Did a cow get your elk?

Sometimes there are comments that are just so good, they should be brought to the front as a post.

“BE” decided to calculate how much cattle consumed compared to elk. Remember that these animals compete for forage on the range. Read on. . . Webmaster.

BE wrote:

Interesting facts for hunters who care about elk numbers:

Number of Idaho State AUMs (animal unit months) leased for public lands grazing: 225,000 AUMs annually

BLM + Federal AUMS in Idaho for public lands grazing: 1,800,000 AUMs annually

Total Public Lands AUMs leased for livestock grazing in Idaho (S+F): 2,025,000

Now, the USDA NRCS National Range & Pasture Handbook cites these relative numbers for AUM consumption:

Cow, dry = 0.92
Cow + calf = 1.00
Elk, mature = 0.60
Deer (m) mature = 0.20
Deer, (wt) mature= 0.15

So – an elk needs 6/10 of 1 AUM to survive for a month

crunching the numbers we find that in Idaho alone, the public lands forage being subsidized to cows could annually support:

281,250 elk or
843,750 mule deer or
1,125,000 WT deer or

various combinations depending on where you’re at —

this contrasted against the roughly 13,600,000 AUMs grazed on private land in Idaho (which we could put through the same model, but because these private lands aren’t supposed to be for all of us we’ll omit from elk/deer potential habitat calculations) demonstrates that public lands ranching in Idaho only contributes around 12% of the forage used in Idaho livestock operations (public or private)…

so – public lands ranching robs elk of forage which could sustain above numbers of wildlife – how many do wolves take?… (and keep in mind, wolves kill the weak, diseased, old leaving hunters with bigger stronger game with bigger stronger genes for the next generation of herds)…

elk hunters need to re-evaluate the forces squeezing out our wildlife – and if we authentically care about our kids having the same quality opportunities to spend with their fathers, grandfathers, mothers, etc. on the hunt, we need to be willing to face the facts rather than the red herrings out there.



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  1. lr Avatar

    Has anyone done the numbers on how many elk and deer are fed on private ground? And if the ranchers can’t graze cows on public ground can they demand that elk and deer be kept off their land?

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    No they can’t. Wildlife belongs to the state — to the people. That’s one reason why elk farms, and canned hunts are alarming. It’s an attempt to privatize wildlife, to take them from the people.

    Ranchers don’t just generically graze the public lands. They need a grazing permit, and the permit is for a specific area and number of livestock. So there is no quid pro quo between the grazing permit and wildlife on private ground.

    Most ranchers don’t use the public lands. It’s a favored sub-class who has grazing permits.

  3. kt Avatar

    OH, lr, you hit on another sick part of it. They demand that quite a bit. Often, the public lands ranches have very small “base properties” or private land holdings. Whenever the deer or elk are causing what a rancher perceives as “trouble” they call up IDFG and whine and get “depredation hunts” to wipe out the offending creatures. Plus, I believe landowners still actually get depredation payments from hte state for “damage” by big game. There are endless subsidies, endlessly applied to ranching and ag in the Gem State.



    “Roberts, a hay farmer from Donnelly who has been a leading advocate for budget cuts rather than tax increases, was the top recipient of state depredation payments in 2000, when, according to Idaho Fish and Game Department records, he was paid $29,320 to compensate hi”m for elk and deer damage to his crops.

    SO instead of Idaho wanting to have wolves in Donnelly to keep the pestiferous (and increasing pestilential) big game moving around, and off private fields, mega-depredation dollars get paid. Next time, the state should offer this Donnelly resident some wolves to stop his problems ….

    Recall that Donnelly, kitty corner to Cascade is part of the “Knock ‘Em [WOLVES] Back Arc, or The Moat, described in on of Ralph’s Posts yesterday.

  4. kt Avatar

    Clarification: I read lr’s comment too fast. What I just wrote was in reponse to the last part of lr’s comment about private lands.

