Ranching In The West Is Widespread Welfare

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This note is in response to the letter written by reader Bill Conway, printed in the Feb. 9 issue of the Roundup.

Reader Conway has in effect placed logging, grazing and public access to national forests under the same umbrella.

I would like to point out that logging, grazing and general public utilization are three very different uses of our public lands. In my opinion, it is misleading to put all three uses into the same group.

A camper enjoying a weekend in the woods is not in the same category as a cattle rancher "enjoying" the use of public lands. Ranchers treat Arizona as a huge corral within which to run their hoofed locusts. The local and regional impact of 125 years of grazing has been the gradual and insidious destruction of riparian areas, native grasslands, healthy deserts, and our once-productive watersheds.

In the arid Southwest, cattle ranching is quite possibly the most destructive industry in the region's history. Given the paltry economic returns from cattle ranching 97 percent of the nation's beef supply is raised in the Midwestern and Eastern states it is difficult not to see Western public lands ranching for what it truly is: A massive government welfare program designed to ensure the livelihood of a very small private interest group.

As to logging, commercial use of the Southwest's forest has been under way for well over a century. To blame the condition of our dry and very slow-growing forests on the eight-year Clinton administration is ridiculous. The current condition of our forests is the result of over a century of overgrazing, combined with unrealistic fire management policies.

I am not from New Jersey, by the way. I was born and raised in this state, as was my father and my father's father. My family homesteaded in the Verde Valley in the 1860s, surviving by farming, and yes, by cattle ranching.

What is happening to this once-beautiful state is not a cartoon, either. It is destruction on a massive and heartbreaking scale. I am not a fan of Bill Clinton, but anyone who has the courage to stand between an honest man and a dollar bill has my respect.

Jeffrey York, Payson

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