Oh, what a comparison!

Last October a number of us visited the Lost River Ranger District in an area called Pine Creek. We went with the district ranger and the Supervisory Range Conservationist. It was pretty embarrassing. Some of the awful photos went up on Google Earth. End of 2007 grazing season in an unnamed tributary called “Pine Creek.

I guess it wasn’t embarrassing enough because this year things were as bad or worse.

End of the 2008 grazing season with 90% forage eaten by cattle on Lost River Ranger District. Salmon-Challis National Forest. Photo Western Watersheds Project

End of the 2008 grazing season with 90% forage eaten by cattle on Lost River Ranger District. Salmon-Challis National Forest. Photo Western Watersheds Project

I can post a bunch more if people are interested.

Later. Folks did want to see more-

Here is what a wet meadow/riparian area should look like in similar country. I took this photo in early October about 20 miles from the photo above on an Idaho state grazing lease acquired by the Western Watersheds Project after a many year battle with the State Land Board. WWP removed all the livestock.

Wet meadow/streamside area in Lake Creek. Herd Creek Highlands. Central Idaho. Early October 2008. Not grazed for about 4 years. The grazing lease is held by the Western Watersheds Project. WWP pays to run cattle on the lease, but doesn't run any. Copyright Ralph Maughan

Wet meadow/streamside area in Lake Creek. Herd Creek Highlands. Central Idaho. Early October 2008. Not grazed for about 4 years. The grazing lease is held by the Western Watersheds Project. WWP pays to run cattle lease, but doesn

More on Pine Creek –

Livestock have trampled the banks of Pine Creek and defecated in its waters.  Sediment from Pine Creek drains into Bull Trout habitat.

Livestock have trampled the banks of Pine Creek and defecated in its waters. Sediment from Pine Creek drains into Bull Trout habitat.

Over-browsing along banks (riparian) of Pine Creek leave soils unstable.  Water events of spring will erode these unprotected soils lowering the channel beyond reach of willow and other riparian plants' roots.  Water is lost from the system faster nourishing fewer wildlife numbers and less habitat.

Over-browsing along banks (riparian) of Pine Creek leave soils unstable. Water events of spring will erode these unprotected soils lowering the channel beyond reach of willow and other riparian plants. Water is shed from this system much faster as the moisture retaining soils, plants, and 'S' (sinuosity) shape of the reach is pounded away by cattle. The system supports far fewer wildlife numbers than it once had.

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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.

14 Responses to End of the grazing season. Devastation as usual

  1. avatar John says:

    There are no words I can say (without getting colourful) that could come close to expressing my disgust over how deplorable this is.

    You have got my vote to put some more photos up.

  2. avatar vicki says:

    yes, please post more. I think it is important that people get a good idea of what damage is done. Perhaps you could compare photos of what an area should look like, and what land looks like after grazing. Sad.

  3. avatar ed says:

    Lets have some more, the more people see this type of destruction the better educated they are about beef in general.

  4. avatar jerry b says:

    Ralph…..Any plans by WWP to purchase grazing permits in Montana?
    It’s sad, but I’m getting so accustomed to seeing pictures like the first one that I’m not shocked anymore.

  5. avatar Debra K says:

    Having seen a lot of similar cattle (and sheep) devastation, I have to say what’s striking is what the cow-trashed photos don’t show, such as:

    –the barnyard smell of manure everywhere
    –the silenced landscape, almost as if it’s been bombed (which I guess it has in a way). The grasses and shrubs that should be there, should in turn be full of bird, small mammal and insect life
    –livestock manure everywhere, underfoot and in the streams. Where do the wildlife have to drink, where do you camp or even sit for lunch that’s unpolluted?

    If folks are interested in seeing a large scale cow-free area in a high desert climate, I’d recommend Hart Mtn Antelope Refuge in Southeastern OR, which has been cow-free since about the mid-90s. The beautiful grasses, wildflowers, clear streams and diversity of wildlife are a real eye opener as to what the public loses by allowing public lands grazing almost everywhere else.

  6. avatar Salle says:

    And to add to Debra K’s comment;

    -the biting insects that accompany these animals and remain in the area for weeks afterward as many reside in the fecal matter left behind.