  5. Wolfen Avatar

    Interesting comments. I know ranchers in central idaho who have more problems with wildlife now than they ever did before the wolf. It appears the wolves are pushing these animals around on the public lands but they seek refuge on the private land. Ranchers tend to patrol their private lands quite regularly so the wolves tend to stay away. One rancher claims he use to only have heards of 20 -30 head of elk on his private ground, approximately 4000 acres, but since wolves have been around they have had upwards of 100+ head on his property in winter and summer. Yep! Those good ole wolves are a benefit to the private land owner. It appears they are doing no better for private land owners than them cows are on public land.

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I have heard just the opposite, the view that the wolves had cleaned out the elk on their private lands.

    But the point remains that cattle on public lands are eating the forage that could support hundreds of thousands more elk.

    Some of the “hunters” who post here and ask whether other folks are really “hunters or bunny lovers,” seem to act more like livestock growers than hunters.

  7. TPageCO Avatar

    I think in order to make this discussion more useful, one needs to look at the amount of winter range in a given elk unit and do your calculations there. I don’t think there’s anywhere in the west that lacks summer range for elk, and to say that removing cows from the public will result in a huge elk increase is very speculative. I’d be interested to see actual numbers from such a study – I’m sure it’s been done on a small scale. It would also depend on whether you looked at resident elk or migratory elk.
    I hunted Idaho elk west of Hailey this past year and there were many miles of elkless country that had good uneaten forage into November. I walked ’em so I can give you the firsthand report… The problem here is that the winter range is so limited (elevation plus development) that many animals have been fed by the state in the past. This giant unit contains only about 1200-1500 according to IDFG. You could take every cow out of this unit and I don’t think you’d see much of an elk increase.

    I’m not saying that cows don’t compete for forage – they do. I just saying that the primary factor that controls overall elk numbers (not age and sex ratios) is the quality and quantity of winter range, not the number of cows. One further point – many elk herds subsist on very high quality private irrigated ag (usually non-native alfalfa or something similar) during critical parts of the year. If these fields were still native sagebrush, the nutritional content would be much less than it currently is, leading one to suspect that elk numbers are artificially higher in some areas thanks to irrigated ag.

  8. be Avatar

    it would be interesting to see the effect that cattle have on quality of winter range – i would expect it to be significant – we could elevate many variables which constitute significant alterations/degredation of range that cattle contribute – regardless – the point of the simple calculations was to contrast these numbers against the HIGHLY speculative whinings of hunters who claim that wolves are decimating elk herds without batting an eye regarding the very considerations that you bring up — but again, i fail to see how you can say:

    “the primary factor that controls overall elk numbers (not age and sex ratios) is the quality and quantity of winter range, not the number of cows”

    the one variable (cattle) inevitably effects the quality and quantity of the other variable (winter range) – especially when you’re talking about semi-arid idaho and the length of time cattle are allowed to persist on the range – well beyond any significant seasonal growth of forage in many instances…

    as for the irrigated ag – perhaps genuine canned-hunts and de facto canned hunts are what sportsmen have to look forward to in Idaho – or at least those lines/distinctions being blurred to a large degree. I’d prefer the cows ate the alfalfa and the elk ate the native forage… i think that’s what both (alfalfa & natives) were intended for in the first place…

  9. be Avatar

    i’m glad to see a hunter attribute dissapointing elk numbers to something other than wolves – that was sort of the point of the AUM considerations – i’d hope that you bring your thoughtful points up when you hear folks cry wolf…

    i would say however that cattle have a significant impact on the quality and perhaps the quantity of winter range — there’s just too much time and not enough precipitation in Idaho between the end of seasonal growth – and when the cattle get trucked out… i’ve walked range myself that’s been munched to the ground in fall – and i’ll tell you that between late fall and later winter there isn’t a whole lot of biomass popping up for elk to subsist on during the winter…

  10. be Avatar

    hmmm – i didn’t think that first comment made it 😉

  11. Wolfen Avatar

    The facts are:

    1. Cattle have always been on public lands well before any of us existed.
    2. Wolves have not been in the western U.S. in any significant #s well before any of us existed.
    3. Hunters have, for the most part, had great success and hunting opportunities in Idaho. Hunters, in some areas, are finding it more difficult to find elk due to the presence of wolves.
    4. Livestock owners have not lost nearly as much to predators as they have now, which they attribute to the wolf.
    5. This discussion about public lands being able to support hundreds of thousands more elk and deer is mote and insignificant because the public eye (hunters, livestockowners, recreationists) have never and probably never will see these large numbers the public lands could support.

