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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

25 Responses to Wyoming's Game and Fish chief doesn't agree with the state vets on brucellosis

  1. avatar Robert Hoskins says:

    This appears to be Cleveland’s swan song on brucellosis; he retires next month. Why he wants to have his last official words on the subject to be so false, and demonstrably so, is most curious. He’s not known for his courage, but then, that is the bureaucratic imperative. Courage is not allowed at the top.

    The CST has agreed to take a rebuttal op-ed from me on the issue and I’ll be working on it today..

  2. avatar Salle says:

    Well,

    I AM well educated about this issue and I say Cleveland is crying the same sad tear-jerker-victim-ranchers’ song. Victims of the democratic process that thwarts their “practicing business at the taxpayers’ expense” agenda. What a crock…

    Get yer cattle out of my yard and leave the wildlife alone.

  3. avatar Sue RB says:

    I always wonder if someone has the ability to see both side of a topic by the first thing out of their mouth. … Salle a bit harsh how about the cattle or the rancher. These two are both victims. I dont much agree with the open drift but I understand it. I also know the Ranchers are NOT “sad tear jerkers” they are doing what they were put here on earth to do. (feed the world). I never have or will agree with name calling it shuts people down. Kinda like you had me at Hello. You know I just wish some would get informed thats all… The Ranchers in Pinedale are “good people” and are facing the possible loss of their status and some their cattle. How about looking into the mirror and see if youwould like the Enron effect on YOUR life.

  4. avatar Robert Hoskins says:

    Salle

    Wyoming’s a “fence out” state, so unfortunately, it’s your responsibility to get the cattle out of your yard.

    RH

  5. avatar kim kaiser says:

    what is the ranchers “status”? is there a royal notation that should be attached here

  6. avatar Robert Hoskins says:

    Oligarchy.

  7. avatar Catbestland says:

    Sue RB,

    “Ranchers are . . . .doing what they were put here on earth to do. (feed the world).”

    Are you kidding me? The production of beef actually takes food out of the mouths of most of the world so that relatively few affluent individuals can have steak. There is such a displacement of resources for the resulting energy in beef production that it may in fact be responsible for much of the world’s starving populations.

    The ranchers are facing the “possible loss of their status. . . ”

    The world is facing the definite loss of our ecosystems and wildlife because of that “status” which ranchers wish to maintain at taxpayers expense. Please take into consideration how the actions of these “good people” are negatively effecting the rest of the planet. You do not live in a vaccuum.

  8. avatar Sue RB says:

    Kim by status I meant Brucellosis free state status. One would think being in this TOPIC you would have known that. But insteadyou took the low road and attack. Nice. Catbestland nice attacking No Comment. I will not play mean. Robert thanks for the new word. So to get back to the issue… Its ashame that noone is coming up with a plan.But today the open drift looked like the Toll way at 1730… Ranchers and all. Grizzly sited at Jackson Hole Airport. They believe thats a first. I wonder if its the last..I hope they stay out of town. For their own good. Pinedale over run by Rainbow group and the town folk I do believe would rather have a pack of wolves set up shop.

  9. avatar Catbestland says:

    Sue RB,
    “Catbestland nice attacking No comment. I will not play mean.”

    How is responding to your comment with correct information regarding your suggestion that ranchers “feed the world” an attack?

    And “oligarchy” is not a new word.

  10. avatar kim kaiser says:

    SUe RB, you should clarify your use of status, because cattle ranchers get many benefits of public lands that most dont, maybe the status i referred to was appropriate and in the context of your comment, its all i got out of it.,,

  11. avatar BW says:

    Robert,

    Once again you have gotten it all Wrong! Director Cleveland is now retired. Furthermore, he is more courageous and knowledgeable on this subject than are you. You might not like what he has said but it doesn’t change the fact that he is correct. Closing feedgrounds is much too easy of a solution to such a complex issue.
    Attacking Director Cleveland only further discredits your opinion and respect throughout Wyoming.

