Cowbelles' Collapse A Sad End To A Rich Tradition



Another segment of the West's way of life came to an end last week in Payson. The Tonto Cowbelles, the distaff side of the ranchers in the Payson area announced that it was hosting its 'last supper' Saturday, July 29. After 23 years, the group is disbanding.

A telling comment: "Not many members even own cattle anymore." What an inglorious end to what once was a very important segment of the economy in the West.

And, the scenario plays out per the game plan of Bruce Babbits' Interior Department.

Timber: First, you can eliminate commercial timbering on most of your forest, thereby saving it for posterity, until such time as wildfires throughout the West consume the grossly overgrown and brush-choked trees, turning them into ashes as is so disastrously occurring this summer throughout the West. And then the experts in Washington modify their position, saying they plan on resuming their much-criticized controlled burns in the Western states next year, or even this year if the catastrophic wildfires continue to burn unabated.

Mining: And then there is the mining industry, which for all practical purposes has been eliminated or excluded from opening up new mining operations in the states by utilizing various governmental controls such as (Environmental Protection Agency) disapproval, U.S. Forest Service disapproval, etc.

And, as all of the environmental cognoscenti will tell you, you should not disturb or deface the earth by extracting ore to obtain various metalliferous products. The more common (ores) would include iron, lead, zinc, copper, ad infinitum. And, as our current mines are depleted, where are the indispensable metals coming from? Overseas.

Cattle: What an inglorious end to what once was a major economic factor in the West. (The industry is now) subject to the whims of cattle prices, the U.S. Forest Service and state environmentalists. And the last two protagonists are in a position where they can tell the rancher, "you will immediately reduce your herd size by 25 or 50 percent, or you'll have 30 days to remove all of your cattle from your allotment.

And, why are these drastic measures proscribed: the allotment could get "potential habitat" for the Southwest Willow Flycatcher, or the claim that all of the allotment is being degraded even though in many cases, the Forest Service personnel have not visually inspected all of the damaged land.

I am reminded of the 30-year veteran of the Forest Service who specialized in the science of range management and who said, "When properly managed, livestock grazing is one of the most effective tools that we have to rejuvenate sterile rangeland.

C.M. Henline, Payson

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