    I have to agree with TPageCO that even if this is possible we would not see a significant increase in our ungulate populations. As ungulate population increases so would predator populations which would keep them at their current levels they are now.

    Once again, this discussion is of no relevance as we have never seen these large populations in our time and never will. Why argue about something that will never happen. We just have to learn to cope the best we can with both cattle and wildlife on our public lands.

  12. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    Well, since public land was, essentially, a creation of the U.S. Government and a product of the 19th century, and since cattle, as I understand, are European imports, I’m not sure how #1 could be considered a fact.

    As for #2, all I can say is huh???

    #3 – I concede this may be the case.

    #4 – I think this is anecdotal, for the most part, and bears further scientific study. No doubt, some producers are “harmed” more than others. They are compensated.

    #5 – I think the hypothesis posed by be is also worth further study. I though it was really interesting, myself, and while I don’t necessarily think that all cattle should be removed from all public lands as several of the posters on this blog suggest, I think that they all make very valid and convincing points about the impacts that should be considered. caCertainly, they nnot be dismissed out of hand.

    Your statement that if ungulate populations increased and therefor so would predators and the result would be a decrease in ungulate populations is a little off. If the habitat could support more elk, which is what be suggests (at least in the absence of cattle), then that in turn would support more predators. The point being made, over an over again, is that it is the habitat that is the limiting factor on elk numbers, NOT wolves. Certainly the two are related, but the magnitude of the habitat is certainly greater than wolves – at least that is what I have gotten out of this and other discussions.

  13. kt Avatar

    So the historical (and biological basis) of our world view, and understanding of ecological processes, should be a human lifespan. Geez – maybe you should write up a tract of some kind on that, and Butch Otter could make it part of the Idaho home school curriculum … we could sell it in all those nice Kempthorne gravel pit State Park gift shops, too … Yee-haw! http://www.time.com/time/columnist/jaroff/article/0,9565,783829,00.html

    The ignorance, bullying and destruction of nature caused by the public lands ranching industry, and its hatred and intolerance for predators like coyotes and wolves, and the braying of industry hacks like Butch Otter, are making more and more people aware of the damage it causes. Public lands ranching days are very, very much so numbered.

  14. Tim Z. Avatar
    Tim Z.

    “and the braying of industry hacks like Butch Otter”

    I personally would like to thank Butch for doing what every politician can’t resist doing, running his mouth. I believe his stupid comments about killing wolves has really hurt the cause of the anti-wolf folks. I say this because I have had many friends, relatives and co-workers who had previously no interest or opinion engage me on the subject and after hearing real facts are almost to a person sympathetic toward the wolf. I think KT is right, all those attitudes of the 30’s days are numbered.

  15. Pronghorn Avatar

    “…are making more and more people aware of the damage it causes.” Let’s hope so, but I don’t see it on a large enough scale…yet. “Public lands ranching days are very, very much so numbered.” Bring it on!

    How much meat-producing cattle uses/abuses public land? Something like 3 or 4%, isn’t it? For THIS we get elk feed lots and brucellosis run rampant, the slaughter of the Yellowstone bison herd, the suffering and death (by the tens of thousands annually) of our wildlife: death by fence, by trap, by poison, by bullet; the degradation of riparian areas, overgrazing and the disruption of native plant communities, a proposal allowing states to follow native wildlife into federal Wilderness to slaughter them, and THAT’S a partial list! Talk about bang for your buck….no wonder welfare ranchers make so much noise.

    On the other hand, if only Americans would take responsibility for their lives and quit eating tainted meat–both public land grazed and factory-farmed–the whole damn industry would dry up, and with it would go immeasurable pain and suffering and environmental degradation. How ’bout it?

  16. Wolfen Avatar

    Unless you are 80+ years old, #1 and #2 are fact. Cattle existed in high numbers ever since the early 1900s. Were you born around then? Probably not. Wolves were in significant numbers in the late 1800s and by the early 1900s were almost completely wiped out from the western states so 2 is fact.

