Pollution and Environment Essay - Farmers, Environmentalists and Public lands

Pollution and Environment Essay - Farmers, Environmentalists and Public lands
Big changes are happening all over the Western United States. People from all over, including California, are moving to rural western towns. The Rockies are in a boom time. Time magazine reports that the mountains are growing at a faster rate that any other (Chase). The new settlers bring their own way of thinking and doing things. The western United States will always have farmers and ranchers, even though they are declining. The west was devolved and made what it is today because of farmers and ranchers. These two groups, the farmers and the new settlers many of whom are environmentalists, do not agree on much especially when it comes to managing public lands.Why should Americans worry about how public lands are managed. Well, imagine going into the grocery store and paying $8.00 a pound for beef. Managing public land is a very controversial issue being debated to this day. In fact congress has just passed some new laws concerning public lands. This report gives background on public lands, examples from both sides of the controversy and explains what has been going on in congress concerning public lands. This essay is going to be argued from the side of the farmer/rancher. The whole argument states that farmers should be able to keep grazing on public lands for the same amount of money that they always have paid.

What are public lands and what are they used for? The blm is in charge of the public lands in the west. In Colorado, alone, the blm has 2.9 million acres of forested land (http://www.hotchkiss.k12.co.us/hhs/English/webfolios/CSmith/land.htm#online). These public lands are used for a number of things. One of there biggest uses is for the pleasure of hunters and fishermen to experience the outdoors. Opposite of that, it is a place where animals can live without having to worry about human development, and there is always enough food to eat. It is also used as a place for fun: four-wheeling, hiking, photography, picnics and weddings have all been done on public lands (western livestock, Oct 6. pg 8.).

Now, the argument of public lands gets interesting when grazing is brought into the picture. The farms in the rural west are not humungous farms that cover thousands of millions of acres. A typical farm goes from 40 to 500 acres. So, in the summer, farmers usually do not have enough land to graze cows on and also get the crops ready for the winter ahead. Many farmers turn to public land for help. The blm issues permits to farmers so that they can have a place to graze their cows in the summer. Grazing is not just something that helps out farmers, it helps out the environment. Just like mowing your yard or pruning a fruit tree, grazing is an effective tool for improving vegetation (http://www.hotchkiss.k12.co.us/hhs/English/webfolios/CSmith/land.htm#online). Because there are less animals on the public lands now then there was one-hundred years ago, there has to be some other way to control the forage. A good example of this, is the buffalo. There used to be thousands of buffalo roaming the plains of Colorado, but they were all killed off. So, it just makes sense that some other form of grazing should be used (Norman Smith).

The other side of the argument, is the side of the environmentalists and the new comers to this area. The environmentalists say that grazing the land is bad for the environment. They say that the range land should go natural. But then that goes back to the whole issue of controlling forage. If the grass is not grazed, then it will grow until it dies and the forest will be less productive. The only real problem is overgrazing, but if this occurs the ranchers? permit is usually revoked. Another group that is against grazing public land is the new frontiersmen in the area. Everyone loves to play on the public lands. Our own county motto in Delta County is " Stay, Play and Enjoy." Well, yes, everyone will want to stay, and yes, people do like to play, but the problem, they say, is the enjoying part. People think that it is annoying to wait for a cow to cross the road or that it is so disgusting seeing cow do-do all over. However, this argument is not very strong.

An example of how environmentalist?s are making changes can be seen in the Northeastern Californian forests(Western Livestock, Sept 8). Tahoe National Forest in California has many acres of public land that is used for grazing. On the other hand environmentalists and the U.S. Forest Service are trying to seriously decrease grazing in that forest.. The U.S. Forest Service is drawing up a draft environmental impact statement. This statement will tell of every environmental impact that grazing has on public lands. This is okay, but some of these environmental impacts go to the extreme. For example, grazing by livestock can decrease the foraging habitat of field mice needed as prey by great white owls. This statement by the U.S. Forest Service has not been proven or even studied extensively. A lot of the environmental impacts that the U.S. Forest Service are looking at, indeed need to be looked at. The issues that are important to the environment can be changed without eliminating grazing on public lands.

Looking at it from the other side. If grazing is eliminated, then farmers won?t have anywhere to put their cattle in the summer. Renting private land is much too expensive for the farmers. If the farmers graze on their own land the grass is usually gone in mid July, and there is no way that the farmers could graze their own land and get crops ready for the upcoming winter. This will mean the farmers will eventually have to sell out. The ones that they are selling out to are the sub developers. This creates a bigger problem; more and more houses are being built on farmland. This means there is less land for those little field mice.

In the long run these studies on how grazing effects the environment are good. If it is proven that grazing hurts a specific part of the environment, then changes need to be made. But, you can have changes without eliminating grazing all together.

The environmentalists are winning. Many areas in the west are loosing public grazing land for ranchers. In South-Eastern Arizona extensive tests were done on the grazing land. Many endangered species were found in that area. Now environmentalists are proposing a bill to get rid of grazing in that area ( Western Livestock, Oct 13 Hazel, Karen ). Many other areas in the west are experiencing similar problems.

But ranchers are also winning. The forage improvement act of 1997 was just passed in Congress. This act assures ranchers that there will be permits in the future (Western Livestock, Oct 13, steven Vetter).

The only way for farmers and environmentalist?s to both win, is if they work together. Environmentalists and farmers have a lot of the same ideas, they just look at them differently. Both groups want to help out the environment. Both groups also agree that sub developing is a bad thing for undeveloped land. If environmentalists and ranchers do work together we can keep public lands from sub-developers, work on environmental issues, keep grazing on public lands and satisfy everyone. A good example of this is the High Country Alliance in Crested Butte Colorado. The High Country Alliance is made up of ranchers, environmentalists and state and local government. All of these groups are working together to improve public lands and decrease sub development(Norman Smith). Grazing is needed for the environment and for ranchers to survive in the ranching business.

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