The politics of Disaster: Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson seeks more grazing on Idaho's burned rangelands

The politics of Disaster: Rep. Simpson Seeks Special Grazing For Fire-Riddled Idaho. By Brodie Farquhar. New West

Simpson is following a long tradition among Idaho politicians of using fire disaster to do exactly  the wrong thing, but something that pleases powerful constituents.

He seems to have taken the over the role of Larry Craig — a good fire is time for a good  feeding for the timber barons, and now increasingly big ranchers and corporate ranches.






  1. SegoLily Avatar

    Wow, how can they so completely miss the boat? Introducing non-native grasses! NOT allowing for the necessary 2 year rest period! What a skewed mind.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Idaho politicians!! There have been some that gained national and international respect like William Borah, Robert Smilie, Frank Church, Cecil Andrus; but that has been a long time ago.

    Then there were the crooks, hypocrites, and ideologues like George Hansen, Steve Symms, Helen Chenoweth, and currently Larry Craig and Bill Sali.

    Most, however, have been quiet servants of established power and privilege.

    I can think of one left-wing populist — Senator Glen Taylor back in the 1940s and early 50s.

  3. sal Avatar

    It seems that Simpson has been appointed to pick up where Larry Craig has had to stop.

    His proposals sound so bereft of scientific understanding. Maybe less elevated, common sense!

    If ranchers are the “conservateurs” they claim to be, why don’t they know how stupid these propositons are?

    Ya don’t have to be a rangeland specialist to get this one…

  4. kt Avatar

    Ya just hafta wonder: What is it with this whole group of Idaho Republican loonies?

    There are perhaps two thousand public lands ranchers in Idaho, and of those – maybe 150 or so – and this # is probably way excessive – have been affected by all the fires in Idaho in 2007.

    In places like the Jarbidge there have been 12 or so ranchers – most with the last name Brackett, or married to some of the Brackett offspring, who are affected by FIRES THAT ARE FUELED BY WEEDS SPREAD BY THE RANCHER’S COWS. And THIS is what Idaho’s highest elected officials spend nearly ALL of their time in Congress worrying about???? Mike Simpson, Mike Crapo, Larry Craig — all in love with Welfare ranchers …

  5. be Avatar

    it just bothers me so much knowing the denuded wildlife habitat conditions out at jarbidge before the fire ~ resulting from these folk ~ that they would continue to pull the strings of their political prostitutes ~ one of which ~ the original one of which ~ got busted in an act representative of the natural fruition of their shared ‘denial-based’ worldview. all of this to continue an effort to put cattle back onto the fire-scathed landscape in its most fragile state. re-stocking that land this soon dispells all pretexts of “stewardship” – or as craig put it in the press conference about the murphy complex “holistic management”.

    to those who maintain the virtues and potential to ‘properly’ graze livestock on arid public lands : where are you ? these people are representing you … they’re speaking for you – they’re the public figure-heads stepping up.

    to hold the position that public lands ranchers can practice responsible stewardship and protest the suggestion of activists who take issue with blown out watersheds and denuded wildlife habitat but then sit idly by when the political spearhead of their association goes for bank at the expense of Jarbidge and her habitat like this demonstrates the bankruptcy of that position.

    when will the self-regulating internal pressure mount ?

    the only time the internal pressure will mount is when the external pressure threatens them more…

    Molly Ivins of Brackett August 9, 1998:

    It turns out that a rancher named Bert Brackett, who is also a big giver to the Republican Party in Idaho, runs cattle on the land in the expanded bombing range. He doesn’t own the land, he’s just been leasing it for a long time for $3,000 a year. Now, if this expanded bombing range goes through, Rancher Brackett can still run his cattle on the public land, but his cows could be traumatized, so Sen.

    Craig wants to compensate him — with up to $1 million. Brackett’s daughter happens to work for Craig. Nice, hey?

    It went through — and now he’s doubling up…

    They’re not growing cattle out there – it’s subsidy production ~ and instead of waiting in line at health & welfare and experiencing the cultural ostracism that single moms and children endure ~ they’ve courted themselves congressional liaisons to testify to and financially demonstrate their self-proclaimed cultural supremacy.

  6. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    I’ll take the liberty of sharing a bit more of Ivin’s considerably dated column of 8/9/98:

    “The Idaho Land Board is comprised of the state’s top five elected officials, including Ann Fox, the superintendent of public instruction, who theoretically would have a special interest in maximizing grazing fees since the money goes to the schools. However, Fox has said, “It’s important to keep all these leases in the hands of ranchers because Idaho’s economy is dependent on them.”

    Actually, public-lands ranching provides one-seventh of 1 percent of the employment in Idaho and one-third of 1 percent of the gross economic product. Fox also has said she doesn’t think the children of Idaho need more academic courses, but they do need shooting ranges.”

