Guest opinion: Western Watersheds not to blame for Murphy fires

Some time ago, this web site posted the opinion of public lands rancher and state legislator Bert Brackett on the Murphy fire complex.

Here again is Brackett’s opinion. Failed policy based on flawed science has gotten us here. Guest opinion in the Idaho Statesman. Brackett blamed the Western Watersheds Project because it won a lawsuit and then entered into an agreement that reduced grazing by 30% in the BLM’s Jarbidge Resource Area where a good deal of the fire burned.

The Statesman then published a guest opinion from Jon Marvel, executive director of the WWP.

Here is Marvel’s guest opinion. Western Watersheds not to blame for Murphy fires. Idaho Statesman. In addition to the extreme dryness and heat, Marvel blamed it in 100 years of mismanagement of ranchers and the BLM from over grazing that promoted the spread of cheat grass and the planting of exotic grasses like crested wheatgrass which did not, as predicted, retard fire. The end result was more fuel to burn than before cattle and sheep were brought to this land. The livestock also wiped out the green riparian areas that served as barriers to range fires. This included not just green grass, but green shrubs and trees that supported beaver ponds. The ponds created large hard-to-burn areas that were difficult for fires to cross over.




  1. kt Avatar

    You know, as you read Rep. Bert Brackett’s rant now after a few weeks have elapsed, it is even more delusional. Not only Brackett, but the Congressional delegation that trumpeted the Brackett whine – Craig, Crapo – as well as Otter – owe the public a retraction of their ravings that more cows are needed to reduce grass “fuels” (all the while spreading cheatgrass, the most disastrous fuel of all in their wake) and then somehow big fires won’t happen.

    Otter has now accepted that the big fires in central Idaho are unstoppable. Even with now massive efforts, the fire near Ketchum is vexing suppression efforts.

    In this extremely hot, dry global warming fire season – fires across Idaho are proving that these politicoes including the greedy Brackett cattle empire – are utterly divorced from reality in their pro-cattle industry ravings.

    All these fellows owe Western Watersheds a written apology. But that will never happen. Cattle, that promote Global Warming in a host of ways, are a significant part of the PROBLEM … .

  2. d. Bailey Hill Avatar

    Jon Marvel’s letter is very well written and directly to the point. I hope that people take notice and really see thee truth in this matter. As more people like Marvel step up to the plate with facts about global warming/climate change I hope that the majority of people with the ‘sheep mentality’ will come to understand the consequences of continuing with current practices. There are many people who don’t think about these things until it is in their own backyards. ie. fire damages this season. In 2003 I went on a long road trip across northern OR, southern ID, western WA, north ID, over to MT and around Glacier and Alberta, BC up to Jasper, then backroads to Kamloops and more backroads to Whister. It was as though the entire Northwest was on fire. I saw to small towns that were completely destroyed. I did not return home the same person.

    If the media would air actual footage of all the devastation, narrated in easy to understand explanations and measures to correct, I believe it would be far more effective in reaching the masses. Just the facts plain and simple. They need to see presenters that have nothing to gain politically, monetarily, etc. Give them choices- If everyone could this simple action it will equal this. They see how easy it is and realize there are other simple things they can do in addition to the first. It’s selling someone on changing and the ‘presentation and packaging’ is very important. Many people can’t see beyond the front porch. Where I grew up, people couldn’t understand why I was moving across the country. It made no sense to them.

  3. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    the three (livestock industry) stooges, as well as Brackett, were (are) practicing that well known axiom; the first one to tell their story receives the greatest validation in the eyes of the intended recipient.


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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Ralph Maughan