  12. avatar Sue RB says:

    I Think was saying about the same. I am not seeing action on the parts of some who use this site as a whine together group. Well at least you have each other. I took a break from these “talks” for that smiple reason. And “oligardhy” IS a new word to ME. But I do think it applied. My opinion. Kim I think the topic and papers use the same verbage sorry it means what it means. You need to be more clear. esecpially sense your plan is to “debate” someone from WY.Catbestland I sure do still think and feel the Ranchers are doing good work. Ans find it very offensive to sit back and listen to them be littled.. by the likes of you.By the way there is a great book out here called “Cowboy Ethics” you all should give it a good read. Then maybe you will understand the Ranchers. God bless these men and women. PS I am a vegan so I defend them because they are hard good working Men Period . WB good job. Its nice seeing someone setting them straight. I too feel as if I spend more time defending Wyoming then they take to get to know it. This is the most beautiful please in the lower 48.BY GOD.See ya Pinedale is looking alot better then here. What a shame. to bad Ralph

  13. avatar Robert Hoskins says:

    BW

    Suit yourself. But what are you and your rancher and outfitter buddies going to do when CWD starts killing feedground elk in western Wyoming? When it happens, don’t come whining to me for help. It’ll be too late.

    RH

  14. avatar jerry b says:

    Sue RB
    Since you’re recommending reading material, here’s a couple for you.
    “Sacred Cows at the Public Trough”by Denzel and Nancy Ferguson.
    “Welfare Ranching” by George Weurthner.

  15. avatar Catbestland says:

    Sue RB,

    “run down by the likes of you.”

    Now who is doing the attacking? All anyonw here has done is rebutted you comments. Aren’t you being just a bit overdefensive? Isn’t that a little paranoid? I suppose this is to be expected from those with such an unfounded fear of wolves. Maybe I will take your advice and read “Cowboy Ethics” after my six year old nephew finishes it.

  16. Sue RB and Catbestland.

    Hey!!

    Webmaster

  17. avatar JB says:

    Sue:

    I agree. Ranchers–at least generally speaking–don’t deserve to be belittled; however, nor should they be deified. Let’s treat people on a case by case basis: they’re not all good, nor all bad.

    Understand that Cat’s information about the relative costs of raising cattle are correct–ranching is an absolute waste of resources. I’m not saying that ranchers per say are wasteful or bad, nor suggesting that I don’t sympathize with the plight of the family-owned ranch. I’m saying that the industry is wasteful; I’m saying that most public lands are not grazed by small, family operations, but big corporations; I’m saying that using semi-arid public lands in the West to graze domesticated animals brought here from Europe would be silly if it wasn’t so tragic. In short, I’m saying that a better use of these lands would be the production of native flora an fauna, rather than as a form of public welfare for a fraction of a fraction of the popuation. Wouldn’t you agree BW?

  18. avatar BW says:

    Robert,

    What if CWD doesn’t arrive on the feedgrounds? Is it worth reducing elk populations by a minimum of 60-80% on speculation? If/When CWD shows up on the feedgrounds it will be dealt with as best it can. Currently, there is nothing that can be done to stop CWD. However, CWD is not going to be 100% lethal either. A supplemented herd is managed differently then the elk farms you like to compare them too. CWD may have always been present as it appears that most elk seem to either be immune to it or they have a better defensive mechanism against then do deer. However, most of the science is speculative at best. Some try to imply that it is 100% lethal. This is not the case with wild, free ranging elk as elk herd continue to persist in CWD areas. However, this blog was initiated to discuss Brucellosis not CWD. I am certain we will have plenty opportunties to discuss it at a later date. However I can assure you that I will not coming whinning to you nor ask for your help in the event that CWD should ever show up on elk feedgrounds, so you are off the hook (from me anyway).
    Sooo…… back to the discussion at hand.

