Public lands ranchers, many of whom decry the federal government while happily accepting federal grazing subsidies, continue to defy Bureau of Land Management (BLM) restrictions on livestock grazing. Emboldened by Cliven Bundy, who owes the federal government millions of dollars in grazing fees and whose trespass cattle are still illegally grazing on BLM land in southern Nevada, ranchers continue to thumb their nose at federal authority. As in the Bundy situation, the BLM continues to back down. While the agency has threatened to arrest wild horse advocates for the simple act of videotaping, it takes no action against lawless ranchers who flaunt grazing restrictions and offer up threats of violence in the form of armed militias. The BLM”s lack of action against these violators is an affront to law abiding citizens and American taxpayers whose drought-stricken, western public lands are rapidly being turned into a dust bowl, courtesy of welfare ranching. Please read on for the latest examples.
BLM allows grazing on closed allotment to avoid confrontation
During the first week of June, 2015, two Elko County Commissioners joined welfare ranchers Dan and Eddyann Fillippini in breaking federal law by turning out cattle in a drought stricken area of public lands where livestock grazing has been prohibited by the BLM. In response, the BLM did nothing. Instead the agency “negotiated” with these ranchers, who feel entitled to graze their livestock on our public lands and receive taxpayer-subsidized grazing rates that are a fraction of market rate. In a settlement dated June 5, 2015, the BLM agreed to allow the Fillippinis to leave their trespass cattle on the public lands that have been closed to livestock grazing because of the drought. In exchange, the Filippinis admitted to “willful” grazing trespass and will have to pay less than a week’s worth of “enhanced” grazing fees, which are still a fraction of market rate, thanks to our taxpayer subsidies Since the settlement, the grazing fee has reverted to $1.65 per Animal Unit Month, which is at least 1/12th of the fee they would pay to graze their livestock on private lands and far cheaper for the Filippinis than keeping their cattle on their own private lands and feeding them hay. So, once again, the BLM rewarded welfare ranchers for illegal behavior and the destruction of our public lands.
April 7, 2015 by Donny Moss
In its extensive coverage of the California drought, the New York Times has consistently focused on the cultivation of crops without so much as mentioning animal agriculture, which is far more water intensive.
The glaring omission has sent readers the message that fruits, vegetables and nuts – not beef and dairy – are responsible for the state’s grave water shortage. Following are excerpts from the NY Times over the past three days.
April 6th: “Even as the worst drought in decades ravages California, . . . millions of pounds of thirsty crops like oranges, tomatoes and almonds continue to stream out of the state and onto the nation’s grocery shelves.”
April 5th: “The expansion of almonds, walnuts and other water-guzzling tree and vine crops has come under sharp criticism from some urban Californians.”
April 4th: ”There is likely to be increased pressure on the farms to move away from certain water-intensive crops — like almonds.”
Cultivating crops might be be water intensive, but it uses a fraction of the water consumed in animal agriculture. On California’s factory farms, which house tens of millions of chickens, pigs and cows, water is used not only to hydrate these animals but also to grow their feed and clean the facilities and slaughterhouses where they are raised and killed.
Eliminating animal agriculture, which inefficiently uses of a scarce resource and is altogether unnecessary, would undoubtedly help to curb California’s water shortage.
Following are just a few statistics that demonstrate the impact of animal agriculture on the water supply:
- 2,500 gallons of water are used to produce one pound of beef compared to 100 gallons for a pound of wheat.
- Vegetables use about 11,300 gallons of blue* water per ton. Pork, beef and butter use 121,000, 145,000 and 122,800 gallons per ton respectively. (*Blue water is water stored in lakes, rivers and aquifers.)
- Each day, cows consume 23 gallons of water; humans drink less than one.
- The amount of water needed to produce a gallon of milk is equivalent to one month of showers.
- 132 gallons of water are used every time an animal is slaughtered.
One year ago (March, 2014), the NY Times published an op-ed, Meat Makes the Planet Thirsty, that included statistics comparing the amount of water used for crops and animals. So why is it omitting this vital information in its current coverage of the drought? Could it be a mere oversight? Or is it something more sinister?
Three men hired by the farm opened fire on the animals Friday afternoon in woods in the town of Coeymans, about 10 miles south of the capital. …… They escaped Thursday from a farm across the Hudson River in the Rensselaer County town of Schodack. The owner believes they swam across the river to the town of Bethlehem, where they wandered across a busy stretch of Interstate 87 and into neighboring Coeymans.