    Livestock owners have always lost animals to predators but since the restoration of the wolves virtually every livestock owner who either has animals on public lands or private land near wolf relocation areas have experienced a dramatic increase in livestock depredations. True, they are compensated for known or suspected wolf kills. However, most of these increased livestock deaths are not known or found until the evidence has disappeared. So the fact is that they are compensated for wolf related deaths but the majority of livestock deaths, which have increased significantly over the past several years, are attributed to the restoration of the wolf and no other suspected or known cause. The only variable that has changed in this equation is the restoration of the wolf so #4 is also fact.

  17. Tony Avatar

    Hey Ralph can someone figure that out for all the western states? It would be interesting to see. I am particularly interested in Oregon.

  18. chris Avatar

    If “most of these increased livestock deaths are not known or found until the evidence has disappeared” than how come “the majority of livestock deaths… are attributed to the restoration of the wolf and no other suspected or known cause”? Without evidence one cannot logically blame any one cause. Just because wolves were reintroduced doesn’t mean every dead cow or elk is their fault.

  19. Mike Post Avatar
    Mike Post

    Lots of good comments here but lets face one uncomfortable fact. When ranchers go out of business, what usually takes their place is ranchette development. Such development destroys wildlife habitat more effectively and more permanently than any HUA grazer ever has. There are many ranches that cannot survive without BLM and USFS grazing leases. All the polarization apparent in these comments does not help us get to the middle ground.

    I will take a well run ranch, with adjacent well managed grazing leases, with a nice conservation easement layered over the top of it all over 20 acre hobby farms where deer are being shot for eating rosebuds. Elk and wolves will not frequent such places and will be lost to them forever.

    Now there are poorly run ranches, and the fed’s don’t necessarly manage grazing well, but lets not toss the baby out with bath water.

  20. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    This is a common argument, but it should be regarded with suspicion.

    Most ranches do not depend on public grazing (of course, it depends on the geographic locale)

    Ranchette development from sold ranches has been proceeding rapidly anyway.

    It assumes the abandonment of ranches is due to lack of access to grazing, when in fact, it is mostly due to retirement (selling the ranch is a rancher’s 401K). By the way, this is a good argument to support the “National grazing buyout.”

    I have no data except news and my impressions, but the shooting of all kinds of animals decreases greatly in “hobby ranch areas.”

    If the ranch is not near an urban area or recreation area, subdivision sales will be slow.

    Increased energy costs are going to make a lot of the rural sprawl too expensive to live in in the long term.

    Baby boomers haven’t saved enough for their retirements, and medical care costs will soon move them from their retirement rural retreat to a location near medical care.

  21. kt Avatar

    Here is an article that deals with the cows vs. condos debate:


    Bottom line, too, is that when property values go high enough, ranchers sell. All the subsidies in the world can’t compete with that. And I agree with Ralph that the charm starts to wear off living an isolated ranchette life after awhile – age, costs, neighbor hostility/troubles in pseudo-isolated settings, etc.

    PLUS, ranchers often own MUCH LESS land than you might imagine, or than they try to give you the impression that they do. The base property for a 100,000 acre public lands grazing allotmt can be a mere 40 acres of private land. So, a rancher, say, who owns a private section (640 acres) could sell off and subdivide all but a small bit, and still have a public lands grazing permit. I’ve been told (but haven’t yet gotten all the details – ranchers and BLM don’t like to talk about this) that in the case of the Las Vegas Water Grab in central Nevada, Las Vegas is buying the ranches for many millions (yes, here we have salt of the earth ranchers selling their land for Water Mining and Export), and the welfare public lands ranchers are still keeping small parcels as “base properties” so they can continue to graze (or sub-lease grazing) and trash the watersheds on public lands.

  22. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    It’s my impression that ranchers have been able to leverage a small base property into a huge public lands grazing permit in the states with the most public land — Idaho, Nevada and Utah.

    Therefore, these are the states with the most to gain and the least to lose if ranches turn into something else.

