Congress Should Follow the Lead of Local Sheriff and Offer “Safe Escort” Out of Public Lands Ranching
By Josh Osher and Andy Kerr
The Sheriff of Harney County, OR met with the leader of the armed occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and offered a way to end the takeover fiasco. The Sheriff offered a “safe escort” out of the increasingly untenable situation. Congress should follow the Sheriff’s pragmatic gesture and offer all federal public lands ranchers the opportunity to be compensated for voluntarily relinquishing their grazing permits in exchange for compensation from third parties. Such a program would cost the taxpayers nothing and, in fact, would reduce the losses of the program that currently costs at least seven times what it brings in in grazing fees.
The concept is simple: Congress would enact a law that says if a public lands grazing permit holder voluntarily relinquishes their permit, the federal public lands covered by the permit would never again be grazed by the domestic livestock. The forage would be reallocated to ecosystem and watershed goods and services. Private parties could compensate the permittees for their donations in order to incentivize transfers in sensitive areas and the land would stay in the public domain, providing ecosystem benefits and ending the management deficit for all Americans.
Voluntary permit retirement has been authorized in a few areas of the west already – the Boulder-White Cloud Wilderness of Idaho, the California Desert Conservation Area, Oregon Caves National Monument– Why not offer it to all permittees?
Public lands grazing permittees often blame government regulations designed to protect the water quality and wildlife habitat for their troubles. In reality, those regulations are very rarely enforced. The demographics of public lands livestock operations are changing as well with the average age of a permittee hovering close to the average age of retirement. Why not give these seniors a “Golden Saddle” that would allow permittees to reconfigure their ranching operations without depending upon the increasing problematic use of public lands, invest in new enterprise, or ride comfortably into retirement?
The Rural Economic Vitalization Act (REVA), a bill recently reintroduced by Congressman Adam Smith would address this issue and allow permittees to voluntarily relinquish their permits to the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service in exchange for compensation. Then the federal government could permanently retire those grazing permits, returning the land for wildlife, recreation, and other non-livestock uses.
We don’t believe that Bundy and his buddies should get a free pass on their attempt to overthrow the government, but we do think that livestock operators should be offered an exit strategy from public lands grazing through voluntary permit retirement. It’s just the type of win-win solution the West needs right now, and Congress needs to step up.
Josh Osher of Western Watersheds Project (westernwatersheds.org) has been working for years to pass national permit retirement legislation in Congress.
Andy Kerr of The Larch Company (www.andykerr.net) has helped facilitate several relinquishments of grazing permit retirements from willing sellers.
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What an interesting coincidence that The Rural Economic Vitalization Act (REVA), was introduced by a Congressman named, of all things, Adam Smith — the same name as the author some 200+ years ago of the “mainstream” economists’ bible, THE WEALTH OF NATIONS.
I don’t want to pour water on anyone’s campfire, but none of this’ll ever fly, simply because it makes too much sense.
Seems like a no brainer to me, but given the current crazy house mind set of the conservative wing of the GOP I’m sure they find something wrong with it.
I think one of the reasons it will have trouble among some factions is that if these lands don’t remain open to grazing, the lease holders will take the money and move away, perhaps accelerating the decline of rural populations. The counter-argument, as has been discussed by George Wuerthner
is that as cattle are removed, and the land recovers, there will be more recreational, hunting, and fishing opportunities that new entrepreneurs could build businesses around.
As an additional thought about this, it would be interesting to hear from the authors on how well this approach has worked in areas where voluntary permit retirement has been authorized, and what the effects have been.
To my knowledge about a million acres of formerly grazed public lands have been retired in Idaho and in the 3-state Greater Yellowstone. Those who know the Yellowstone country will probably agree the retirements were in extremely important wildlife rich locations.
Here is a list from the GYE:
WAPITI (RETIRED 2010)
Location: Southwestern Montana
Size: 10,000 acres
Conflict: Bison were killed when they wandered outside Yellowstone National Park in search of food, for fear they would spread disease to cattle grazing nearby.
