Groups endorse plan to end public lands grazing

By JEFFRY MULLINS, Associate Editor


ELKO, NV - March 4, 2002-- More than 75 organizations, including some that receive federal funding, have endorsed a plan to end livestock grazing on federal lands in the West.

The plan was unveiled last fall by National Public Lands Grazing Campaign and would involve purchasing grazing permits from ranchers, then permanently retiring the permits.

Special legislation would be needed in order for the group to accomplish its goal. Meanwhile, letters have been mailed to the approximately 25,000 grazing permittees to introduce them to the buyout proposal and ask for their support.

"Some ranchers have already voluntarily relinquished their grazing permits to the government in exchange for compensation from third parties, and we believe many more would sell their permit interest to the government and retire the associated allotments from grazing," NPLGC reports on its Web site,

Mark Salvo, attorney for the group, also works for American Lands Alliance, a
Washington, D.C.-based group that has threatened to petition for listing of the sage grouse as a federally protected species.

At a RangeNet conference last fall, Salvo told the audience grazing takes
place on 270 million acres of federal land, which is "a significant land area." But he said the number of ranchers using the land is "insignificant" and contributes less than a tenth of one percent to employment in the West. American Lands is one of the endorsers, along with Western Watersheds Project (Idaho), Alliance for the Wild Rockies (Montana), Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics (Oregon) (Is this legal?), Humane Society of the United States (Washington, D.C.), Wild Utah Project (Utah), The Wildlands Project (Vermont) and 70 other groups.

An article by Salvo and Andy Kerr of The Larch Company says, "Domestic livestock grazing (mostly beef cattle) have done more damage to North America than the bulldozer and chainsaw combined. Not only have livestock been degrading the landscape longer than developers, miners, and loggers, they have grazed nearly everywhere. Yet, the conservation movement has paid scant attention to this issue, even on federal public lands where livestock mow through 257 million acres annually."

Buying out the grazing permits would be cheaper for taxpayers than allowing grazing to continue, they say.

Others on the group's steering committee are Katie Fite of the Committee for Idaho's High Desert, John Horning of Forest Guardians, Bill Marlett of Oregon Natural Desert Association, Jon Marvel of Western Watersheds Project, Randi Spivak of American Lands Alliance and Martin Taylor of the Center for Biological Diversity.

Some of the groups endorsing the plan have received federal funding. These include California Trout, based in San Francisco; Land and Water Fund of the Rockies; and World Wildlife Fund.

NPLGC is preparing to publish a book titled "Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized
Destruction of the American West," due out this summer.

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