  23. Wolfen Avatar

    Lets not forget that there are many, many folks who would rather have these well run ranches around than these big conglomerates as Wyoming has that buy up leases and us their big rigs to drill for oil and gas. I get the impression that if you are a ‘pro wolf’ advocate then you would rather have the ranchers off the plublic lands and instead tolerate and deal with these big conglomerates such as exxon or shell who buy these leases to scar up the land. Myself, I can deal with the little bit of damage the cattle do to the public lands than these drilling rigs which scar the land to a much more extent.

  24. Wolfen Avatar


    All you have to do is look speak to these ranchers and they will tell you that they now lose more animals now than before the wolf was restored. You can also find articles in livestock magazines. Yes, they may not find the animal but then again, more animals are missing than before the wolves were restored and that is the only variable that has changed in the whole ranching industry. Their practices are virtually the same before and after wolf restoration. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or scientific study to figure out that one. Before wolves, ranchers lost less livestock. Since wolves, ranchers lose much more.

  25. TPageCO Avatar

    I’ve finally got time to get back to some points discussed in this thread – sorry if it’s a few posts back…

    In regard to “be’s” comment that I attribute disappointing elk numbers to something other than wolves: actually IDFG studies show an increase in elk in this unit – I don’t consider the survey #’s to be disappointing at all. Rather, it shows that in units that have very few wolves, lots of summer range, and limited winter range, there aren’t going to be many elk. This illustrates my contested point that Q & Q of winter range is the primary factor in overall elk numbers. Obviously if you pile cows on that winter range, particularly in March and April, you’re going to have less elk.

    However, this thread initially discussed FS and BLM grazing permits and forage competition on public lands. Most of these permits are high-country (or mid-elevation) range which hold very few elk from Dec 1 through May 1. Any buyout program of such leases would have a limited effect on elk numbers. I still support a buyout program from willing sellers, though.

    Regarding “be’s” comment about elk that eat irrigated alfalfa and canned hunts: I’m curious to know how many times you have hunted elk that sneak on to ag fields at night (or gone with someone on such a hunt)? Why did it seem like a canned hunt? In my experience, these elk are incredibly wild, wise and wary. If I were a lead cow of such a band, one that had survived 15 years of winter and all kinds of predators, I would find it insulting to be compared to a domestic-stock elk living on 35 high-fenced acres and eating high-grade pellets all year. Is a griz less wild b/c it eats rainbow trout instead of cutts? What about a golden eagle that eats a pigeon or starling, rather than a ground squirrel?

    And finally, with respect to Ralph’s recent posts on the cows v. condos debate: I agree with all your points, but this still doesn’t solve the long-term problem of how you manage these private lands and make them economically viable, as western ranching continues to fade from prominence. Of course, nobody wants 20 ac subdivision (unless you are the developer…) and well-managed ranches are currently the best alternative we have. If you have better alternatives, I’m all ears. Some of the stuff written by Daniel Kemmis and other Montanans looks promising, but at this point his ideas haven’t been translated into action on the ground. Personally, the best wildlife habitat I’ve seen is ALWAYS on private ground, rather than public land managed under “lowest common denominator” principles – which is just about all of it. Many of these operations are heavily grazed by domestic stock – sheep, cows, buffalo. To me, ranches like Ted Turner’s Flying D, Roger Lang’s Sun Ranch (Madison Cty, MT), Deseret in UT, Nature Conservancy’s Medano-Zapata in CO, and the huge properties in northern and southern New Mexico under conservation management are good models to work with, and they all have a grazing component, arid lands or not.

  26. elkhunter Avatar

    I have an idea. Lets completly wipe out grazing across the west to more further support wolf reintroduction. Which seems to be the way everyone is tilting this. Lets wipe out a multi-billion dollar industry to further advance wolves. Wolves at any cost should be the motto here.


  27. TPageCO Avatar

    From one elk hunter to Elkhunter…

    All sarcasm aside, if you read these posts carefully, you will see that many (including mine) support grazing on western lands – private and public. I don’t see any connection between wiping out grazing and wolf support, except maybe in an effort to buy out federal leases to reduce conflicts on public land. Even here though, any buyout program would be voluntary and initiated to reduce recreation/livestock conflicts as much as predator/livestock conflicts. Also, a much higher % of public land grazing exists in wolf-free country than in country occupied by wolves, and there is still support in these wolfless areas for some sort of voluntary buyout program.