    -that many of the grazing allotment ranchers run their cattle through campgrounds with impunity creating these hazards for campers as well as fouling the landscape for the native fauna and all that the photos indicate.

    -that many of the forests etc. that are grazed are in a bad state of health to begin with given bark beetle infestations and such. The presence of cattle only decrease the possibility of forest regeneration.

    -and, and, and…

  7. avatar Alan Gregory says:

    I recall the day, a a young teenager in Pocatello, Idaho, when my brother and me and a friend belted sleeping bags to our backs and hiked up into the public land of what was then the Caribou National Forest. We bedded down for the night after a four- or five-mile hike and all was peaceful until a herd of noisy cows blundered into our campsite – courtesy of a welfare rancher. Things had not changed much when my wife an I drove east from Boise several years ago and looked at the cow-killed landscape on the interstate’s north side.

  8. avatar Brian Ertz says:

    the landscape on pine creek was devastated, what should be pristine mesic meadows and riparian areas springing forth bountiful wildlife were pummeled cesspools.

    to look up is an incredible experience – this is a really profound landscape – but to look down at the ground, at the livestock’s use… it’s shameful.

  9. avatar vicki says:

    Thanks Ralph. The difference is night and day. How can anyone argue that cattle don’t damage the land? I really wishe everyone who votes on land issues were required to see this stuff in person, smell it, feel the difference in the land under your feet, and then be asked to drink some water from the area. It might change a few minds.

  10. avatar TPageCO says:

    I spent most of my free time this summer in the nearby Pioneer Mountains, and there are several areas in there that are just hammered by sheep, even in a wet year like this. Imagine bare, finegrained dusty dirt between sagebrush plants. The difference in the ungrazed sections was dramatic. No grass, no wildlife, no birds where the sheep had passed through, and all the elk hanging out where the grass remained.

    In the past, I’ve spent time on grazing leases in wetter country, and have not seen the kind of grazing abuse that the high desert mountains have. My experiences this year definitely tilted my thinking towards removing stock from these more fragile lands. Hopefully we’ll see some more voluntary buyouts in coming years, or amenity-type landowners willing to retire leases.

  11. avatar Barb says:

    Don’t blame the cattle — it’s not their fault…. 🙂 They’re abused by ranching and factory farming.

  12. avatar Barb says:

    Actually, my Dad says he’d never vote for me because I’d like to outlaw GOLF COURSES. 🙂

    Across from my house, we used to have about 10,000+ acres of “open space.” Yes, it was privately owned (not really “open space) and occasionally used for some cattle grazing — not much, maybe 10 or less cattle total.

    Now we have several incredibly large McMansions, smaller “cheaper” $1 million “townhomes” and a golf course on what used to be beautiful native rolling prairie. It makes me sick. Neighbors “console” me and said “It could have been worse– it could have been super high density.”

    To solely focus on cattle ranching is almost ignoring all the other abuses that take place daily by developers. I realize it’s on PUBLIC LANDS though, so that does make it different for sure.

    But the effect is the same — abuse of land and native animal habitat.

  13. avatar Barb says:

    Good photos Ralph!

    A picture certainly does tell a 1,000 words. In this case it is truly truly sad.

    I should take some photos of an area near where I live. On one side of the highway is natural rolling prairie (with signs “Notice to Public….” the other side is completely “developed” with Leprechaun green Kentucky blue grass and a huge artificial “pond.” They water it so much in the summer that when you step on it, the grass literally “squishes” under your feet. As if Colorado has water to waste.

    Too many people moving to Colorado who “develop” here do not understand that they should not be trying to make it look like Michigan, which receives about 48″ of precipitation per year as compared to Colorado, which gets about 14″.

    I hate that phoney highly manicured look. It’s awful, it’s NOT Colorado.

    Colorado is supposed to be rugged and natural.

    I wish these “developers” would go back to where they came from.

  14. avatar Brian Ertz says:

    TPageCO –

    there have been sightings of Bighorn in the nearby Pioneers – it’s too bad they’re grazing domestic sheep.

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Quote

‎"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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