    The Brucellosis Task Force has looked at many different options, including closing elk feedgrounds. So far, no one has been able to come up with a viable solution. Director Cleveland basically summed up what most of us serving on the BTF believe to be true. Another member of the Task Force has brought up questions concerning the Brucellosis vaccine RB-51. While it has some advantages over strain 19 vaccine it also appears to have an effectiveness of 8-10 years in cattle. APHIS has not admitted that this could be a problem. I believe, as it has been suggested, ranchers in close proximity to Brucellosis reservoirs maintained in wildlife populations should be allowed to return to using strain 19 vaccine until another better vaccine is developed. I also believe that wolves have played a role in the spread of Brucellosis. Personnally, I believe that it explains how elk near Cody, WY have similarly high prevelance rates to elk from feedgrounds. It is highly possible that as elk has altered their habitat use patterns and migration routes to avoid predation of wolves that the Brucellosis reservoir could shift to other areas. I have no evience to support this but I believe it is a probable, if not logical conclusion.

    JB,

    I agree with your first statement. Anytime we use a broad brush we error. Ranching isn’t all bad, nor all good. Your second statement is a bit harder to buy into as I believe that the (hunting) public in general benefit greatly from good ranching practices. Wildlife benefit from some of the wastefulness that I believe you mention. Not all ranches are managed like the ranch where I cut my teeth as a biologist; however, most of the irresponsible ranchers went broke as the business of ranching is harsh. Most ranchers that remain in the business today have realized that maximizing stocking rates is not the most practical way to maximize their profits.
    As far as grazing is concerned, I view it simply as a tool to manipulate plant communities to achieve a certain desired outcome. My bias is towards the Savory system which mimics bison herds or is often compared to the Sarengetti. Few have seen the impacts from wildlife but most on this site also know that wildlife can equally cause problems with over grazing areas just as do livestock. I am also into Hollistic management approaches rather than simply focusing on one element in a complex system. I believe we can have both but it will not happen unless someone spends an enormous amount of time determining what the desired balance should be and continualling altering management applications to ensure that the desired result is achieved. No one person can hold all of the cards as most hold a biasis towards something. I believe in the team approach which I seen work. Believe it or not, I try to be a centurist and hold to a moderate position as I believe extremes on either side of an issue are usually wrong.

    Bottom line JB is that the resources need to be balanced. Domestic animals provide some of the tools to help us manipulate plant communities. Human nature is to exploit that which is free. Our public lands need to be better managed but taking extreme positions only complicates the issue. It shouldn’t be us versus them. Together, we equal respect, humans can find a balance between these resources. History has shown that this doesn’t happen on its own.

  19. avatar JB says:

    BW:

    Interesting take. Believe it or not, I agree with at least some of what you’ve written; especially about taking extreme positions. However, I would note that what constitutes extremity is quite subjective. I personally find it “extreme” to manage vast expanses of public land primarily for the benefit of a very small portion of the population.

    Speaking of benefits, you suggest that “good” ranching practices greatly benefit wildlife. I don’t necessarily disagree, but would modify this statement a bit: good ranching practices CAN benefit SOME wildlife; however, bad ranching practices just generally benefit non-native, invasive plants. You also contend that, “As far as grazing is concerned, [you] view it simply as a tool to manipulate plant communities to achieve a certain desired outcome.” These statements point out a couple of fundamental assumptions that you make with which I disagree. First, you assume that manipulating plant communities is desirable. There are many people who would rather see “unmanaged” landscapes than those that have been heavily manipulated. More importantly, you assume that the “desired outcome” that you associate with manipulating plant communities (I assume this is increased populations of certain big game species?) is desired by all. It is not–as is evidenced by the many people here who consistently disagree with this point of view.

    I believe that public lands are being managed largely to benefit a few individuals at the COST of many species of wildlife and at the cost of American taxpayers. I agree with you, ranching is not ALWAYS bad and it does not necessarily need to be removed from public lands. However, wildlife has taken a back seat to livestock for far too long. From my perspective, if ranchers wish to continue grazing public lands they should do so with the knowledge that wildlife will be given priority over domesticated species. Is this such an extreme position?