Public Overwhelmingly Supports Free-ranging Tule Elk Herd at Point Reyes National Seashore
Ranchers Lobbying Park Service to Remove or Fence Out Native Elk
POINT REYES, Calif.— The vast majority of 3,000 public comments on a ranch-management plan for Point Reyes National Seashore support allowing a free-roaming tule elk herd to stay at Outer Point Reyes rather than being fenced in or removed. The comments were released today by the National Park Service as part of a planning process initiated for 28,000 acres of dairy and beef cattle ranches within the national park.
“Point Reyes tule elk are highly beloved by visitors, photographers, naturalists and locals alike. The public doesn’t want these elk relocated, fenced into an exhibit, shot, sterilized or any of the other absurd proposals from ranchers who enjoy subsidized grazing privileges in our national seashore,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is the only national park with native tule elk — it’s not a ‘national ranch’ or a zoo exhibit, and it shouldn’t be managed that way. If the park takes any steps toward fencing or relocating elk, it will create a legal and public-relations fight that it will lose.”
The Park Service is considering extending existing ranching leases for up to 20 years. The management plan will address concerns about alleged conflicts between tule elk and ranch operations. The Point Reyes Seashore Ranchers Association, Marin Supervisor Steve Kinsey and Congressman Jared Huffman are demanding that the Park Service remove free-ranging tule elk from the “pastoral zone” or build an extraordinarily large, environmentally damaging elk-proof fence to keep elk out of ranching areas. Many ranchers claim that elk cause economic impacts by eating grass they believe belongs solely to their cattle.
“Tule elk are an ecologically important part of the landscape of Point Reyes National Seashore, while cattle grazing permits are a privilege and certainly not a free pass to try to dictate Park Service policy that harms park wildlife,” said Todd Steiner, biologist and executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network. “Ranching and wild elk herds can coexist at the seashore, but if ranchers want to manufacture a fight over cattle versus elk, they are likely to quickly learn that the vast majority of Americans rightly choose wildlife over cows in our parks.”
The ranchers in the national seashore enjoy heavily subsidized cattle grazing lease rates on public lands within the park. They bizarrely characterize native tule elk as “invasive” because they were extirpated in the 1800s when ranchers and market hunters eliminated them from the Point Reyes peninsula and most of California. Tule elk were reintroduced to Point Reyes in 1978, and a free-ranging elk herd was established in the park in 1998.
Tule elk have been grazing the Point Reyes peninsula for about 10,000 years, except during from the late 1800s, when they were eliminated from most of California. They returned in 1978 when the National Park Service reintroduced elk to Tomales Point. Tule elk have taken well to reintroduction, and the Tomales Point herd is one of the largest of the 22 herds in California, with a stable population of 450 elk, which are fenced in on the remote point.
The Park Service last prepared an elk management plan in 1998, with an environmental assessment considering alternatives for managing elk on Tomales Point, and decided on a plan to establish a free-ranging herd within the park. The Park Service reintroduced 28 tule elk to the Limantour wilderness area in 1998. The Limantour herd has grown to 65 elk, and a sub-herd established itself near Drakes Beach, now numbering 55 elk, nowhere near the park’s stated management limit of 250-350 elk. The 1998 reintroduction plan allowed capture and relocation of wayward elk, contraception of elk in the event of the herd surpassing 250-350 elk, and even killing aggressive elk that had conflicts with cattle ranches, which has only happened once.
The Park Service is required to manage Point Reyes National Seashore “without impairment of its natural values” and for “maximum protection, restoration, and preservation of the natural environment.” The reintroduction of elk to the Point Reyes peninsula is a success story for conservation of native species and restoring ecosystem processes, one of the primary missions of the National Park Service. Free‐ranging elk, as browsers, play an important role in reducing fire danger by reducing brush that is unpalatable to cattle, and without negative impacts to water quality.
Some of the ranchers at the national seashore routinely violate their lease conditions by stocking excess cattle, allowing cattle to trespass out of the pastoral zone (where they are eating forage needed by wildlife) and raising animals not allowed in their leases — with no consequences. Public-lands ranchers at the seashore pay less than half of the grazing rent they would pay outside the park on private lands ($7 to $9 per animal unit month inside the park compared with $15 to $20 outside), which already more than compensates these livestock operators for any wildlife impacts.