ROYAL TETON (RETIRED 2009)
Location: SW Montana, northern border of Yellowstone National Park
Size: 6,000 acres
Conflict: Bison were killed in fear they would spread disease to local grazing livestock. Now, we’ve secured a 30-year leasing agreement to prohibit livestock grazing on Royal Teton Ranch. This has created a bison corridor along Yellowstone River that is a safe winter migration path for these animals.
ASH MOUNTAIN/IRON MOUNTAIN (RETIRED 2006)
Location: SW Montana in the Gallatin National Forest, NE side of Yellowstone National Park also adjacent to the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.
Size: 74,000 acres
Wildlife: Grizzly bears, gray wolves, bighorn sheep
Conflict: This was a domestic sheep grazing allotment that experienced chronic problems with grizzly bears and wolves, which were sometimes killed in response to depredations. The domestic sheep were also believed to transmit diseases to nearby wild bighorn sheep.
BACON CREEK/FISH CREEK (RETIRED 2007)
Location: NW Wyoming in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, South of Yellowstone National Park
Size: 178,000 acres
Wildlife: Grizzly bears, gray wolves, elk, moose
Conflict: Grizzlies and wolves were experiencing chronic conflict with grazing livestock. Cattle were consuming forage important to wintering elk and moose.
BEAR CANYON/INDIAN CREEK (two allotments, RETIRED 2013)
Location: SW Montana in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest
Size: 12,069 acres
Wildlife: Bighorn sheep
Conflict:Domestic sheep are known to transmit diseases to bighorn sheep that can result in dramatic die-offs of the wild sheep
BLACKROCK/SPREAD CREEK (RETIRED 2003)
Location: NW Wyoming in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, South of the Teton Wilderness area.
Wildlife: Grizzly bears, gray wolves, bison
Conflict: This allotment experienced more conflicts between cattle and grizzly bears than any other in the Yellowstone ecosystem.
CACHE-ELDRIDGE (RETIRED 2008)
Location: SW Montana in the Gallatin National Forest, NW of Yellowstone National Park
Size: 9,200 acres
Wildlife: Bison, grizzly bears, gray wolves
Conflict: Chronic conflict between large carnivores and cattle, possible bison habitat
CANYON BADLANDS (RETIRED 2004)
Location: NW Wyoming in the Targhee National Forest, East of Yellowstone National Park
Size: 12,000 acres
Wildlife: Grizzly bears, gray wolves, bighorn sheep
Conflict: Grizzly bears and wolves preying on domestic sheep, sheep transmitting diseases to wild bighorns
DUNOIR GRAZING ALLOTMENT (RETIRED 2008)
Location: NW Wyoming in the Shoshone National Forest, South of the Washakie Wilderness. North of Dubois, WY.
Size: 34,500 acre allotment
Wildlife: Gray wolves, grizzly bears, elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep
Conflict: Severe conflict between cattle and wolves/grizzly bears; important winter range for elk, deer
HORSE BUTTE PENINSULA (RETIRED 2003)
Location: SW Montana on the Gallatin National Forest, West of Yellowstone National Park and northwest of West Yellowstone, MT.
Size: 2,200 acres
Conflict: Horse Butte has the distinction of being the very first allotment NWF retired. Bison would wander onto Horse Butte in the winter and early spring in search of grass and would be shot. Now, Horse Butte is a safe place where they can graze.
ICEHOUSE/WILLOW CREEK (RETIRED 2008)
Location: East Idaho on the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, West of Yellowstone National Park in the Centennial Mountains.