  28. be Avatar

    Percentage of cattle producers ranching on all Western public lands: 1.9%

    Percentage of U.S. livestock feed supplied by all public lands: 2%

    Days of normal job growth to replace all-federally dependant grazing jobs: 11

    Acreage of western public lands controlled by Simplot alone: 2 million

    Percentage of U.S. beef produced from federal lands: less than 3% (this is domestic, does not include imported beef)

    Here are a couple of good tables looking at the economics

    good idea elkhunter !

    TPageCo, I did not mean to insult any cow-elk – I apologize, my point is that there is something uniquely valuable about indigenous habitat – replacing this with ag land seems to me to be a slippery slope – one that diminishes the importance and prevelance in hunters’ (and decision-makers’) minds of the need to protect native habitat for our herds and our hunters…
    for whatever reason – buyouts are a good compromise and a good idea…

  29. chris Avatar

    I have no doubt that livestock owners and magazines insist that they’ve all being driven out of business by wolves.
    When wolves were restored all kinds of variables changed
    except for the husbandry practices and anti-wildlife opinions of the complaining ranchers. Certainly the rancher does suffer financial loss and personal insult when a wolf kills a cow. But not to such a degree that they deserve their political clout or are entitled to such doomsday whining.

  30. Wolfen Avatar


    You can only say this because you are not a rancher and have not lost animals, and who knows how much of a financial loss. But if it was your loss then I guess you would be whining to.

  31. Wolfen Avatar

    Yes! Lets do away with a multi billion dollar industry, do away with thousands of peoples jobs, put them on welfare, pay their medical bills, housing and food allowances so we can further advance the wolf. This makes perfect sense – wolves over economics and peoples livelihoods.
    Better yet, if this is what the wolf advocates want then they should be the ones to pay placing these folks on welfare and displacing their jobs. I hardly think advancement of the wolf will replace the multi billion livestock industry but then again I am not one who is a pro wolf advocate so what do I know.

  32. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Reducing public land grazing will have no discernable negative impact on the economy of more than a few towns.

    BE certainly has posted some compelling data today and yesterday.

    In areas where grazing practices are bad, any economic losses will usually be more than offset by more wildlife, cleaner water, new businesses and/or people moving to the area.

    You have written much about wolves, elk and hunting, but I suspect your real soft spot is for traditional public land grazing and would choose a bovine cow over an elk cow.

  33. Wolfen Avatar

    I also have to wonder that as be states below:

    “Percentage of cattle producers ranching on all Western public lands: 1.9%
    Percentage of U.S. livestock feed supplied by all public lands: 2%
    Percentage of U.S. beef produced from federal lands: less than 3%”

    So then what is all the fuss about removing ALL cattle from public lands as they only comprise a very small, almost insiginficant number on the public lands. Is is much more than removing cattle from public lands due to the so called damage they do. Their is a political agenda here, although wolf advocates will deny, to have all public land available for wolves and wolves restoration. Remember, economics and people’s livelihoods is not an important part in this equation. Its all about wolf restoration regardless of harming or doing away with peoples way of life.


    I wasn’t talking about removing ALL cattle from public lands, and I wasn’t arguing that where removed, the cattle should be removed for wolves’ benefit, but for all wildlife. It’s just that BE put up the total national figures.

    I suspect the whole matter is more cultural than economic, and I as said above, I suspect you are more concerned with cattle than with elk or wolves. That is fine, of course, but other hunters might well prefer game over livestock. Ralph

  34. elkhunter Avatar

    What if it was your town. Or the town your children and their children lived in? Would it then be a good idea. Also BE was trying to point out how much more wildlife land could accomodate if no grazing. I dont know about ID but Utahs winter range could not support an increase of thousands of animals. Good winter range is hard to come by because of human growth. So in UT trying to drastically increase animal populations would probably not be a good idea. But ID might have a lot more suitable wintering range than UT.


    My son-in-law does raise cattle on private pasture in Utah.

