title 43, Volume 2]
[Revised as of October 1, 2003]
From the U.S. Government Printing Office via GPO Access
[CITE: 43CFR4710.5]

[Page 863]




Subpart 4710--Management Considerations

Sec. 4710.5 Closure to livestock grazing.

(a) If necessary to provide habitat for wild horses or burros, to
implement herd management actions, or to protect wild horses or burros,
to implement herd management actions, or to protect wild horses or
burros from disease, harassment or injury, the authorized officer may
close appropriate areas of the public lands to grazing use by all or a
particular kind of livestock.
(b) All public lands inhabited by wild horses or burros shall be
closed to grazing under permit or lease by domestic horses and burros.
(c) Closure may be temporary or permanent. After appropriate public
consultation, a Notice of Closure shall be issued to affected and
interested parties.

[[Page 864]]

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Did Congress Intend to Recognize Grazing Rights as Transferable Personal Property? - An Alternative Prospective on the Taylor Grazing Act

Upon reading of this article as it appears on the "JSTOR" site, it would appear so, although subtly, discreetly and ambigiously created and applied .

An Old but Very Interesting piece that should give all interested in this issue plenty of food for thought as to who really owns our public rangelands and who is it really that dictates policy;

An Alternative Perspective on the Taylor Grazing Act
Frederick W. Obermiller
Rangelands, Vol. 18, No. 5 (Oct., 1996), pp. 186-191
(article consists of 6 pages)
Published by: Allen Press and Society for Range Management
Stable URL:

Did Congress Intend to Recognize Grazing Rights? An Alternative Perspective on the Taylor Grazing Act, by Frederick W. Obermiller © 1996 Allen Press.

By Fredrick Obermeyer;

Click on title above to see article;
Stable URL:

JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization that serves and is supported by the scholarly community

The Privitazation of Grazing Rights Circa 1984

An Old But Interesting (Regan Era) Article by the good folks at the CATO Institute; here we will learn some new and strange sounding words like title by "usus" or "usufructuary rights" of ranchers, "fee simple" and "arms length" sales are examples......

Posting this article is by no means an endorsement of the mindset expoused by the authors that "privatization of public lands" is the way to go. I am not so sure about that....there has to be a "happy (and fair") median in all things, which is certainly NOT what we have now with the underhanded, secretive and dirty dealings of the Various Departments of the Inferior, ooops I mean Interior. Goodness me, I didnt mean to goof.(Yeah, right) Take That! U Greedi Ba$T@rD$! Give up your grazing permits and give the land back to the people of the USA. Give the land back to the horses! Your Rancher Welfare programs are costing billions of dollars each year that the tax payers have to pay. Talk about "ear-marks," the BLM is nothing but one big one for whomever is holding those grazing permits.

*Interesting and related factoid: FY 2010 budget appropriates over 120 Bil to Ag. Dont think the "favored sons" ranchers wont get a BIG chunk a' dat..

Read on, my friends, and weep.

Richard Auster;CatoJournal, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Winter 1983/84).

The author is Associate Professor of Economics at the University ofArizona, Tucson,Az.


As the gains from privatization necessarily increase with the density

of usage of the commons, it is quite natural that we find the movement

to privatize public land holdings emerging, Privatization is both

natural and correct and it is in no way the purpose of this paper to

argue against it, Private ownership is clearly a more efficient method

of controlling the usage of our now public lands, Efficiency is not the

only issue, however, There is also the issue of equity, of preventing

in-justice and theft. That is, since governments are simply service

firms which are publicly held in democracies,’ there is the issue of

selling assets for what they are truly worth and not in effect giving

them away. The recent suggestion by Professor Hanke (1982) that

we sell all the rangeland in the West to the ranchers who now hold

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) leases for something under $19

per acre is in effect giving the land away.

Hanke would have us believe that because the “custom” has arisen

of linking BLM grazing rights to particular parcels of private land,

the ranchers who own these private parcels have either implicitly or

explicitly paid for all of the value the BLM land represents, save that

sum which is the present discounted value of the grazing fees they

are required to pay. Hanke, claiming we should not steal from them,

argues that it naturally follows that we must first offer the ranchers

the right to buy the land in fee simple at the present discounted

value of those fees, a sum which averages out to slightly under $19

per acre! This is wrong; let us see why,

It must be remembered that! value in exchange is derived from

value in use. Since the only use permitted the ranchers under their

current leases is that of grazing, the full value of the public tracts

cannot have been incorporated into the market values of their private

holdings, Only the value of the use of the land for grazing could have

been capitalized; not the mineral rights, timber rights, or rights to

subdivide and develop. What has been capitalized, even if it is the

full value of the BLM grazing rights net of the lease fees, can only

be a small fraction of the total value of these lands when held in fee

simple. This point becomes particularly important when we contemplate

the continued shift of population from the East to the West. At

$19 per acre we are contemplating one of the biggest giveaways in a

long history of such misguided government transfers.

Actually, it is impossible that even the full value of the grazing

rights have been capitalized into the values of the ranches. The full

capitalization of the grazing rights into the value of the private holdings

would have taken place only if there were certainty about the

future status of these rights. Since they had never been granted in

law, this is most unlikely. Moreover, full capitalization assumes that

the market for these holdings was in perfect equilibrium, which is

exceptionally unlikely given the dramatic population shifts that have

been occurring, the imperfections in capital markets, and the lumpiness

of the transacted quantities. I think the issue of the presumed

certainty of their continued exclusivity with respect to the BLM

grazing rights is the key defect of this aspect of the Hanke plan. The

exclusivity of these lease rights—that is, their failure to be open to

all in a process of public bidding—is only a relatively recent phenomenon,

an administrative oversight as it were, While it is certainly

politically smart to buy out a most organized part of the opposition,

in this case the ranchers, we must wonder at the implicit encouragement

such a policy of compensation would give to future squatting

on the public domain. Moreover, once we begin to recognize what

are in a sense usufructuary* (by "usus") or "use") rights to the public domain and

the consequent need to compensate losers from its privatization, we are

opening up a large can of worms.

Much of the same reasoning that Hanke applies to the rights of the

ranchers applies with equal, if not more, strength to the implicit

rights of the public workers whose functions I (and Professor Hanke,

I understand) wish to privatize as well. Since in many instances their

jobs were covered by civil service tenure rules, it would seem that

their claims would be stronger. Will we need to compensate them as

well? Perhaps we should think this through before we leap.’

‘Actually, I have at times argued that we should compensate public workers whose

functions arc privatized. See Auster (1982). For example, we could give the postal

workers the plant and equipment of the U.S. Postal Service in return for the

elimination of their monopoly privileges. The political finesse of such a procedure

is appealing, but the area needs a lot more debatc.



Ultimately what is wrong with the Hanke proposal is that inadvertently

he has fallen into the planner’s trap of believing that markets

might be dispensed with and prices calculated at the center. What

we need to do is to rely on markets. The public lands should be put

up for auction as Professor Smith (1982) suggests. If we really believe,

and I must confess to agnosticism on this point, that the ranchers

have by now acquired a right to use the BLM land for grazing through

usus, then we should grant them deeds to that effect and auction off

the other rights to the land. The allocation of the rights to the commonly

owned lands by competitive auction is in the true spirit of

modern economics.’ Professor Hanke seems to have forgotten his

own criticisms of central planning. He now seems vaguely like those

socialists who in the great “calculation of prices under central planning”

debates proposed that a collectivist economy could solve its

price calculation problem by using the prices revealed by the free

markets in capitalist countries.