[Listen to this Crap (in bold text)]
by Brian Stallard
According to a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, beef cattle require 28 times more land and 11 times more irrigation water than pork, eggs, poultry or even diary.
“We have a sharp view of the comparative impact that beef, pork, poultry, dairy and eggs have in terms of land and water use, reactive nitrogen discharge, and greenhouse gas emissions,” lead author Gidon Eshel, from Bard College in New York, told BBC News.
To reach their findings, Eshel and his team collected and analyzed data on five edible livestock industries from 2000 to 2010, as provided by the US Department of Agriculture. Based on consumption models, they then calculated what kind of burden each of these industries placed on the environment.
Being exceptionally inefficient energy converters and a hugely popular source of food, cattle have long been known to have a greater environmental impact compared to other livestock. However, this is the first time that their impact has been quantified.
According to the report, land and irrigation burden aside, the emissions from cattle alone nearly make up the ten-fold impact seen, compared to other livestock.
Methane gas (CH4) has increased in average world volume by an estimated 50 percent compared to pre-industrial levels, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Alarmingly, this gas is far more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2).
“Pound for pound, the comparative impact of CH4 on climate change is over 20 times greater than CO2 over a 100-year period,” the EPA reports.
“The result is that the researchers estimate that over 60 percent of the environmental burden of livestock in the US results from beef,” commenting expert Mark Sutton, from the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, told BBC. “Although the exact numbers will be different for Europe, the overall message will be similar: Cattle dominate the livestock footprint of both Europe and US.”
But don’t go thinking about veganism just yet. A past Nature World News report detailed a new proposed solution for the environmental burden of sheep in Europe – genetically tweaking the animals to reduce their methane footprint. If a similar technique could be used in cattle populations, we all can keep munching on hamburgers even as the “beef burden” is lightened.
Thinking Beyond the Animal Factories to Save This Planet
“In the alchemist’s dungeon that is almost any well-appointed shopping center in the “developed” world, you can buy cosmetics, transmission fluid, and pet food made from whales; you can buy the hide of lynx in the form of a hat, or gloves made from the skin of an unborn lamb; you can buy a coat made from seal whelps; you can buy a tropical finch in a metal cage and a Siamese fighting fish in a plastic bag; you can buy firearms and whammo ammunition and multiple hooks with barbs on them; you can buy sharkskin shoes and the unspawned eggs of a sturgeon; you can buy the pulverized enlarged liver of a force-fed goose and the testicles of a bull and the brain of a calf . . . . You can buy the sterile eggs of an untrod chicken and the tongue of a feed-lot steer that spent its last weeks hock-deep in its own manure; you can buy medicines made from the blood and viscera of living laboratory animals . . . . You can also buy the Holy Bible and the Declaration of Human Rights.” The John Livingston Reader (2007), p. 149.
THURSDAY, FEB. 5, 2015, MIDNIGHT
Kretz legislation proposes relocating wolves
Washington’s best wolf habitat is in the southern Cascade Mountains, where vast federal lands support more than 20,000 elk in the state’s two largest herds.
State biologists expect wolves to discover this prime territory and thrive there by 2022, after gradually dispersing south along the Cascade range.
But seven years is too long a wait for state Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, whose Northeast Washington legislative district is currently home to 11 of the state’s 14 wolf packs, as well as cattle ranchers and sheep herders.
He’s again sponsoring what he calls a “share the love” bill that would require the Department of Fish and Wildlife to try relocating wolves to other parts of Washington.
“Most of the support in the state for wolves … comes from areas where there are no wolves,” said Kretz, who last year sponsored a bill to capture Eastern Washington wolves and transplant them to the districts of West Side legislators opposed to any controls on the predators.
But the current bill, HB 1224, isn’t a jab at Western Washington, Kretz said. Instead, it’s intended to speed up wolves’ colonization of the state, which would hasten the removal of federal and state protections for wolves and allow for more active management.
The legislation is among several wolf-related bills scheduled for hearings today in the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Relocating wolves would face steep political hurdles, but some livestock producers and environmental groups think the idea has merit.
The Washington Cattlemen’s Association wants ranchers to have more options for dealing with wolves that attack livestock, said Jack Field, the association’s executive vice president. That won’t happen until wolf populations recover to the point that federal protections are lifted throughout the state, and relocating wolves would make that happen faster, he said.