    I suspect there might be more improvable winter range in Idaho than Utah, but folks need to remember that Utah’s population is very highly concentrated, and most of the state as empty as most of Idaho. However, these empty places are usually grazed by livestock–livestock in the winter in many places. Ralph

  35. Wolfen Avatar

    Actually, Ralph you are wrong. I respect both the wolf and wolf restoration and enjoy seeing them but, on the other hand, I think it is totally immoral and unethical to displace peoples livelihood over the restoration of an animal that was once removed in the first place. I believe we can have both wolves, in smaller numbers than they are now, and cattle ranchers. I also believe the government needs to do more to enfore stricter controls on livestock grazing and rotation of grazing allotments. Contrary to what you may conclude from what I write, I believe there can be much good with a sustainable population of wolves in and amongst the livestock industry of the west, even with public land grazing. Both sides have to give and take. However, from what I read either the wolf advocates want all cattle removed or the livestock industry wants all wolves remove and it appears neither side is willing to give and compromise. And yes, I do enjoy a good beef steak or roast but almost every year I also get my elk so I enjoy both. I think I proved your conclusion about me wrong. Did I not?

    It’s a straw man to say that wolf advocates want all cattle removed. The geographic areas of conflict are small, and the numbers of dead livestock, are small too. It’s areas like Copper Basin, where the governor wants to kill off the wolves that is a great irritant. What have been killed there — 20 or 30 cows, mostly calves?

    Copper Basin’s highest and best use is wildlife, not cattle. Removal of the cattle there would be a great improvement even if there wasn’t a single wolf in the state. It came to that conclusion the first time I set eyes on the place, long before wolf restoration was even a concept. Ralph

  36. be Avatar

    public lands ranching does not occupy an insignificant part of public lands – it produces an insignificant amount of beef relative to private land production — the point is that the idea of a necessity for public lands ranching to sustain the cattle industry is not compelling. roughly 300 million acres of public lands are leased for grazing (sheep & cattle) in the West. This constitutes very little forage (remember,arid West) relative to private ag lands… my qualm is with a marginal industry trumping the will of the majority of americans who want our nature to be natural. not just for wolves – but wolves are an iconic example of the extend that an industry can snuff science, economics, public will, biodiversity, etc. – wolves are not a vehicle for removal of livestock from public lands – livestock were a vehicle for the removal of wolves from public land (and slickspot peppergrass, and bull-trout, and clean water, etc. etc.)- the abuse our arid lands endure (and all of the biodiversity), the subsidies robbed from the public trust, the species lost, the water stolen/polluted, the free-market skewed, all are reasons which will be cited when the last private cow is removed from our public land…

  37. Wolfen Avatar

    OK! so you wipe Leadore, Salmon, Challis, Arco, Dillon,Mt. just to name a few. And there are lots more than just a few of these small towns around that the livestock industry supports. Do away with the livestock industry then your right, the town dries up….which is more than just livestock based but you do away with the restuaruants, bars, shopping, gas stations, hardware stores, car dealerships, etc., etc. You get the picture. It is not just the livestock industry that is affected but a much larger economic base so it does affect more than just a few small towns or a few small businesses in a town. But, like I said, economics and peoples livelihood is of no factor when it comes to wolf restoration. Ralph, maybe when you retire from ISU you can go to one of these small towns and open up your own ‘wolf store’ and I think you will find out just how llittle Idaho will attract in folks interested in wolf restoration. It won’t happen because they all go to yellowstone where they can see wolves easily along with other wildlife plus old faithful, the mud pots, etc. There is no way displacing the livestock industry in advancement of wolf restoration in Idaho will be able to replace that industry dollar for dollar.

  38. Wolfen Avatar

    So I concede to Ralph and Be. The ranching industry is done away with since cattle are removed from public land, towns are dried up and become all but ghost towns because these small towns relied very heavily on the livestock industry and now you have thousands and thousands of people without work. How will you solve the economic losses these people suffer because the wolf restoration project drove them out of business? Or do you even care? We are only talking what is moral and ethical here.