Markets, however, are processes which are situation and time specific.

The answers of one market (price, quantity, quality) will not

hold for others or for it at other times and situations. There is no

perfect substitute for an actual market. Even if privatization is desirable,

which it is, how one gets there is important.


Auster, R. D. “1982 Public Choice in the Streets: The Libertarian Campaign

in Arizona District 5.” University of Arizona, 1984. (Mimeographed,)

Auster, R. V., and Silver, M. “The State as a Firm, Economic Forces in

Political Development.” In Studies in Public Choica, No. 3. Boston and

The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1979.

Hanke, Steve H, “The Privatization Debate: An Insider’s View,” CatoJournal

2 (Winter 1982): 653—62.

Smith, Vernon L. “On Divestiture and the Creation of Property Rights in

Public Lands.” Gate Journal 2 (Winter 1982): 663—85.

Having just praised my colleague Professor Smith’s paper, perhaps in closing I can

point out a problem with it as well, This problem arises because of the imperfection

of existing capital markets, which I take as a fact, Given this, it will not he

equitable to auction off the rights even if they are initially allocated as he

suggests, although that will go a long way in that direction. The Dorn suggestion

(p. 675, n. 19) if coupled with the government carrying back the bid amounts to all

citizens at the same interest rate would, I believe, complete the equity picture.




Steve H. Hanke

Before dealing with the central issue raised by Professor Auster,

several assertions contained in his comment must be addressed, since

they are either in error or misleading.’

First, Professor Auster claims that I propose to sell all the public

lands for an average price of slightly under $19 per acre. This assertion

is incorrect.

To illustrate the method for computing a first-refusal price for

public grazing lands, I use data from a single 1,500-acre parcel of

Bureau of Land Management land.’ Contrary to Professor Auster’s

claim, I do not propose to use the first-refusal price fbr this one parcel

as aprice for all federal grazing lands. In fact, I clearly state that firstrefusal

prices should be calculated separately for each lease that is


Second, Professor Auster asserts that under my privatization proposal

ranchers would obtain, in addition to “surface rights,” both

timber and mineral rights. This assertion is incorrect.

In my article, I only address issues that are associated with President

Reagan’s program to privatize some of the public lands. This

program does not include the sale of any mineral rights. Moreover,

my article is further limited, since it only addresses the issues associated

with the sale of “surface rights” on public grazing lands. It

does not address the problems associated with the sale of other assets

contained in the president’s program, such as lands that contain

timber rights.

Third, Professor Auster implies that ranchers who currently lease

grazing lands from the federal government do not own any private

property rights in the public lands. He argues that these usufruct

rights are similar to the “implicit rights” that public workers have in

job security. This analogy is incorrect and misleading.

Ranchers’ usufruct rights are much different than public workers’

“implicit rights” to job security. Unlike public workers,,ranchers

purchase their usufruct rights.3 This occurs when ranchers pay private

premiums for private lands that have public leases attached to

them. These usufruct rights are, therefore, not only purchased, but

they are recognized by the Internal Revenue Service and valued for

purposes of determining inheritance taxes,

Although Professor Auster and I agree that public lands should be

privatized, we have a fundamentally different view of the theory of

justice and its relationship to the establishment of property rights.

Professor Auster believes that the state should be invested with the

original rights in the nation’s natural resources, and that the state

should then sell these “assets for what they are truly worth” instead

of “in effect giving them away.”4

My position is based on John Locke’s theory of natural rights.5 This

theory does not suggest that the original rights to property should be

invested with the state and then sold to the highest bidder. Rather,

the fundamental tenet of natural rights theory is that rights should

be originally invested with those who discover, work, and invest in

resources with their energy and savings

My proposal for privatizing public grazing lands not only protects

existing holders of usufruct rights (rights that have been paid for and

are recognized), but it also formulates a method for establishing

absolute rights by a process that is in keeping with the natural rights

theory ofjustice.6

‘This statement does not apply to those private ranch lands that, since the passage of

the Taylor Grazing Act, have never been transferred in an “arms length,” market


“Auster, p.

‘For an excellent exposition of this theory of justice and its relation to property rights,

see Murray N. Bothbard, “Justice and Property Rights,” in Property In a Humane

Economy, ed. Samuel I~.Blumenfeld (LaSalle, Illinois: Open Court, 1974).

‘It is important to mention that we are not starting the process of privatization

from a pure state of nature. Hence, I have accepted the current state of affairs and

recognized both the existing usufruct rights of ranchers and those of the government

as a lessor of grazing rights. Given the acceptance of existing government arid

private grazing rights in public lands, my privatization proposal protects these

rights and then applies the “homestead principle”—a principle derived from the

natural rights theory ofjustice.


An Old but Interesting "Grazing Permit" Article from the Cato Folk

Going back to 1995 / Bruce Babbit days; Proof of Over Grazing by Cattle Dating Back from Turn of Century to Modern Day....from the CATO Institute. These are the figures we been looking for. Read carefully...4th paragraph, in BOLD text

Article Excerpt:

Roots of Degradation of Public Grazing Land

Public grazing lands have a long history of abuse and overgrazing. From the end of the Civil War until the 1934 Taylor Grazing Act, open range prevailed on federal lands. Stockmen built fences, controlled water for livestock, and formed policing associations to protect the unowned grass resource from overuse. Homestead laws and federal enforcement of open range, however, frustrated stockmen's efforts and made the resulting "tragedy of the western commons" the official land-use policy of the U.S. government.(17) By 1936, 90 percent of western public lands were estimated to be severely depleted.(18)

Rather than change the policies that promoted overgrazing, Congress established the Forest Service and the BLM to regulate use of public land. Later, Congress rounded out its response with a quarter century of environmental statutes, beginning with the Multiple Use, Sustained Yield Act of 1960. Federal efforts to protect public rangelands succeeded to the extent that they contained the "tragedy of the western commons." They failed, however, to fully curb the deterioration of rangeland soils, plants, wildlife, and wetlands. Ironically, the institutions created by federal efforts and the policies they spawned to stop resource depletion simply perpetuated and deepened the environmental crisis of public grazing lands.

Institutionalized Land Degradation

Public-land grazing permits are the legal devices that join public and private lands into ranching units called grazing allotments. They are the tools that effectively enclosed the open range, granted security of tenure to ranchers, and gave federal land agencies authority to mitigate resource depletion. They forged a semblance of order out of the chaos of the open range, but they also institutionalized overgrazing on public rangelands.

Formalized Overstocking. The original grazing permits issued by the Forest Service and the BLM authorized numbers of livestock that exceeded the sustainable carrying capacity of western rangelands. Despite a half century of corrective measures, federal grazing privileges still exceed what the land can bear. Grazing nonuse mitigates, in part, the historic overobligation of federal grazing privileges. However, even with grazing nonuse running as high as 15 to 22 percent, overall stocking on federal lands is still 10 to 25 percent above the land's long-term ability to sustain soil health, grass production, and wildlife populations.(19)

Perverse Incentives. Grazing permits provide strong incentives to ranchers to resist ecologically justified stocking reductions. That is because grazing permits, or more accurately the numbers of livestock (preferences) they authorize, are the only assets that ranchers can hold in public lands. Because grazing permits are marketable to other ranchers, because low grazing fees are capitalized into their value, and because they enhance the worth of associated, privately owned lands, ranchers see and treat them as private property. As a result, the incentive of public-land ranchers is to steward and conserve the one thing they own--not the land, but the grazing preferences that go with their permits. Since stewarding and conserving authorized numbers is best done by lobbying, the political carrying capacity of public lands almost always takes precedence over their biological carrying capacity.