According to Washington’s wolf recovery plan, wolves will remain a protected species until at least 15 breeding pairs are documented across the state for three years. The pairs must be geographically dispersed so there are breeding pairs in Eastern Washington, north-central Washington and a zone that includes the south Cascades and Western Washington.
Environmental groups also support faster colonization.
“The South Cascades has the best wolf habitat in the state because of the prey base,” said Mitch Friedman, Conservation Northwest’s executive director. In addition to the Yakima elk herd, with about 10,000 animals, the area contains the St. Helens herd, which is infected with a bacterial hoof disease.
“The state is hiring gunners to mercy-kill some of those elk. Wolves would do a better job,” Friedman said.
But the southern Cascades and the Olympic Peninsula, which also has good wolf habitat, are rural and conservative, much like Northeast Washington. Politically, it would be difficult to get the support to relocate wolves, Friedman said.
“There’s a big difference between wolves coming there on their own paws versus in a state pickup truck,” he said.
That’s one of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s concerns, said Dave Ware, the agency’s policy lead on wolves. In the Northern Rockies, anti-wolf advocates have never forgotten the federal government transplanted Canadian wolves into Yellowstone and Central Idaho.
“There’s that stigma that you brought them here, versus them moving in naturally,” Ware said.
The endeavor also would be costly and time consuming, he added. State biologists figure they would need to trap and transplant about 30 wolves – preferably in packs – to end up with several breeding pairs that would stick around in their new location.
Such an action would require thorough state and federal environmental analysis, which would take two to three years to complete. A wolf relocation pilot project, as outlined in Kretz’s bill, would cost about $1 million, according to state estimates.
In a few years, wolves will be establishing packs in the South Cascades on their own, Ware predicted. Wolf tracks have been documented northwest of Yakima, in the foothills of the Cascades, where credible sightings of multiple wolves also have occurred. Last spring, a photo of a wolf was taken in Klickitat County.
“They are bounding around. They’re looking,” Ware said. “It’s just a matter of time before a male and female find each other and decide to start a pack.”
But Kretz said livestock producers in Northeast Washington need faster action to protect their animals from wolf attacks. He and Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, also are sponsoring or co-sponsoring several other wolf bills.
Also on the agenda for today’s hearing are bills that would order the Fish and Wildlife Department to manage wolf problems with “lethal means” under certain circumstances and give the Fish and Wildlife Commission more leeway in changing a state endangered species classification.
Sen. Brian Dansel, R-Republic, is sponsoring a companion bill in the Senate, allowing state endangered species to be declassified by region. If adopted, it would allow the state to manage wolves differently in the eastern one-third of Washington than in other parts of the state.
“We’re putting out a number of ideas,” Short said. “We’re saying we just need some relief.”
Published December 3, 2014
In late August, a government sharpshooter in a helicopter hovering above a wooded eastern Washington hillside killed the lead female wolf of the Huckleberry Pack. The aim was to end attacks by the wolf pack, which had killed more than two dozen sheep.
The research, published today in the scientific journal PLOS One, flies in the face of the common idea that the swiftest and surest way to deal with wolves threatening livestock is by shooting the predators. It adds to a growing understanding of how humans influence the complex dynamics driving these pack animals, sometimes with unexpected consequences.
As wolves spread across the West, triggering more encounters with sheep and cattle, and as two states host wolf-hunting seasons, the new research also adds more fuel to an already heated political debate about how to deal with wolves.
“The livestock industry, they’re not going to be happy with this,” said Rob Wielgus, a Washington State University ecologist and the study’s lead author.
Back From the Brink
Shooting wolves is a long-standing practice in the ranching world. It helped lead to the animal’s eradication in the western United States in the 1930s. Since the wolf’s reintroduction in the mid-1990s, government officials and ranchers have frequently reached for a gun to cope with livestock problems—killing more than 2,000 wolves by 2013.
In 2011, wolves were removed from federal protection under the Endangered Species Act in Idaho, Montana, and parts of Washington, Oregon, and Utah. (Wyoming got a similar stamp of approval in 2012, but a federal judge recently overturned that decision.) That has made it easier to shoot wolves—Idaho and Montana now even allow recreational hunting.
But there have never been any large-scale studies of whether killing wolves really helps protect livestock.
