Cattle Ranching Can Be Good For Wildlife And Environment


by C.H. Henline


May I serve as the devil's advocate and discuss a letter by Mr. Jeffrey York, who excoriated Mr. Bill Conway's letter, wherein he commented on the condition of our national forests and the multi-purpose usage to which they are subjected.

Cattle ranching, in your opinion, is the most destructive use of open range. In rebuttal, I would quote two expert sources to refute your claims.

Cecil Simms, with 30 years of experience in the science of range management for the Forest Service, comments that grazing has been the one tool found to encourage vegetative growth on seemingly sterile areas.

Using this method, Phelps Dodge was able to stabilize its tailings ponds, (which are) residue of crushed ore after the minerals have been extracted. Spreading hay and grass seed on the sterile crushed material, watering it and letting the cattle eat the hay while moving around to feed, (the cows) fertilize and trample the grass seed into the sterile surface. And, after a period of years, what had been a very unconsolidated material was covered with vegetative growth. Thanks to grazing cows.

The other source is the Allen Savory Center for Holistic Management in Denver, Colo. Mr. Savory, a South African, while working as a game ranger, noted that the great herds of animals while moving across the veldt would graze and continually move on, browsing as they moved with the herd in their migration pattern.

After Mr. Savory immigrated to the United States many years ago, he established his company, which specializes in sending trained individuals to various parts of the world to implement a grazing system that utilizes cattle to incorporate organics and sponginess back into sterile range.

Amazing as it may be, the same cattle that caused the original degradation of the range can, under controlled conditions, make that same range into a flourishing landscape.

To address your concerns about the condition of our forests, there are many factors involved, not the least being the positions of environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity. And, each of them has made their position known to the Forest Service. Basically, it's, "Do not cut the trees; do not cut the undergrowth; let nature resolve any problems." And, did it 7 million acres of forest turned to ashes.

Being personally familiar with some of the areas that burned, such as the bitterroots, I say, what a tragedy.

I won't address what used to be one of the major industries that utilized the resources of our outback mining. It got the message some time back. "We don't want you digging in our pristine soil." So increasingly, most of the metalliferous products that we must have are coming from foreign sources.

And so goes the self-sufficiency of the United States of America.

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