Overdeveloped Ranges. Forest Service and BLM staff have used historic overstocking and ranchers' permit interests as rationales for overdeveloping public grazing lands. They have made grazing privileges contingent on higher levels of private and public investment in range improvements. Although overcapitalization has benefited agency budgets, it has not proven beneficial to ranchers and rangelands.(20) It has made stockmen trade Model-T grazing for Cadillac grazing and incur debts that diminish, rather than enhance, profits. Through subsidies it has fostered stocking rates and management practices that are detrimental to soils, plants, and wildlife. It has expanded and intensified physical effects on wild lands. It has eliminated the forage reserves that are needed to withstand periodic drought. And it has set environmentalists against ranchers.(21)

Click on title above for full article;

BLM v. Ranchers in Nevadas Water Rights Fight

The history of Nevadas Water Rights Customs & Laws and the more recent challanges by the BLM to same is pretty much "on point" with an earlier post entitled "Waste of the West: A History of Public Lands Ranching," which concerns the history of
"The Robber Cattle-Barrons of the West" how they came into power and how they came to have a stranglehold on DC politics that has lasted til this day. That the BLM is now suing them over water rights is kind of a suprize to me....whats up with that? Trouble in Paradice? ...come to think about it, I am not really suprized, when you consider THE NEED of the BLM to control EVERYTHING,...they would throw their mothers to the wind to get what they want,...greedy Ba$T@Rd$!

See post:

But the BLM definately belongs here, right along with the wealthy Welfare Ranchers, in the Greedy B@$t@Rd$ Hall of $hame;

Now, on to the article;

What Every Nevadan Should Know About Western Water Law
by Carl Haas / Nevada Journal

Although what we now call Nevada—its land and appurtenances* —was acquired by the United States from Mexico in the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hildalgo in 1848, the U.S. divested itself of claims to its water when Congress passed the Act of July 26, 1866. This act was the foundation of subsequent western water law because it recognized the common-law practices that American settlers in the new territories had already put in place. The law reads as follows:

Whenever, by priority of possession, rights to the use of water for mining, agriculture, manufacturing, or other purposes, have vested and accrued, and the same are recognized and acknowledged by the local customs, laws and decisions of courts, the possessors and owners of such vested rights shall be maintained and protected in the same; and the right of way for the construction of ditches and canals for the purposes herein specified is acknowledged and confirmed; but when ever any person, in the construction of any ditch or canal, injures or damages the possession of any settler on the public domain, the party committing such injury or damage shall be liable to the party injured for such injury or damage. (43USC 661)

By the Act of July 26, 1866, the federal government obligated itself to not only protect the rights of individual possessors of the water, but also to recognize the local customs, laws and decisions of the state courts. Water within states’ boundaries was already looked upon as owned by the states, and its use by private individuals in the West was to be determined by state law and precedent.


Four decades later, this rule was still entirely acknowledged—not just in the states but throughout the federal government. For example, in 1907 Gifford Pinchot, "father" of the United States Forest Service and its first Chief Forester, explicitly reassured westerners and constitutionalists across the country, as follows:

"The creation of a National Forest has no effect whatever on the laws which govern the appropriation of water," wrote Pinchot in a forest service ‘use’ book. "This is a matter governed entirely by State and Territorial laws."[emphasis added] That ‘Use’ book—a small maroon-red booklet bearing the title, "Use of the National Forests"—was published and distributed the same year that the federal government formed the Toiyabe National Forest within the boundaries of Nevada. Within the booklet’s small pages, Pinchot explained to ranchers, miners, loggers and others on western lands how the new national forest system was going to work.

Consistent with Pinchot’s pledges and the rules Congress had established in 1866, the Toiyabe National Forest issued its first grazing permits by using the standard of ‘past use’—the criterion specified in the Forest Service Use books of both 1905 and 1907.

Early correspondence between the local forest rangers and their superiors in Washington, D. C., provide us with the actual names of ranch operators at the time and the numbers of livestock. This is valuable information in light of some of the arguments that the U.S. Forest Service has sought to make in Nevada’s current Monitor Valley water adjudication.

For example, in a November 20, 1907 letter from District Ranger Mark G. Woodruff to his superiors in Washington, Woodruff provided information on past use and made his recommendations as to numbers of use and priority classification. Class A priority was given to the local land owner, class B to "a man who owns land and a home a little farther away," and class C to those "who own no land or home anywhere near the Forest"— a category consisting mostly of "tramp sheepmen" from northern Nevada who brought herds down to graze the area during the spring, summer and fall months.

In early 1997, copies of these early letters (including the names and numbers of the "users") were filed as evidence in the Monitor Valley water adjudication hearing before the state engineer. Woodruff, 90 years earlier, had believed "that the various Forests would reasonably support, without injury to the range, the amount of stock named in the following estimates":

Toiyabe: 8,000 cattle

Toiyabe: 28,500 sheep

Toiyabe (Shoshone range): 1,500 cattle

Toiyabe (Shoshone range): 5,000 sheep

Monitor: 2,000 cattle

Monitor: 10,000 sheep

It is important to remember that these numbers—high, no doubt, in the view of today’s Forest Service—applied only to the hillsides and mountaintops where the national forests had been established, and not to the valley floors. The latter were subsequently put under the administrative authority of the U. S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In December 1907, Woodruff’s Washington bosses wrote back. A. F. Potter, assistant forester, notified Woodruff that the Secretary of Agriculture "has authorized the grazing of 9,500 head of cattle and horses and 17,500 head of sheep on the Toiyabe National Forest during the season of 1908…"


On June 28, 1934, Congress passed the Taylor Grazing Act, establishing what is now known as the BLM. Once again, the rule of 1866 and common law usage was followed. Grazing permits were to be issued on the basis of past use "to those within or near a district who are land owners engaged in the livestock business, bona fide occupants or settlers, or owners of water or water rights, etc…" Further, said the law, "nothing in this Act shall be construed or administered in any way to diminish or impair any right to the possession and use of water for mining, agriculture, manufacturing, or other purposes…" State law continued to be recognized as determinative, and the rights of individual possessors of water and other appurtenant rights would be protected. Or so went the federal government’s promise.


Actually, however, notwithstanding federal commitments, livestock grazing by Monitor Valley ranches was gradually being restricted year by year by both the BLM and the Forest Service. From the time that Monitor ranchers’ water rights were originally vested in the 1800s up into the 1980s livestock grazing in the valley ranches dropped more than 50 per-cent. The so-called "tramp sheepherders"—many of them Basque immigrants who later became prominent in the larger Nevada community— were eliminated altogether.