Size: Five allotments secured as part of the Icehouse/Willow Creek retirement totaling 33,714 acres
Wildlife: Grizzly bears, gray wolves
Conflict: Grizzly bears and wolves preying on domestic sheep, being killed in return
ISLAND PARK (RETIRED 2004)
Location: Eastern Idaho on the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, West of Yellowstone National Park
Size: Three allotments totaling 12,526 acres
Wildlife: Grizzly bears and wolves
Conflict: Long history of problems between grizzly bears and sheep. Retiring this acreage ended these conflicts and promoted connectivity in a critical wildlife corridor between Yellowstone, the Centennial Mountains, and the large central Idaho wilderness areas to the west.
JIM MOUNTAIN/DUNN CREEK/TROUT CREEK (RETIRED 2005)
Location: NW Wyoming on the Shoshone National Forest, East of Yellowstone National Park and west of Cody, WY
ize: 16,800 acres
Wildlife: Grizzly bears, gray wolves, bighorn sheep
Conflict: Long-term conflict between gray wolves and grazing sheep, disease issues with bighorns
MOOSE CREEK (RETIRED 2004)
Location: NW Wyoming in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, South of Yellowstone National Park
Size: 24,500 acres
Wildlife: Moose, grizzly bears, black bears, gray wolves, bison, mule deer, elk
Conflict: Grizzly bears and sheep, major problem with domestic sheep transmitting disease to nearby bighorn herds
SLIP AND SLIDE (RETIRED 2011)
Location: SW Montana in the Gallatin National Forest
Size: 7,235 acres
Wildlife: Grizzly bears, wolves, bison
Conflict: Chronic trouble with cattle transmitting disease to grizzly bears, wolves, bison
WILLOW CREEK (RETIRED 2011)
Location: NW Wyoming in the Bridger-Teton National Forest
Size: 38,773 acres
Wildlife: Grizzly bears, wolves, cutthroat trout
Conflict: Chronic conflict between grizzly bears, wolves, cutthroat trout and cattle livestock
WYOMING RANGE (RETIRED 2005)
Location: NW Wyoming in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, Southeast of Jackson, WY and west of Pinedale and Big Piney, WY
Size: 67,500 acres
Wildlife: Gray wolves, bighorn sheep, mule deer, elk, grizzly bears
Conflict: Chronic conflict between sheep and wolves
Thanks for that information Ralph. It’s great to see this kind of progress being made in such critical wildlife areas. While it would be great to open RIVA to all, in some ways targeting the resources to the most valuable wildlife areas seems more sensible. Are there thoughts or maps about what areas represent the highest priority targets?
Should have been “REVA”, not “RIVA”.
Makes my day!!!!!!
I am going to create a section dedicated to REVA on the Speak for Wolves website. Thanks folks. http://www.speakforwolves.org
Well at least some good news. And don’t let the doorknob hit ya on the way out! 🙂
Armed Oregon Occupiers to Reveal Departure Plans
Its probably too embarrassing to hang around much longer 🙂
I posted this one on a different bundy squatter thread but I think it may have gotten buried. It’s too funny for people to not see it. A 79 year old birder had gone to check on some owls and got ticked off when one of the goons who tried to force him to get down on the ground.
“We’re hoping this is an isolated incident and we’re asking the elderly not to knock any more militants on their ass,” said the grinning FBI agent.”
I saw it Yvette and passed it on, too funny not to 🙂
Halt, who goes there?
Your worst freakin’ nightmare, that’s who……
I say if these people want a war with the government they should get one. Start by sending in a couple of SEAL teams and see how they fare.
“”We’re hoping this is an isolated incident and we’re asking the elderly not to knock any more militants on their ass,” said the grinning FBI agent.” LMAO!!!
I sort of go back and forth over whether the government ought to storm the complex with a precision tactical team and be done with this foolishness, or whether the story here should just play out in its, so far, almost comedic form.
Ironically this take-over is acting as a small magnet for more wackos, and that is OK as long as the safety stays in the “ON” position on the long guns. So far, that hasn’t been a problem, but the attraction for the wackos to head here is probably a good thing, because it is a reminder that there really are people who think this way walking around among us.