  20. avatar JB says:

    BW said:

    “It is highly possible that as elk has altered their habitat use patterns and migration routes to avoid predation of wolves that the Brucellosis reservoir could shift to other areas.”

    I missed this comment before and wanted to follow up. I inquired with an epidemiologist about this possibility. This is a paraphrasing of her response: The transmission of diseases spread through casual contact is almost always greater in populations that are highly concentrated. While changing patterns of movements could indeed spread the disease to populations that are not currently infected; dispersal of concentrated populations ultimately should lead to a reduced risk of transmission and decreased prevalence in the larger (i.e. meta) population over time.

    I would add that the behavior of wolves makes the scenario you describe even less likely. Assuming that wolves are dispersing elk and assuming infected elk have a higher probability of being killed by wolves; wolves may actually help prevent the spread of disease in the population. Why? Wolves almost always scent mark and remain close to kills; thus, uninfected elk would be less likely to come into contact with the carcasses of infected animals killed by wolves.

    Anyway you slice it, the net result is a lower probability of disease transmission and lower prevalence in the population.

  21. avatar JEFF E says:

    The simple fact of the matter is that wolves will take the easiest meal present at any given time. They will not expend any more energy than is necessary or risk injury more than is necessary. To that end they spend a great deal of time, normally, in prey selection. They use scent, hearing, sight, and visual clues to select the most vulnerable at any point in time. The exception to the rule, it seems, is domestic sheep. An animal that has been bred over time to be not much more than a organism looking for a place to die. Wolves seem to accommodate that dichotomy. outside of that, the dance of life and death is pretty well scripted really, and has been for eons.

  22. avatar BW says:

    JB,

    When I mentioned manipulating plant communities I was thinking about plant communities that have reached their climax condition. Grazing allows/stimulates regeneration of some plants if it is done properly.
    While working for a large ranch in Northern Utah I had the opportunity to see first hand what happens when some plant communities are not grazed at all. The ranch had 90 square meter plots which prohibited everything from entering them. We also had some which excluded livestock but allowed wildlife to enter as well.
    Since we have done such a fantastic job of curtailing fires several plant communities are getting very old. These old communities are not very productive, nor are they very healthy. Some of these native communities have been or are being replaced by non-native, invassive plants which are totally altering complete ecosystems.
    Almost all of my experiences are based primarily upon private lands not public lands. I do know that the ranch I worked on had more Cattle on it now then it did historically. In addition, it also hard a greater abundance and diversity of wildlife then it did historically. We had several state records which were set and then reset on the numbers of different bird species in a single day. While you state that habitat manipulation is primarily to increase bi game numbers. I would counter that good, healthy habitat leads to good, healthy, and diverse wildlife populations. This same ranch had areas where livestock didn’t graze. However, there were remote areas which most would swear livestock had overgrazed. These areas were predominantly overgrazed by elk. We were able to use sheep to move these elk out of these areas, allowing them to heal. Many of the banks were starting to see willows and other native vegetation returning to stabolize stream banks, etc. One year, some of our gains were lost when a new herder replaced an old herder that understood what we were trying to do with the sheep. Had we not been vigilant and attentive, we could have turned things the wrong way again.

    As far as your second post goes. I was talking about several elk moving from feedgrounds to another location not individuals. I know that most elk herds travel in somewhat of a family unit; Aunts, sisters, moms, etc. What I hypothesized is that one or more of these family units could have moved from a feedground to the Cody area. If this is the case perhaps we will see a reduction in the prevelance rates because of what you have stated.