These reductions were not voluntary. On the contrary, they were the result of increasing restrictions by the Forest Service and the BLM in the numbers of animals permitted to graze. GE 9 RE ON PAGE 23. FOR LONGER VERSIONS OF THESE STORIES


In 1976, Congress passed the Federal Land Management Policy Act requiring the BLM and Forest Service to prepare land and resource management plans for the various allotments. Shortly thereafter, the Forest and BLM began to administratively formulate new water rights policies regarding grazing. Increasingly the agency bureaucracies ignored or completely repudiated the principles of prior appropriation law that had governed the American West since its settling.

For example, in a letter dated June 29, 1984, Robert H. Tracy, Director of Watershed and Air Management for the Forest Service, stated nine reasons why his agency needed to control waters and why stock water rights should remain with the land rather than the ranchers holding the grazing permits. It was an explicit admission that the agency was setting out on a course hostile to the heirs of western settlers.


In ensuing years here in Nevada, the Forest Service and BLM have filed hundreds of stock water rights claims directly on top of those previously vested by the actual original users and their successors in interest. Virtually every water source in Monitor Valley was surveyed by the agencies after which alleged proofs of vested stock water rights or reserved rights were filed by the agencies with the state engineer’s office. The expense to the taxpayers must have been incredible.

In the case of RO Livestock, the Forest Service filed twenty-one claims on 18 stock waters previously vested by RO Livestock’s predecessors. Many times this number were filed on the vested waters of Wayne Hage and others.

In the ensuing Monitor Valley adjudication process on behalf of RO Livestock, I filed with the state engineer eighteen stockwater proofs with thousands of pages of supporting documents consisting of recorded copies of transfers, pertinent Nye County tax rolls related to livestock numbers and hay production, water volume measurements, historic letters from individuals testifying as to actual use, chattel mortgages, and a mountain of other factual evidence beginning in the 1860s, in order to show the state engineer and the court the actual past use.

On the other hand, the U.S. Government, represented by the officials of the BLM and Forest Service, has taken the position that proofs are merely ‘claims,’ regardless of any supporting documentation, and that one statement is as good as another. If that sounds extraordinarily brazen, it’s because it is. Most of the federal proofs filed with the state engineer have subsequently been classified by him as spurious on their face, the main reason being simply that the filing federal agencies did not even exist at the time the waters were put to beneficial use.

But the U.S. Government officials in this adjudication refuse to quit spending the taxpayers’ money, apparently believing that the unlimited legal budget of the federal government can eventually make them prevail and eventually bring credibility to their declaration that the U.S. owns all of the stock waters merely because they say so.

Black’s Law Dictionary defines this position as "Ipse dixit," and if Ambrose Bierce were alive today he would define it as the "Exercise of the Royal Prerogative." That is, the right of the government to be wrong— nevertheless trying to force its way against its own citizens. u

* In law, a right, privilege, or minor property that is considered incident to the principal property for purposes such as passage of title, conveyance, or inheritance. American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 1969 [back]

Carl Haas, a principal of Haas & Associates, is a water rights specialist.

Waste of the West - Chapter I : Public Lands Ranching

According to this study, it appears as if our public rangelands have been severely & critically declimated, in some cases permanently damaged, from overgrazing by cattle as far back as the 1880s and, to a lesser degree, is said to have carried over clear onto the 1990s.....and, presumably, beyond. Some claim the land has never healed because it was never given a chance to heal.

Check out this interesting read. It will give you a better idea, a clearer picture of the history, the power & corruption of the cattle industry and how it came to be that way.

Article from: "Waste of the West" website;

--The Earth has existed 25 million times longer than the United States.

--Native Americans have been living on this continent 200 times longer than "Americans."

--Recognizable ancestors of native grazing animals have been living in what is now called North America at least 20, 000 times longer than domestic livestock.

Not until the hairy men from the East came did the West for us become "wild." --Chief Luther Standing Bear of the Oglala band of Sioux

0nly a hundred and some odd years ago, what we now call "The American West" was predominantly wild. With the exception of several scattered European settlements, the entire western portion of North America was one vast wilderness, a result of 5 billion years of Nature's continuing creation on this planet. The grasslands, deserts, forests, brushlands, and wetlands here were functioning at or near peak productivity. Plant and animal life and soil and water systems were at optimum abundance, diversity, and stability. The West was, relative to today, a Garden of Eden.

Native Americans, or "Indians," then were an integral part of this wilderness. For thousands of years they lived *in and interacted with this rich and beautiful country. Although these people exerted many influences on their environment, as a whole they had an incomparably less destructive impact than those who would follow. Perhaps this was largely because they had lesser means to exploit and destroy. Whatever the case, at that time they felt the wilderness to be home. not an obstacle or enemy to be conquered.

Only a hundred and some odd years ago, nearly all of these original human inhabitants either died from introduced disease, were killed, or were removed to small, restricted areas to make room for incoming United States settlers, military and business interests. On many reservations, natives continued to die from starvation, exposure, or suicide even as their home, the wilderness, was ravaged.

The old Western myth was that these people were the salt of the earth that they were people of astounding virtue. But these same people often were filled with greed and violence and corruption and racism. ... No people went through an environment faster, and more destructively and wastefully than Americans have gone through North America --Historian Donald Worster, Rivers of Empire

The intruders came west for many reasons, some quite noble. Nonetheless, most of these early settlers, businessmen, and soldiers were not as portrayed in American history books. Few were the courageous, heroic, God-fearing people of tale and legend -- brave patriots who set out into the wilderness to face great peril with a bur 1 9 desire to build a better America. No, most came west for more common purposes: to make more money, get free land, or escape various problems in the East. These newcomers originally were, or soon became, farmers, trappers, traders, miners, laborers, and merchants.

And then there were the stockmen -- the cattlemen colonists. The fiercely competitive, violent, and environmentally brutal nature of the early livestock grazing business attracted a somewhat different breed of people. Most of the participants fit into 3 distinct classes:

Hired manual laborers called cow-boys did the bulk of the chores for most ranching operations. These men typically were solitary drifters who took work here and there as the occasion arose. Of course nearly all originally had come from the Eastern US, where many had experienced unemployment or other personal difficulties. Many had lost their jobs in mills and factories. Many others were troubled, rootless veterans of the Civil War. Some were former insubordinate soldiers banished to the West to "protect the frontier," and some were desperate farmers who left the ravaged South after the Civil War. Some were luckless, would-be miners who began raising stock when for them the West's gold and silver rushes didn't pan out. Early cow-boys also included various Western riffraff -- the misfits, unfortunates, crooks and swindlers, outcasts and outlaws, loners and losers. There were many exceptions, but the sad fact is that early Western cow-boys by and large were an accumulation of what today would be termed "the dregs of society."


transportation (including new railroads) and communications modernized, and livestock established and ready to multiply throughout the West, the true subjugation of the West began. Livestock grazing became an immense, booming business, and numbers of cattle and sheep increased by leaps and bounds. Stockmen and investors (mainly from the East and Europe) began to realize the huge profits to be made by running livestock across the Western range. Many of the West's most successful and powerful miners and other businessmen turned to stock raising. Word spread like wildfire, spurred on by fantastic claims of potential ranching profits in popular publications and promotional literature. Livestock grazing suddenly became a mad rush to get rich quick. From ocean to prairie, livestock were propagated and crammed onto every conceivable piece of forage land (about 2/3 of the West altogether) in an all-out attempt to maximize profits. The 1870 estimated cattle population of 4-5 million in the 17 western states (Ferguson 1983) peaked at an estimated 35-40 million around 1884 (Holechek 1989). Ranchers showed little or no concern for the land itself as "forage fever (similar to "gold fever") swept the West.

