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Taylor Responds to Dagget

Subject: response to dagget's piece
Date: Mon, 19 Nov 2001 15:56:46 -0700
From: Martin Taylor <>

Dear Rob,

I hope that you will publish this as an Op-Ed response to Dan Dagget's extraordinarily manipulative and slanderous attacks on any and everyone who dares to be critical of ranching, published in the Sun on the 18th.

sincerely, Martin Taylor


Dan Dagget (Arizona Daily Sun Nov 18th) claims that the growing campaign for ending federal grazing privileges is nothing to do with the environment but apparently just a grudge campaign against ranchers.

Firstly, Mr Dagget confuses Rangenet, which is a conference of western environmental activists, with the National Public Lands Grazing Campaign (NPLGC), and then confuses both with vandals who cut fences.

A resolution was passed at the Rangenet 2000 conference recognizing the pervasive damage to our natural heritage by livestock ranching on federal lands and called for the program to end. A vast body of scientific evidence has established that livestock grazing has and is causing great damage. A Forest Service report of 1994 found grazing to be the greatest cause of native species endangerment in the southwest. A handful of conscientious ranchers are indeed trying to mitigate these impacts voluntarily, but this is a needle in the haystack of the damage that goes on.

The NPLGC is promoting legislation for a buyout of federal grazing permits from willing permit holders. As things stand the law is clear that a grazing permit is a privilege that can be revoked at any time without compensation. Some environmental groups including the Center for Biological Diversity, have realized that this is unfair and creates a barrier preventing more widespread protection of our public lands.

The solution proposed is a federally funded buyout of grazing permits from ranchers who are willing to let them go for a one time payment of $2100 an "animal unit", $1200 above the westwide average market value. The public lands in the permit would then be declared permanently livestock-free. In the declining beef economy, many permittees want out and this provides them with the means to make the transition in a fair and reasonable way. The buyout proposal is also a good deal for taxpayers. Considering that taxpayers already shell out about $500 million every year to subsidize the federal grazing program, it would save taxpayers a lot of money in the long term. How this campaign shows "prejudice" against ranchers only Mr Dagget can tell.

Mr Dagget also claims that unidentified "zealots" want to kick cows off the U-Bar Ranch in the North Burro Mountains of New Mexico, despite alleged successes of grazing management on this ranch. He refers to an area of high density nesting by the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher. But this area is on private not public lands. Federal rangelands are the exclusive focus of the Buyout Campaign.

According to Forest Service researcher Scott Stoleson, the reason the riverside forest is doing so well on the U Bar's private lands is that cows are excluded totally from about two thirds of it. The other third of the private U Bar land is open to cattle only from November to March. But during that time, cattle rarely enter the forested area, in any case, preferring the large grassy pasture on the western half of the floodplain. Also, for reasons unique to the site, Box elders, preferred nesting trees are recovering very well. So yes, U Bar "management" has resulted in recovery of native habitat-- but largely as a result of removing cows! If only all ranches would voluntarily remove their
cows from sensitive and critical habitat on public lands, we might have no need of the Buyout Campaign to protect these areas.

Failing to make scientific sense, Mr Dagget resorts to ugly innuendo. He tries to smear environmental groups critical of public lands ranching by drawing comparisons to white racists and racial profiling by police. 

Public lands permit holders number about 27,000. They use over 250 million acres of our public lands for their private profit, but manage to account for less than 2% of national beef production. They enjoy representation in our legislatures disproportionate to their minor role in the economy and society. 80% of federal rangelands are dominated by the top 15% of permit holders, a small elite that have accumulated great wealth and influence largely due to enormous subsidies by taxpayers. Permittees have faced readjustments to their operations because of growing conflicts with environmental laws. Mr Dagget compares this legally required "cost of doing business" with the tribulations of African Americans who face racism and racial profiling daily. This is insulting in the extreme to the real victims of racism and prejudice, and trivializes
their struggle and their experience. 

With the Buyout Campaign environmental groups have bent over backwards to create a solution that provides generous compensation to ranchers and encourages environmental protection by cancellation of grazing permits. The responses from grazing permittees that have been received so far are cautiously positive and respectful. Shrill responses such as Mr Dagget's do a great disservice to the ranching community in general, and offer no prospect of reasoned debate and compromise in resolving the rangeland conflict.

Martin Taylor, Ph.D.
Grazing Reform Program
Center for Biological Diversity
PO Box 710
Tucson AZ 85702

Tel:- (520) 623 5252 ext 307
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