  39. kt Avatar

    The thing is – the small towns DON’T rely on ranching. That is a myth. The ranches rely on government subsidies, woefully under-priced grazing, and typically Someone from the ranch having a job in town, driving the school bus, answering the phone at the Ag Extension office, spryaing weeds, that kind of thing. OR on income from retirees and ultimatley very far away — Ralph – what was that wonderful Post you had a month or two back about Lemhi County?

    A perfect example is Owyhee County. Who supports the “small” ranching towns like Murphy? Why, it is the good townfolk and irrigated row crop farmers of Marsing and Homedale country — and not the hand full of public lands ranchers who are nothing but a financial drain on the other inhabitant citizens of the County.

    What had been the largest employer in Owyhee County untl it shut down a few years back? A cyanide heap leach gold mine. What is one of the largest mployers in Owyhee County now? A nasty, nasty toxic waste dump near the mouth of Castle Creek. Oh, and that lovely toxic waste dump accepts even low level nuclear waste. THIS is what the economy is based on, not public lands welfare ranching.

  40. Wolfen Avatar

    Alot of that is true but the small towns I quoted in a previous thread rely very heavily on the ranching industry and displacing the livestock industry would practically wipe these towns off the map. There are many other small towns in and around where wolves and the livestock industry are, if you want me to continue to name them I will, that would virtually be eliminated. Ok so you remove publilc welfare ranching but towns will still suffer significantly! This is no myth as you state. I have lived in several of these small towns througout Idaho growing up and the majority relied heavily on the livestock industry to support their livelihood. No myth, just plain fact whether you disagree or not. Oh, and the last I remember, Marsing and homedale country is not surrounded by wolves and the livestock industry like central Idaho.

  41. be Avatar

    i admire the empathy and compassion that you have for the welfare of people as demonstrated in your comments. here’s the thing: just like blaming allegedly low elk numbers on wolves is shortsighted – so is blaming the insolubility of the public lands ranching industry on conservationists. look, i want to make sure all in america are taken care of whether it be urban mothers who struggle or rural communities etc. – i would rather see our money spent, which you are now in effect conceding to be subsidized subsistence (welfare), more directly to that effect and in a way that does not conflict with the legally established will of the majority of americans to have healthy public lands –

    a large proportion of public lands are grazed by corporations and well-to-do connected ranchers who are able to acquire and hold onto the permits – these permittees are then able to produce on the tax-payer’s dime. i would like to extend the same compassion that you have to the producer who pays market value for feed and private land. these are the people being unfairly squeezed out and forced to sell off – how are these folk who actually have to pay for production costs supposed to compete with public lands permittees who’ve got AUMs at less than $1.50, the gov. spraying their weeds, etc. these private ranchers are the folks who are playing on fair and sustainable ground and who contribute to their local economies in a real way – but more and more are unable to compete. so i say whatever your reasons, unless you’re simplot or are fortunate enough to have a permit, weening producers off of the public lands is good for the environment, the private ranchers, the elk hunters, the free market, the tax-payer, the wolf, and so much more…

  42. Wolfen Avatar

    Im all for weening the large corporations or conglomerates from the public lands but there are many, many single family homesteads out there truly trying to make a decent living who do run cattle on public lands. I am not one to vote in favor of destroyin their livelihood without some well designed plan to help them get back on their feet. Get rid of these public ‘welfare’ ranchers as you state then all you will be doing is paying for them to obtain welfare assistance in some other way such as food stamps, medicaid, etc. Most of these ranchers are 50+ years or older with a few younger folks getting into the industry. So what you are telling me is your willing to trade the public ‘welfare’ ranchers livelihood where he contributes to the economy and pays into the tax system to be destitute and on the welfare system we have today where many of the people know they can get a free handout so why go back to work. That is a problem with our society. I work, pay taxes, so those who are unwilling to work, yet are able, can get food stamps and medical care weekly without having to go back to work. I wholeheartedly believe those who really need this substenance but there are too many who do not but know how to work the system. It sounds like that is what you are willing to do with the rancher – drive them out of business, put them on public welfare and well continue to pay taxes to support that. This, I disagree as I said it is im moral and unethical. At least, as ranchers, they were paying taxes into the very system that you and I do.