The range itself got little relief from heavy use, and there may not even today be a truly widespread recognition of the lasting impact of the damage to forage and soil started during that boom era.

--William Voigt, Jr., former Executive Director, Izaak Walton League, Public Grazing Lands (Voigt 1976)

The land suffered. Livestock stripped vast areas of ground cover as clean as a billiard table. By the early 1880s the Western range was so over stocked and overgrazed that drastic environmental changes began to occur (see Chapter III).
Edible vegetation was so depleted that livestock starved to death during periods of drought or heavy snow, and in some places even during benign weather. In January 1887, for example, starving cattle ate the wool off dead sheep and then fell dead themselves. Massive die-offs occurred periodically during the latter decades of the 1800s, and to a lesser degree during the early 1900s (as they still do occasionally). Some die-offs were so bad that most livestock were lost over huge areas, even entire states. Emaciated cattle ate wood from trees. Rotting carcasses were sometimes so thick a person could throw rocks from one to the next.

Stockmen blamed these disasters on drought or storm, though such periodic atmospheric fluctuations are natural occurrences. Likewise, many contemporary ranching advocates make claims such as this one by grazing industry spokesman Thadis W. Box: "The period from the [sic] 1880 to 1905 was one of the driest in the past 1500 years" (Box 1987). Scientific studies and precipitation records prove these claims unfounded (see Air section in Chapter 111).

In truth, the range was simply so devastated by livestock grazing that biological population controls began to kill off the cattle and sheep (which, unlike today, were rarely given supplemental feed to mitigate starvation). In retrospect the massive die-offs were a blessing -- Nature's method of selfprotection -- for without them much of the West might have been transformed permanently into Sahara-like wasteland. Nature reduced 1884's estimated 35-40 million cattle to an estimated 27 million in 1890 (Holechek 1989). And despite it all the frenzied, profit-crazed cattlemen were eager to raise cattle numbers once again! Meanwhile, because sheep can survive in areas where cattle cannot and sheepmen had not yet fully expanded their efforts, the sheep population of the 17 Western states continued to climb and reached about 53 million that same year (Ferguson 1983).

Roundup following a hard winter in the late 1800s. (Unknown)

The invention of barbed wire by J.F. Glidden in 1874 became the final nail in the coffin for Western range. With it our public land indeed, about 2/3 of the West came under the symbolic and actual stranglehold of the livestock grazing industry. With barbed wire, the most powerful stockmen divided the West among themselves and brought it under their control, where it has remained ever since.

For the last five years over most of the mountain states you have been definitely overstocking your ranges, and you glory in your shame. You have been eating off the good pasture grass, and you have eaten it so close in many regions that the water has washed away the soil over large areas, and the wind has blown a lot Of it away, until some of the land is almost permanently ruined. It is all right to go ahead if you want to, under your rugged individualism and overstock your ranges and eat off the good pasture; it is all right for you to hurt yourselves if you want to; but it is a shame to hurt the land the way you have been doing.

--Early Western government official (Willard 1990)

Those initial decades of grazing insanity depleted, degraded, or destroyed over 700 million acres of grassland --all grassland west of the Mississippi River (Ferguson 1983). To this day most of it has not recovered (or been allowed to recover) to anywhere near a natural condition, and much of it has been altered beyond recognition from a natural state. There is no longer any US grassland larger than a few thousand acres in a pristine state. We will never know what was lost.

Compounding the impact from their animals was that wrought by stockmen themselves. Ranchers, as much or more than any of the newcomers, engaged in many activities that spoiled the aboriginal Western landscape. Aside from stringing fences, they overfished, overhunted, and overtrapped wildlife; felled trees; built various harmful range developments; introduced exotic game animals that outcompeted indigenous species; spread non-native pasture plants; and generally manifested a heavy presence.

Within twenty years after the cowboy moved onto the last unsettled portion of the United States, a continuous line of inhabitants stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific, for the cowboy had shown that this West had riches to plumb, fabulous wealth to yield to the hardy and adventurous, the sort of "risk-with-profit' that has always appealed to Americans.
--Joe B. Frantz and Julian Ernest
Choate, Jr., The American Cowboy

Stockmen also seized the rural West politically and economically. With power based on great numbers of livestock and control of huge amounts of land and crucial sources of precious water -- and with a willingness to use violence to get what they wanted -- they banded together to form what is known today as the livestock grazing industry.

Local, area, state, and regional stockmen's associations were formed to protect ranchers' interests, and gunmen were hired to enforce their agreements. These associations came to exert tremendous power, legally and illegally restricting grazing access to certain lands, imposing self-serving regulations, running small-timers out of business in various ways, having dissenters murdered, and so on. Usually they were closely associated with state or territorial governments; their rules and regulations were often translated into actual law, or at least made the basis of legislation. Many laws throughout the West were made by and for the livestock industry during this period, and many of these laws stand today.

Largely through these associations and laws, wealthy ranchers came to rule the West with an iron fist. Nearly all Westerners paid deference to the "cattle barons" and "cattle empires." The sheriff always wore a cowboy hat (perhaps most still do). And as Joseph Nimmo, Jr., chief of the US Bureau of Statistics, related in Harper's, November 1886:

The cattle-men and the cow-boys themselves supplied judges, jurymen witnesses, attorneys, constables, and executioners. Sometimes a level-headed cow-boy was placed upon the judicial bench. ... When the verdict of guilty was pronounced, a short shrift, and a stout rope, and a grave without a coffin or a winding-sheet, ended the proceedings. (Savage 1975)

Politicians, judges, lawyers, law enforcement officials, and others were expected to cater to livestock interests. Indeed, they were often influential ranchers themselves.

Stockmen's social powers became no less formidable. In The Range Cattle Industry, Edward Everett Dale writes:

In addition to the rules of more or less local live stock associations, there gradually grew up in the range cattle area a body of precedents, customs, and principles, the whole forming a kind of unwritten law of the range known as "cow custom" which was in force and respected throughout the entire region. (Dale 1960)

The overwhelming influence of this "unwritten law" found its way not only into personal lives and customs throughout the rural West, but into actual law as well, especially at state and local levels.

In "The West Against Herself," Bernard DeVoto describes the aggressive cattlemen common in the formative years of the grazing industry:

The cattlemen came from Elsewhere into the empty West. They were always arrogant and always deluded. ... They thought of themselves as Westerners and they did five in the West, but they were enemies of everyone else who lived there. They kept sheepmen, their natural and eventual allies, out of the West wherever and as long as they could, slaughtering herds and frequently herdsmen. They did their utmost to keep the nester -- the farmer, the actual settler, the man who could create local and permanent wealth -- out of the West and to terrorize or bankrupt him where he could not be kept out. And the big cattlemen squeezed out the little ones wherever possible, grabbing the water rights, foreclosing small holdings, frequently hiring gunmen to murder them (DeVoto 1955)

Conflicts between stockmen and other settlers were numerous. Those questioning stockmen's claims to power were dealt with swiftly and efficiently. Many were threatened, harassed, beaten up, and murdered. New settlers who clashed with established ranchers were driven off or killed. Farmers' crops were destroyed, many times intentionally, by marauding livestock. More Western homesteaders' hopes and hard work were crushed by ranchers and their cattle than by any other influence.