  7. be Avatar

    simpson’s (craig’s) sought legislative action could be thought of as a macro-extension of the industry touted “adaptive management” approach to policy-making re resource management…

    i’ll drop a thought that i just crossed while doing some light reading:

    Holling’s well-established paradigm of
    “adaptive management” must be revisited. Holling
    (1995:14) notes that “The essential point is that evolving
    systems require policies and actions that not only satisfy
    social objectives but also achieve continually modified
    understanding of the evolving conditions and provide flexibility
    for adapting to surprises.” But what if the “surprise” to which
    we must “adapt” is itself largely the product of a continuous
    process of government-facilitated economic expansionism
    at or beyond ecosystem limits? In such a case, adaptive
    management and its supportive scientific understandings
    will always be playing catch-up to an economic dynamic
    that is inherently more oriented to disruption than it is
    to management. Public responsibility becomes equated
    with attempting to manage surprise, not to forestall it.

    Conservation Biology
    Volume 15, No. 4, August 2001

    or what if the “adaptation” to “surprise” is itself largely the product of a continuous process of government-facilitated economic expansionism at or beyond ecosystem limits?

    just a thought…

    in response to some comments directed at me :

    “please don’t demonstrate such obvious ignorance”… “The lands in the murphy complex are suitable for grazing”… “Not a damn one of you are range students, or ranchers, or work for the BLM, Forest Service, etc. Look to the experts for advice – as I did when I asked an expert (I never claimed to be one) about the cheatgrass grazing situation.”

    i have taken the liberty of uploading a copy of the Analysis of the Management Situation for the Jarbidge Resource Management Plan published July 2007 ~ yeah, that’s immediately preceding the fire ~ you are welcome to download a copy if you like – though it’s not really light reading (381 page pdf) so innocent bystanders beware of the unintentional click…

    two points of interest include the conditions at Jarbidge – whether livestock production out there has been meeting ‘range’ standards – here are two clippings from the pdf saved as jpg files which are a few of the examples i would suggest indicate that grazing is not appropriate at jarbidge and for the sake of a relatively concise conversation are BLM’s own summarized ‘bulleted’ characterizations : one and two.

    here are a few pictures that were taken immediately after murphy – my experience on the ground was further suggestive that livestock is innapropriate – though i am not an ecologist or biologist:

    four (diamond a – forest service higher elevation)

    these conditions are not suitable to wildlife habitat whether burned or not and are a direct result of livestock interested management. the photos are demonstrative of similar vast expanses across what would otherwise be “suitable” wildlife habitat – in my opinion. and let’s remember that the choice is not – “fire” or “no fire” — it’s about what the landscape alteration projects (rehabilitation) are looking to restore. i could grant that cows prevent fire (which i’m not going to do without pointing out that they’d need to completely eliminate wildlife values by grazing to bare ground) ~ but why are we preventing the fires? is it to maintain forage productivity for livestock? i would hope that fires or not, we’re managing for wildlife values ~ fire just makes that even more critical considering already denuded and fragmented habitat.

    here’s a columbia university document on cheat describing contributing factors to spread.

    the southern california habitat may not be conducive to grazing, but then again ~ why is sage brush dominated & dependent communities more suitable? the point was shooting from the hip anyway ~ mostly suggestive that the climatic conditions in southern california contributed to the devestation — similar conditions blew through murphy, that seems to implicate the efficacy of grazing as a fuel mitigation measure…

    Note from Ralph Maughan.
    BE’s comment above was in part a response to a comment by Mike Wolf which I accidentaly deleted. I retrieved it but can’t put it back in the queue. So here is it directly.

    Author : Mike Wolf
    E-mail : XXXXX [by Maughan]

    Be…please don’t demonstrate such obvious ignorance.

    The lands in the Murphy complex are suitable for grazing, and grazing is a valuable and right now the most effective tool for controlling fires. The fires in San Diego and surrounding areas were in vegetation not at all suited for grazing. Scrub oak, manzanita, and coastal sage aren’t palatable. Also, the lack of water makes it rather difficult, since cows drink water. And then there’s the fact that most of that area is developed. And no one knows better than I; my old place burned in 2003, and again this time around; as did another place I lived in Ramona.

    I dearly wish all the armchair quarterbacks would stop making themselves out to be experts. Not a damn one of you are range students, or ranchers, or work for the BLM, Forest Service, etc. Look to the experts for advice – as I did when I asked an expert (I never claimed to be one) about the cheatgrass grazing situation.

    You never know, you might learn what I have; that grazing is the best way to ensure wolves have habitat.

    The way this blog has been going, it shouldn’t have a damn thing to do with wolves. It should be the anti-grazing blog.

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Please note my addition from Mike Wolf at the end of be’s comment. It preceded it in time.
    – – – – – – –

    Mike Wolf, this blog and the web page at has always been more than a wolf blog, except back in 1995-6.

    I have an active conservationist in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana for 36-years. That was time to form a few ideas and opinions about a lot of things.


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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