Enter Wielgus. He has a track record for turning conventional wisdom on its head when it comes to attempts to control predators. In 2008 he made news with research that found shooting cougars led to more attacks on livestock. When mature adults were killed, Wielgus said, less seasoned adolescents moved in and were more likely to prey on cows and sheep.
After wolves arrived in Washington in 2008, growing to 13 packs by 2013, Wielgus turned his attention to the newest carnivore on the block. He examined 25 years of data on killing of wolves and cases where wolves attacked cattle and sheep in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming—the first states where wolves were reintroduced.
What the Data Say
Wielgus found that when a wolf was killed, the chances of livestock getting killed increased the following year in that state—by 5 to 6 percent for cattle and 4 percent for sheep. With each additional wolf killed, the chance of livestock attacks rose further. The trend didn’t reverse until more than a quarter of the wolves in the state were killed in a single year. Then livestock losses started to decline.
That level of wolf-killing happened several times even while wolves were federally protected, under rules that allowed shooting of wolves that threatened livestock. And it is happening now in Idaho and Montana. Last year, hunters killed 231 wolves in Montana and 356 in Idaho, helping to reduce the population to slightly more than 600 in each state. The Idaho legislature this year created a Wolf Depredation Control Board, a move critics say is aimed at pushing wolf numbers down to just above 150—a cutoff that could trigger renewed protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Wielgus isn’t certain why more livestock die when smaller numbers of wolves are killed. But he suspects it’s tied to changes in pack behavior. Packs are led by a male and female breeding pair. If one or both of those wolves is killed, the pack can break up, giving rise to several breeding pairs—and thus an uptick in the wolf population. Livestock losses decline only when enough wolves are killed to overwhelm their ability to keep up through reproduction.
The theory fits observations made in and around Yellowstone National Park. Wolf packs inside the park—where wolves aren’t shot—are large and complex, with wolves of a variety of ages living together, said Doug Smith, a lead wolf researcher at Yellowstone. Wolf packs elsewhere tend to be just a breeding pair and pups.
For Wielgus, the upshot of his study is that while killing a wolf might sometimes be necessary, as a routine practice it’s counterproductive and unsustainable. Either livestock losses go up or, if enough wolves are killed to reduce livestock deaths, wolf numbers eventually drop so low that wolves wind up back on the endangered species list. If the killing slows to less than 25 percent of the wolf population per year, his study suggests, depredation rates shoot back up.
“It’s a bit of a catch-22,” Wielgus said. “You can reduce them now, but you can only reduce them so far, and when you stop that heavy harvest, now you’re at maximum livestock depredation.”
Is There Another Way?
Reaction to the new study was split down predictable fault lines. Wolf conservationists pointed to it as evidence that shooting wolves to save livestock usually doesn’t make sense. “You have this very archaic paradigm of kill first, ask questions later,” said Suzanne Stone, senior northwest representative for the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife. Overall, people in the livestock industry are “still pretty rigid in their views that the only way to deal with predators is to kill them. And that’s not true. It actually works against them.”
Stone has run a program with sheep growers in one Idaho valley aimed at finding ways for sheep and wolves to coexist. The ranchers there resort to a number of tactics to protect roughly 30,000 sheep: monitoring wolves to avoid grazing the sheep near denning sites, using guard dogs, flashing bright lights to scare off wolves, stringing a wire hung with small strips of fabric around the flock at night, and increasing the number of people herding the animals.
Stone said the program is cheaper than dispatching a gunman in a helicopter. Fewer than 30 sheep have been lost to wolves in seven years, and no wolves have been killed.
Stan Boyd, executive director of the Idaho Wool Growers Association, said his group works with members to help them deter wolves without shooting the animals. But he still sees guns as critical tools, and he says wolf problems have declined recently as the number of Idaho wolves has gone down.
“Wolves get into livestock, we kill the wolves. And that works well,” Boyd said. “The professor can say whatever he wants. We’re not going to just let wolves run wild.”
In Washington state, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which paid for Wielgus’s research, is waiting for him to complete a broader examination of all options for managing wolves, said John Pierce, the agency’s chief wildlife scientist. “In the long run, we definitely would prefer to do nonlethal removal if we can figure out how it works,” Pierce said.
Meanwhile, all eyes are on the Huckleberry Pack. In the aftermath of the shooting of the lead female, will fewer sheep die in wolf attacks—or more?