The movie Red River begins with rancher John Wayne driving his cattle onto the vast range of a Mexican landowner The Mexican's foreman rides into Wayne's camp and tells him that he and his stock must leave the next day, Wayne refuses, kills the foreman, and sends a messenger to the Mexican landowner informing him that Wayne now owns the land and will do whatever necessary to keep it. Red River is a cult film on how cattlemen won the West.


A funny thing. Ned morning the man that had been stampeding the herds was hanging from one of them trees -- considerably off to one side so's not to scare any cattle. He hung hisse so he wouldn't stampede no more cattle. That's what they said.
--From The Longhorns by J. Frank Dobie

Bloody battles or "range wars" were common even between stockmen themselves as they fought and killed each other trying to monopolize the dwindling, depleted forage land. When sheep began to spread through the West and compete with cattle, the war between cattlemen and sheepmen became especially gory. Initially sheepmen got the worst of it. Cattlemen attacked and looted sheep camps, burned camp wagons and provisions, and stole or killed horses and sheep dogs. Sheepmen often were beaten or murdered. For example, more than 30 men died in just a 3-year period in the Tonto Basin of central Arizona (Shanks 1984). Throughout the West, irate cattle ranchers killed hundreds of thousands of sheep by poisoning, clubbing, dynamiting them in close flocks, burning them in intentionally caused fires, driving flocks over precipices or into quicksand, and denying access to water and food (Roberts 1963).

However, sheep raising was highly profitable and increased steadily, eventually outdistancing cattle in value in many areas. In time, even many cattlemen decided to switch to the sheep business.

Sheep and cattle rustling was extremely common. The stolen animals were sold or added to existing herds. Suspected rustlers and sometimes competing herdsmen only accused of rustling were hanged for all to see. Rustlers even hanged less powerful rustlers as a warning to other rustlers to stay away from their turf.


The more powerful stockmen forced out the less powerful, who had previously forced out the less powerful, and so on, as all jostled for position in this rangeland version of "king of the hill." The competition for grass had become the the new gold rush, and any tactic was employed to get a bigger slice of the pie. The winners became rich and powerful; the losers left to seek greener pastures or died. By the time the undeclared range wars subsided, thousands of people lay dead. And stockmen's power in the rural West approached omnipotency.

Until the Sioux Indians were subdued, Wyoming was not safe for ranching but with the conclusion of the Indian wars, the cattlemen immediately took possession of the old hunting grounds of the Sioux Indians. Cattle replaced the buffalo and antelope on the plains and foothills of the Rockies. Some of the early ranchers employed as many riders to protect their interests from the Indians as they used for running livestock

-A.F. Vass, Range and Ranch Studies in Wyoming (Vass 1926)

Indian ricegrass, a staple of aboriginal Americans in much of the West, was mostly eliminated by livestock. (Helen Wilson)

In their conquest stockmen also murdered thousands of Native Americans, or hired mercenaries or pressured the US Army to do it for them. More than any non-military group, Western ranchers contributed to the Native's downfall and subjugation.

As soon as the federal government removed Native Americans from their homelands and onto reservations, cattlemen surged onto the newly vacant landscape. By the 1880s stockmen regularly grazed livestock in trespass on the "vast," "wasted" (ungrazed) Indian reservations as well. They began demanding that Western Congressmen reduce sizes of reservations. Congress often complied. For example, in the early 1890s the Blackfeet lost millions of acres when chronically trespassing ranchers convinced Congress to draft new treaties. Under pressure from stockmen, 4 reservations in Oregon comprising 3,567,360 acres in 1880 were reduced to 1,788,800 acres by 1890. Similar reductions took place in most Western states; most Indian reservations were reduced in size to accommodate US settlers, mostly ranchers. (Ferguson 1983, Shanks 1984)

Not satisfied, cattle ranchers continued to trespass the already reduced acreages. Indeed, throughout the West cattlemen not only ran thousands of cattle on Indian reservations but actually built homes there and claimed the land as their own. The government rarely tried to stop them. When it did, ranchers resorted to other tricks, such as driving cattle very slowly across reservations under pretense of moving them to other ranges, taking Native American wives to establish legal basis for grazing reservation lands, and consigning cattle to willing Native Americans (often bribed or supplied liquor) already living on reservations. Many trespassers simply claimed that they did not know where reservation boundaries were; when Congress finally appropriated money for surveys, stockmen pulled up stakes, destroyed boundary markers, and even murdered surveyors (Ferguson 1983). Pressure from Anglo ranchers was a major factor in the starvation, disease, and other hardship common on reservations.

Another change occurred in the second half of the nineteenth century ... A number of other wild resources that the Papago and Pima relied upon became so scarce [from livestock grazing] that to survive, they had to increase sales of whatever products they could muster in order to buy sufficient food. --Gary Nabhan, Gathering the Desert (Nabhan 1986)

Even before their murder and banishment to the reservations Native Americans were harmed by the grazing industry in other ways usually ignored by historians. As livestock increased in numbers throughout the West, they depleted or extirpated hundreds of plants these peoples had for centuries depended on for shelter, clothing, bedding, basketry, tools, religion, magic, and medicine. They ravaged many of the food plants that produced the edible roots, bulbs, fruits, seeds, stalks, flowers, and leafy greens that composed most of the aboriginal diet. Along with the depletion in useful vegetation came a corresponding reduction in wild animals and pollution and depletion of critical water sources. By the time native peoples had been forced onto reservations, much of the West could no longer sustain them. (When plants, animals, water sources, and bottomland began disappearing from Navajoland in the 1880s, many believed the region had been bewitched.) Cattle and sheep also ate and trampled Native American crops, including those they planted after settling onto reservations. Thus, Native Americans became dependent upon domestic beef, their homelands and reservations became desolate, and their physical subjugation was complete.

Along with Indian reservations, stockmen grazed livestock in nearly every other possible grazing area ostensibly off-limits, or legally open, to their bovines. Grazing others' private property was common (as it still is); wire cutters allowed ranchers to expand their operations to almost any ungrazed land. Illegal grazing in National Parks was standard. For instance, in 1896 the US Cavalry drove 1000 cattle, 300 horses, and 189,500 sheep out of Yosemite National Park (Ferguson 1983). For years after Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872, stockmen trespassed thousands of sheep and cattle. Some ranchers even built cabins and mowed hay there (McNamee 1985). Government reports state that as late as the 1920s grazing in Grand Canyon National Park was so intensive that park rangers were complaining of spending too much time disposing of cattle carcasses.

Probably most private range land in the western states was original obtained by various degrees of fraud in connection with the Homestead Act.

--Wesley Calef, Private Grazing and Public Lands (Calef

With the conquest of Native Americans, victorious military engagements with European powers, Mexico, and Russia, and massive land purchases, treaties, and other means of acquisition, the United States between 1803 and 1853 acquired the entire region that was to become "the West." Originally, nearly all of this land in the region to become the 11 Western states was under federal public ownership, excepting the old Spanish land grants in the Southwest and California and several million acres of other private holdings. By the early 1900s powerful stockmen would own about 1/3 of the West outright and control most of the other 2/3.

