Another Muddle


The long, confusing battle over whether to let 300 cows wander across 42,000 acres that drain into Fossil Creek offers a small, vivid illustration of why the U.S. Forest Service has become all but paralyzed in contending with conflicting demands on public lands.

On the one side, you have one of the dwindling number of ranching operations — this one oddly enough owned by a doctor dabbling in cattle raising.

On the other side, you have the Center for Biological Diversity fighting its tenacious, take-no-prisoners crusade on behalf of endangered species.

Somewhere in the middle you have the endangered Chiricahua leopard frog and a host of other species dependent on this miraculous, living stream.

For starters, the uplands of Fossil Creek seems like a strange place to make a stand for the right to run cattle on public lands. The creek is a precious, irreplaceable place.

Moreover, the Forest Service has once again shown a disheartening willingness to skimp on science and skirt the rules when under political pressure. For instance, the Center pointed out that cattle given access to a 40-foot stretch of the creek itself would likely gobble up every sprout and brush — and hang out around the water as long as possible. That violates the rules set out by the Coconino Forest Plan that bars grazing in any area where the cattle don’t leave at least 20 percent of the woody vegetation.

So the Forest Service changes the rule: Saying that what it meant to say was that as long as at least 20 percent of the woody growth survives on average throughout the forest, cows can eat every twig in a particular area. Such tactics leave the Forest Service endlessly vulnerable to these frustrating, expensive and never-ending lawsuits. And that’s a shame.

Ranchers can make use of public lands without harming the environment. Moreover, responsible ranch operations provide benefits to wildlife — like the stock tanks in which most of the Chiricahua leopard frogs on the allotment now live. Meanwhile, the loss of ranch operations has harmed rural communities like Payson.

It doesn’t have to be this way. For instance, the 4FRI idea proved that loggers and environmentalists can agree on a plan for the wise and sustainable use of public lands. But time after time, the Forest Service vacillates and equivocates rather than making defensible decisions based on science. So that even when the Forest Service has a case to make, everything ends up in a muddle — in court.


Michael Alexander 2 years, 11 months ago

Changing the rules in the middle of the game? I'm shocked! And frankly, there's absolutely no reason for us to think that the Forest Service would act any differently than any other part of this administration... it's the new definition of "trickle down."

A solution as big as the problem ==>


Mel Mevis 2 years, 11 months ago

I'm all for grazing, as long as it pays it own way. It doesn't.

The BLM and Forest Service are charging a grazing fee of $1.35 per cow and calf. Private fees ranged from $8 to $23 per cow and calf.

For FY2009, BLM has estimated appropriations for grazing management at $49.3 million, while receipts were $11.9 million. That is a subsidy of $37.4 million.

The Forest Service has estimated FY2009 appropriations for grazing management at $72.1 million, with receipts estimated at $5.2 million. That is a subsidy of $66.9 million.


Pat Randall 2 years, 11 months ago

When we had a cattle ranch our permit per animal was more than what Mel Mevis is saying it is now. That was back in the 60's and 70's. I don't know what management the F.S or BLM does on the allotments. That money must be spent somewhere else. One F.S. employee may have shown up once a year in 13yrs. Didn't realize they were paid so much. We had to keep the fences repaired and tanks for water for the cattle and WILDLIFE. Since our ranch was in a Wilderness Area, no one could enter the allotment in a vehicle unless we unlocked a gate for them. This included the Army Corps of Engineers. It had to be locked at all times.


Mel Mevis 2 years, 11 months ago


Here is where the number come from, the US Goverment - Congressional Research Service.

Just saying we keep talking about cutting welfare ....... this is welfare for businesses.


Mel Mevis 2 years, 11 months ago

Just a few facts.

  1. The price for live cattle is $1.43/lb.
  2. The average weight is between 980 lb and 1,450 lb
  3. The median wage for a cowboy is $18,670.
  4. The Little Green Valley Complex Allotments permit numbers are set at 10,050 Animal Unit Months (AUMs). The AUM is the amount of forage needed by an “animal unit” (AU) grazing for one month.

Do the math ....... When you pay less than $1.35 per AUM per month and gross at least $1400 per animal there is profit. If it takes 18 months to mature a cow the Forest Service receives $24.30. If you run process 500 head annually the gross is $700,000.

I am all for grazing cattle on public land. I just feel that they should pay their way just like I do.


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