Blaze ignites criticism. Ranchers question rules of engagement in Murphy fire

Blaze ignites criticism. Ranchers question rules of engagement in Murphy fire. Times News. By Nick Coltrain.

This is very irritating. Some of the ranchers are blaming the fire on not enough grazing and BLM’s tiny attempts to rest a few areas. The years of abusive grazing are the reason for the cheatgrass spread.

You don’t graze cheatgrass away because it is palatable for only a couple weeks before it starts to go to seed, and it goes to seed anyway even if it is grazed. Try it yourself if you have cheat-grass. Mow it to the ground (to simulate heavy grazing) while it is still green and downy. If there is any moisture at all, the mowed cheat grass will go the seed anyway.

The ranchers are a major reason for the spread of this weed grass that has changed the ecology of the West. They created the bare spots where it invaded and pushed out the native grass that stays green most of the summer.

This fire exploded at an incredible rate to become the largest in the country. What do these ranchers mean the “BLM didn’t react fast enough?” The firefighters are stretched incredibly thin. This is one of scores of rangefires. The sense of entitlement of these ranchers is appalling.

Now that the area has burned, it should be reseeded with native grasses and shrubs and rested for 10 years, but you can bet these ranchers will be using the political connections to be grazing in two years, and even next spring.

The BLM does deserve blame for not restraining the grazing, and planting the non-native crested wheatgrass under guise it was fire resistant. Thousands and thousands of acres of this exotic wheatgrass burned along with the cheatgrass.

~Story on why cheat grass wins~

I just got this email, which is certainly telling . . .

There is a somewhat more detailed map of the Murphy Complex up on the inciweb site

I am struck by how much the fire re-burned several areas burned in the past decade or so.

First, in the NV Bruneau Canyon and to the west of the Jarbidge – that area includes maybe ALL of the Coffeepot fire area of around a decade ago that burned both higher elevation subalpine fir and aspen, as well as sagebrush country.

Around 5 years ago, there was a burn in the sagebrush country of the Diamond A Desert in NV, and it burned that again.

And there was another burn – with a LOT of cheatgrass in the Triplet Butte area – and it burned again.

BUT most tellingly – the day the fire made its 200 square mile gain – a lot of that was right through areas burned in other
recent fires – all the northeast side of things – including 2005. Ripped right through crested wheatgrass seedings. And look at the roads in that area! Anytime anyone tells you dirt roads need to stay open for “fire suppression” take a look at that spaghetti network 1361







  1. Dan G. Avatar
    Dan G.

    Hi, I just wanted to say thank you for this article. I did know that long-term cattle grazing was detrimental to the environment ,but did not realize that it could have such profound and immediate effects.

  2. kt Avatar

    What Idaho BLM Director Tom Dyer says about the aftermath of the Murphy Complex Fire is alarming. The paper states: “He also talked about being flexible with two-year turnarounds on pasture and farm land, part of his main point of maximizing the use of the land left unscarred by the blaze.”

    This is precisely what has caused the huge mess in the Jarbidge that has been plagued by expensive fire after expensive fire — always followed by relentless grazing typically less than 2 years rest . BLM has seeded cow food species to intensify grazing after fires, has allowed cow use to be shifted and intensified on any unburned lands and wildlife habitats following fires, and BLM NEVER provides sufficient rest for fire recovery.

    End result: More big fires – example – the 2005 Clover Fire that whipped through seeding after seeding, a 60,000 acre fire in 2007 (Saylor Cap).

    Following each fire, the BLM response has been predictable: We taxpayers have sunk millions of dollars into even more fencing so cattle grazing by a very small number of public lands ranchers – primarily arms of the Simplot empire and various Brackett family members in the Jarbidge – can be intensified on any unburned wildife habitat, more tax dollars into seedings that are turned around and grazed in only two grwoing season. EVERYTHING about this failed policy focuses on maximizing cattle men’s desires. And especially the desires of the Brackett cattlemen quoted in the article, and the Simplot public lands ranching empire.

    In a well-covered story, Rep. Bert Brackett was the primary beneficiary of a million dollar non-Buyout associated with the Juniper Butte Bombing Range that ended up with him being able to graze even MORE cattle on the same lands he was bought out from – AND the additional grazing was justified in the name of “fire suppression”.

    Both of the Bracketts quoted in that article have very close ties to Larry Craig (Brackett daughter was a former Larry Craig, then Butch Otter Congressional Aide) , and have been beneficiaries of hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of dollars on post-fire, ugly cow food seedings, fencing and other BLM actions that over the years that have promoted the continued tragic loss of Sage Grouse habitats in the Jardbige. Cheat grass and weeds invade areas with intensified grazing, and fires are promoted by coarse non-palatable seeded grasses.

    When Tom Dyer says “maximize land left unscarred” this can only be translated as letting a hand full of wealthy and well-connected Jarbidge ranchers have “open season” on remaining patches of sagebrush and other habitats essential to Sage Grouse, mule deer, etc.

    AND the term “flexibility” much loved by the public lands cattle industry. How the Bushies have seized on that. Just like at the 10J Rule Wolf Hearings – where Jim Caswell, Rep. Brackett’s compadre in the Idaho Legislator Rep. Stephenson, and Steve Nadeau whine on and on about “flexibility” to kill wolves.

    Bottom line: These public lands ranchers want Open Season on Wolves, and Open Season on whatever wildlife habitat remains after these large fires. A cynic might think that they want it all to be converted to cheatgrass so there will be no wildilfe for us all to worry about, we will all go away and leave them alone to indulge in near-free grazing on millions of acres of public lands. The public lands livestock industry’s efforts at privatizing public lands and assets (“forage”) will then be complete.

    No one should forget that when Butch Otter was still Simplot’s son-in-law, he was part of the Simplot family ranching operation and those operations included Idaho and Nevada Simplot public lands ranching operations on both BLM and Forest lands burned in these 2007 fires. So – I predict Otter will soon start spouting off along these same lines – and promote actions to line the pockets of public lands ranchers and his close associates at the expense of the public lands and wildlife habitat recovery.

    KT, I understand the political connections of these folks, but has it been established that they are wealthy? A lot of public land ranchers get subsidy after subsidy and yet remain near or below the margin of economic viability. Note that I am not referring to the corporate operations such as Simplot. Webmaster

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    KT didn’t mention it, but another rancher quoted complaining, has operations not only in this semi-arid area that burned, but up the area in and adjacent to the Sawtooth National Recreation area — high mountain wolf country.

    A number of wolves have been shot for him, using your taxpayer dollars.

    A dear friend of mine, who suddenly died at a young age, several years ago, was working on a book “Plantation Idaho” when he died while backpacking. Pretty perceptive.

    Will the workers in Plantation Idaho ever get restless?

  4. Alan Avatar

    I don’t understand your example about mowing cheatgrass. If you mow it and don’t catch it, the seeds are on the ground. If it is grazed, the seeds are eaten and digested. Is that right? I don’t disagree with you, I just don’t know enough about cheat grass (other than it is a PITA).

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    My example was about mowing cheatgrass before it goes to seed — while it is still in its brief, soft, downy stage.

    What I am saying is that if you do mow it then, as an experiment, or a possible method of control, you will find it goes to seed anyway.

    I have done this, and found that the mowed cheatgrass will immediately start producing seeds, and produces them even if the mowed grass stem is only an inch or so high!


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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