Ranchers gained ownership of federal land through various legal and illegal means, including outright theft, cheap sales that amounted to virtual giveaways of government land, and bribery or intimidation of government employees. Federal and, later, state governments gave away millions of acres as grants to encourage construction of railroads and roads; stockmen acquired much of this land for little or nothing, often through dubious means. Most of all, Congress enacted a series of laws designed to encourage settlement of the Western frontier, e.g., the Pre-emption Act of 1841, Homestead Act of 1862, Timber Culture Act of 1873, Desert Land Act of 1877 (of which one author estimated over 90% of land disposition was fraudulent), and Timber and Stone Act of 1878. Ranchers employed sundry schemes to gain title to more land than permitted under these acts. Often they would file claims under the names of employees, relatives, or people in other states, or invent fictitious names. Using a dozen aliases apiece, they would file claims to huge areas and through various methods later have the land transferred to their ownership. To qualify as homesteaders they would profess to have seen water where there was none; throw together a few boards and claim it a dwelling; pretend to be homesteading property while only spending a day or two per year there; run a few furrows and say they were farming; splash a little water on the ground and claim to be irrigating; and so on. Altogether, the federal government transferred more than a billion acres west of the Mississippi to private ownership, 2/3 of it being given away in the form of grants and homesteads. Dominant ranchers even stole private land from less powerful settlers with help from their government yes-men. (Foss 1960, Ferguson 1983, Shanks 1984)

Some ranching empires became enormous. One Mormon cattle enterprise amassed a dominion of 2 million acres, or more than 3000 square miles of open range. The largest was a Texas spread of over 5 million acres, roughly the size of New Jersey! Operations controlling hundreds of thousands of acres were common. Some of these cattle kingdoms have been handed down or sold basically intact over the years and still exist today.

Dominant ranchers also gained control of large blocks of federal and state land through various means: controlling checkerboarded, multi-ownership land by buying up alternate sections (square miles); monopolizing water sources; purchasing strategic private land; agreeing among themselves to respect illegal boundaries; and pushing through bogus state laws which purported to give rights to federal lands (Foss 1960).

To defend "their" rangelands from others, stockmen erected thousands of miles of illegal fences on public land. Department of the Interior records show that from 1880 to 1920 many thousands of ranchers illegally fenced tens of millions of public acres, with as much as 8.6 million acres behind illegal fences in one year (1887). These records reflect only reported illegal fencing; actual acreage illegally fenced certainly was much higher. (Foss 1960, Culhane 1981)

By the end of the 19th century, stockmen had gained ownership of most of the more productive rangeland and water sources in the West. Most of the rest remained under public ownership, where it is today. One publication described these public lands as "the least desirable leftovers," land which "throughout almost 200 years of fraud, theft, chicanery, and unparalleled generosity in land disposition, nobody bothered to steal or dedicate to a specific purpose." Thus -- defined through default -- were born what are now "our public lands."

All he [the early Western stockman] wanted from Washington was free use of public lands, high tariff on any meat coming from Australia and Argentina, the building and maintenance of public roads, the control of predators, the provision of free education; a good mail service with free delivery to the ranch gate, and a strong sheriff's department to arrest anyone who might think of intruding on the /anti "I want no interference
from the government, " the rancher proclaimed, and he meant
it--from Centennial by James Michener

Despite the devastation caused by the livestock invasion of the 1870s and 1880s, extreme overgrazing continued into the 20th century. However, many Westerners were becomming increasingly alarmed at declining range productivity -the depletion of water supplies, soil, game animals, and useful vegetation. Many more were calling for a halt to ranchers' reign of terror over the West. Even some stockmen began to recognize a need for regulation and stability in the grazing industry, especially for protection of forage and browse. But perhaps most importantly, powerful, established cattle ranchers desperately wanted to eliminate competition from their long-time rivals -- nomadic herders, mostly sheepmen. Gradually, over the years a number of measures were adopted to attempt to mitigate these problems.

In 1891 one of the first steps was taken when Congress passed a law setting aside federal forest reserves, eventually leading to the establishment of the United States Forest Service (USFS or FS) in 1905. The new federal agency enacted grazing regulations, created allotments, issued permits, and charged a nominal fee of 5 cents per month for each cow or 5 sheep grazed to help pay administrative costs. This effectively eliminated nomadic sheep and cattle herders on FS land. Grazing boards composed of local ranchers were set up and quickly became influential policy makers.

Powerful graziers were instrumental in creating the Forest Service and placing it under the jurisdiction of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), rather than Interior, where by all logic it should have been located. A great many ranchers became district, forest, regional, and national Forest Service range and administrative officials, and many still are today. For example, Albert F. Potter, an influential Arizona Wool Growers Association official, became the agency's first Chief of Grazing. Indeed, the Forest Service during its early years was much more tied to the grazing industry than to the timber industry. This history helps explain why today's Forest Service is so dedicated to ranching. (Voigt 1976, Foss 1960, etc.)

Ungrazed portion of Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge, NV, on left; BLM on right.

Old aristocrats of the western rangelands were given preference rights without competitive bidding. Public-land leases essentially became property rights, bought and sold by ranchers as part of a ranch. No Forest Service administrator would dare substantially reduce or transfer a grazing lease from a large and influential cattle rancher, no matter how abused the public's land might be.

--Bernard Shanks, This Land Is Your Land (Shanks 1984)

The most productive public land was now under Forest Service administration. Stockmen and farmers owned most of the productive private land, and there were millions of acres of other private and state land. But there remained more than half a billion acres of "leftover" federal public domain, roughly half of the 17 western states. Many graziers did not even bother trying to patent this land because they thought they could control it through their possession of adjacent water and land, through brute force, and by other means. Few seemed to care what happened to this "waste" land, and unrestrained grazing continued there for decades. Again, abuse was so severe on the unadministered public domain that even many ranchers began to realize that something had to be done.

Cattlemen here were concerned about the land's lowered productivity, but, as with the large ranchers who spawned the Forest Service, they were more concerned about another problem -_ continued competition from nomadic livestockmen, mostly sheepmen. In 1934 that problem was ended. With the support of the most influential cattlemen in the West many who were enticed by the promise of increased federal aid -- Representative Edward Taylor, a rancher from Colorado and sworn enemy of conservationists, pushed a bill through Congress. The Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 was adopted with the expressed intent of eliminating nomadic herding, as well as stopping indiscriminate settlement and grazing, stabilizing the gr i g industry, restoring damaged lands, and fulfilling other lofty goals (USDI, BLM 1976).

The Taylor Grazing Act also created the Division of Grazing under the Department of the Interior, with Colorado stockman Farrington Carpenter as its first Director. As with the Forest Service, Congress enacted regulations, created grazing allotments, and charged a nominal 5 cent grazing fee. Leases were issued to the privileged few, generally the most wealthy and powerful cattlemen, especially those who helped create the Taylor Grazing Act, often those who had illegally fenced off public land. To help secure their control and abolish nomadic herders, only those with "base properties" -- well-established, substantial private ranch holdings near the public land to be grazed -were eligible for leases.