  23. avatar JB says:

    BW,

    As I said, I agree that livestock production is not all bad (it all depends upon the goal of management). Moreover, I would also agree that native ungulates can be extremely harmful to range (in the short term) in high densities. In fact, I recall that Leopold lamented the loss of native predators who helped keep these populations in check:

    “I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise…Since then…I have watched the face of many a newly wolfless mountain…I have seen every edible bush and seedling browsed, first to anaemic desuetude, and then to death. I have seen every edible tree defoliated to the height of a saddlehorn..In the end the starved bones of the hoped-for deer herd, dead of its own too-much, bleach with the bones of the dead sage, or molder under the high-lined junipers.”

    BW said: “While you state that habitat manipulation is primarily to increase bi game numbers. I would counter that good, healthy habitat leads to good, healthy, and diverse wildlife populations.”

    Just to clarify, I made the assumption that the type of habitat manipulation you suggested was motivated by a desire to increase big game numbers–I never meant to suggest that this is the only or primary reason to manipulate habitat. I would argue that assessing what constitutes “healthy” habitat requires one to specify which species one is providing habitat for. A piece of land can be manipulated in many ways to provide “healthy” habitat for different species. For example, the golf courses, yards and corn farms of the Midwest provide very healthy habitat for WT deer (as is evidenced by the explosion in their population); however, areas that have been allowed to return to a forested state in the Midwest often support a much greater diversity of species (though they don’t support the same densities of WT deer). The point is, our management/manipulation of lands always favor some species over some other; who gets favored depends upon the management objective.

    Your comments seem to suggest that you believe that managed/manipulated lands are generally more “healthy” than unmanaged lands (please correct me if I am wrong). If this is what you’re asserting I disagree; I think it all depends upon what your management objective is (i.e. the goal of your manipulation). Again, our interventions (or lack thereof) will always favor some species over others; the question is which species will benefit from the manipulation?

    I can tell you without hesitation that my goal would be to use public lands to provide habitat for the greatest diversity of native species and native habitat-types possible. In general, I don’t believe that the presence of livestock is conducive to this goal. However, I do believe that manipulations such as the removal of non-native species could be beneficial in achieving this goal.

    I’m interested to hear your reply. It’s been refreshing to have a logical debate on the topic.

  24. avatar vicki says:

    Sue,
    Please read a bit more on the history of this plantet, food to feed populatins was readily available beofre the mass productions of beef began. Ask a Native American who’s ancestors ate what was naturally available, bison (which would be extinct if it were left entirely to cattle ranchers) and ungulates.
    I don’t believe every rancher is a flakey SOB, but they were certainly not placed on this earth to destroy it, which isthe common thread you will find woven historically through the story of ranching.
    I don’t know how anyone could be a negan and support ranching, even if you removed the element of destruction from the equation, what you are left with is an industry who’s very existence is based on raising maximum numbers of animals to slaughter. Have you ever been to a ranch where they raise cattle for veal specifically-that is some contradiction to “good”. Period. No one who has a conscience would chain a calf to a building, after prematurely seperating it from it’s mother, and feed it minimal amounts of food then kill it.
    Perhaps your idea of decencey differs from mine, but making a living off of the destruction of public land is neither decent nor honest in my estimation.
    But, I’d have to ask you how these ranchers are feeding the world? When last I looked, beef rarely if ever, reaches the people most in need of food….you don’t see starving third world children eating burgers, let alone steaks….or they wouldn’t be starving, would they?
    Face it, these people are promoting their own bottom line. If they were shipping beef to needy people, they’d atleast have the sympathy vote from the FEED THE CHILDREN campaign.
    I understand your desire to defend what is often seen as a noble lifestyle. But come on, cattle ranchers and gold miners sought a better life, and how they got it was by anialating an entire race of people (who they confined to reservations much like bison to YNP) and by trashing an entire nation’s environmental resources…all those who suffer as a result of their actions be damned. It’s only noble in fiction, when you look at the facts…it’s sick and wrong.

  25. avatar vicki says:

    I meant vegan, etc. please excuse my typos.
    p.s. I don’t want to eliminate ranching entirely, just on public lands. I know people who ranch, and farm…and some do it responsibley and some do not….but none should do it on public lands.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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