Regulations were extremely loose, as they did not even restrict numbers of livestock or season of use. Yet, as with the new Forest Service permittees, these changes did not sit well with many in a group who had for decades done whatever they damn well pleased on public land. Irate ranchers threatened to run Department of Interior representatives out of town. Some issued belligerent statements that they would shoot anyone trespassing on "their" range and declaring that they would tolerate no government interference with ranching operations on private or public land. They collaborated to overwhelm the Division of Grazing with threats, complaints, and demands. Despite it all, with support from the most powerful Western stockmen, the Taylor Grazing Act and Division of Grazing survived, albeit with little real power over public ranching practices other than nomadic herding (Calef 1960). In This Land Is Your Land, Bernard Shanks writes: "In a classic example of western control of federal land, the Taylor Grazing Act retained the elite stock raisers' dominance using a permit system, a small grazing fee, and a weak agency to manage the program." (Shanks 1984).

In its first year of operation, 1935, the Division of Grazing was assigned 60 Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps with about 12,000 men to build fences, stock tanks, ranching roads, erosion control structures, and other livestock-related developments on public domain. The number of camps peaked at nearly 100 before the CCC disbanded in 1943. These years of CCC involvement were instrumental in subjugating the range for powerful livestock interests.

Through liberal interpretation of several phrases in the Taylor Grazing Act, Division of Grazing stockman/director Carpenter formulated administrative directives which established local "grazing advisory boards." Elected by local stockmen, the boards ostensibly would cooperate with agency district managers in planning for responsible management. State and federal boards were created as well. "Advisory" boards were likewise established by and for Forest Service permittees in 1950.

All these "advisory" boards were composed mostly of the same large-scale, aggressive, politically savvy ranchers who helped create the Forest Service and Taylor Grazing Act and awarded themselves federal grazing permits (or else stockmen who followed in their place). Most members were also livestock association officials, and many were bankers, real estate dealers, lawyers, timber barons, merchants, and mining tycoons. They realized, however, that it would be politically unwise if it appeared that big ranchers in livestock associations controlled the federal grazing administration apparatus. Consequently, to appease Congress and the public, a few token small-time ranchers were allowed onto the boards and placed into high-profile positions. The tactic remains common today.

Nonetheless, the grazing "advisory" boards assured powerful stockmen continued dominance. They quickly assumed nearly absolute power over grazing management decision-making; not even agency district managers dared challenge their authority. In Private Grazing and Public Lands, Wesley Calef affirms that, "the advisory board members- were the effective governing and administrative body of each grazing district" (Calef 1960). Indeed, Division of Grazing Director Carpenter in his yearly report for 1935 referred to the boards as "the local governing agency as to all matters of a range regulatory nature" (Foss 1960). The federal government even paid advisory board members $5 per day" expense salary," an appreciable salary in the 1930s.

In 1939, under close supervision of the grazing industry, the Division of Grazing was reorganized into the Grazing Service. This was no improvement. Congressional Representative Jed Johnson of Oklahoma later complained emotionally on the floor of the House:

But what did the Grazing Service do? They went out and ractically turned it over to the big cowmen and the big sheepmen of the West Why they even put them on the payroll... It is common knowledge that they have been practically running the Grazing Service. (Culhane 1981)

Seven years later, in. 1946, again under the influence of powerful stockmen, the Grazing Service and General Land Office were combined to form the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Due to industry pressure and lack of funds, administration and enforcement of grazing regulations had been practically non-existent. Now, with the formation of the BLM, many stockmen hoped that even the regulations that were enforced would be lost in the shuffle of reorganization.

They were not disappointed. Despite some of the founders' original intentions in creating the Forest Service and BLM, both agencies promptly acquiesced to stockmen's expectations. This is not to say they did not in many ways represent an improvement over the prior laissez faire system, but that grazing and ranching abuses and political, economic, and social injustice continued largely unchecked.

Due to excessive grazing industry influence in agency formations, regulations were weak to begin with. But ranchers generally followed them only when they wanted to anyway. In fact, for years many ranchers refused to obtain permits, pay grazing fees, or follow any regulations whatsoever. When agency personnel attempted enforcement, traditional grazing industry power neutralized the challenge by applying political, social, and economic pressures where needed. In short, the Forest Service and BLM (and states, etc.) functioned more as grazing industry tools than true regulatory agencies.

The Forest Service, being older, better organized, and with more of a public mandate to safeguard natural resources, generally has had more capacity to curb abuses and more success at it. Yet livestock grazing and other abuses remain prevalent on National Forests. BLM, staffed mostly with ranchers and ranching advocates and administering primarily stockmen-dominated rangeland, has had little inclination to curtail ranching abuses.

Over the years the ranching story has taken many twists. An expanding Western population suppressed most outright social violence long ago, though it still does occur. Sheep populations exploded soon after cattle, peaking around 1910 and according to some estimates rivaling cattle in overall value. Sheep raising declined drastically in the 1930s and continued to decline, with a slight upsurge since 1978. Goat grazing also became popular -- and destructive -- until a lack of herders caused it to fall off in mid-century, again, with a recent slight upsurge. Stockmen used World Wars I and 11 as excuses to overstock public ranges even further (our brave fighting boys need more meat), compounding the massive environmental degradation. Livestock grazing joined unwise farming to cause the 5-state, 50 million acre Dust Bowl disaster of the 1930s.

Agency corruption and pro-ranching biases have remained prevalent all along, though things have begun to change somewhat in recent years. The fee for grazing livestock on public land has always been and remains extremely low. Various range management policies come and go, none significantly improving range conditions. Annual government expenditures on ranching have risen manyfold, allowing technologically based management programs under the guise of range "improvement" to exploit and damage the environment more and in more different ways than ever before. The livestock industry, promoting various state land-grab schemes (most notably the so-called "Sagebrush Rebellion" of 1979), has tried to take our public land away and ultimately transfer ownership to stockmen, thus far with little success. The government and public, and even the agencies themselves in several recent cases, have battled the grazing industry on reform issues. The industry has prevailed in almost every case, if not legally, then in practice on the ground. The "ecology movement" of the 1960s and 1970s resulted in a number of important environmental protection laws being passed, but thus far they are poorly enforced, particularly with regard to ranching. Vehemently opposed to each of these laws every step of the way was the ranching industry. (See Chapter IX for details.)

The regional landed aristocracy that emerged with us attitude of aristocratic lawlessness, dominates public rangeland management to this day.
--Bernard Shanks, This Land Is Your Land (Shanks 1984)

The real history of the Western livestock industry is a century-long, continuing progression of corruption, trickery, thievery, harassment, persecution, brute force, and incredible insensitivity toward and destruction of the land - country mile from our idealistic cowboy fantasy. Ranching continues to be one of the most dishonorable episodes in American history, and denial will only allow this outrage to continue.

[Note. For more detailed studies of public lands ranching history, consult De Voto 1955, Calef 1960, Foss 1960, Voigt 1976, Ferguson 1983, or Shanks 1984.1

At this point if is necessary to differentiate between what is being done and the people doing it. First, it serves no good purpose denying that in some ways the attitudes and tendencies of their predecessors have followed stockmen down through the years. As a group even today Is ranchers often display the intolerance, machismo, self-importance environmental insensitivity, avarice, and drive-for-power that characterized early stockmen. As in any group, however, many modem stockmen are fine people who possess any number of good qualities. But this does not mean one must approve of their ranching. Historically, many individually fine people have been caught up in occupations, undertakings, or even lifestyles that have had disastrous impacts on the world and the people around them.

... as long as the rivers shall run and the grass shall grow... till the cows come home...

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