On a local note, for all the protestation of the residents of Burns and Harney County, there is is a little economic boost for some small businesses here. I bet motel space and a good sit down meal are hard to come by as the media hounds, lookie loos, and now the anti-protest – protestors flock to the area, looking for beds and food.
I was down at the Malhuer Refuge year before last, and there are very few visitor services ANYWHERE. This is a remote and desolate place in winter. There is a little wide spot in the road further south about 35 miles at Frenchglen, which consists of a gas station with little store, and maybe a small motel and a couple cabins. Other than that, I am recalling nothing in the way of accommodations, except a really nice seasonal campground on the Donner und Blixon River and another small resort of some kind on a hill above it (Don’t know if is open during winter). By the way there is a really neat round barn on a side road, that was built in the late 1800’s I think. It is huge, was used in winter to break horses for the US government, and has been restored as a national historic site, I think. The wind blows a lot here, too.
This is also the west flank of Steen’s Mountain, where there is a herd of wild horses (Kiger herd) the BLM protects and manages. They have an adoption facility just outside Burns, with no shade or grass anywhere – just panel holding pens with mounds of manure and bored horses.
Some of you keyboard monkeys from other parts of the country ought to get out here and see what the real West is like – in these desolate places. Heck, there hasn’t been this much excitement in Eastern OR since the Bhagwan Rajneesh (religious fanatic and fraud who had his own compound) took over the town of Antelope and tried to pack the election of the county to the north by bringing in street alcoholics and deadbeats from Portland to vote in a County Commissioner election (true story). 😉
I would think they could cut of power, heat and water to the place.
Frozen water pipes are expensive to fix.
True Barb, but they are vandalizing the place. They’ve removed fences, burned signage (I think but am not sure) and who knows what they’ve done to the computers and files. I read an article today about a guy who went there in 1978 and there was a museum full of birds. I hope they haven’t vandalized the museum because these guy don’t strike me as giving a hoot about museum displays or artifacts. I hope I’m wrong.
With that many people in one little place what kind of mess are they leaving behind? I will take a lot of clean up as it is.
If you cut the water off the pipes are empty, they don’t freeze. I do it every time I leave my house in the winter for more than a couple days.
That depends Timz on your setup. If you just turn the pump (electric to it) off you still have water in the lines and they will freeze.
To me, the Steens area is the most inspirational spot in Oregon. The views from the crest along the loop road are breathtaking.
Wildlife at the refuge and surrounding area is varied, from antelope to wild horses. I saw horses and my first sage grouse on a lek to the SW of the Malheur Field Station.
The MF station, a former Job Corp Center,is where I attended the first High Desert Conferences in 1981 (no moo in ’82) and 1982 (cattle free in ’83); George Wuerthner was a featured speaker at a later conference. The center is located about 3 miles west of the refuge headquarters. They offer many informational classes during the summer.
On of the many interesting visits I had in this area occurred when, due to a few very wet years, the Harney Basin was filling with water and Harney, Mud, and Malheur lakes became one. Shore birds such as avocets, stilts, and ibis, were perching in the sagebrush nearly submerged by water. Dump trucks were bringing in fill to keep SH205 above water.
Don’t miss Wrights Ridge which is inverted topography caused by a lava flow in a former valley. http://spot.pcc.edu/~mhutson/mjames/wpoint.html
WM where in wilderness areas are helicopters used to remove human wastes?
I answered that question on the other thread. But will here again. There are several UT fairly recent wildernesses that specifically have wording in the federal statutes creating them allowing helicopter use for sanitary waste; Mt. Rainier NP and Olympic NP do it. I’ve actually watched them. I was also in ONP when a ground crew was preparing to remove a summer ranger camp at Marmot Lake (helo skids on a couple boards so they could say they “didn’t land in Wilderness”. They use them all the time for human rescues, and do recall the incident on Mt. Hood a few years back when one went down.
Wilderness is what Congress says it is, and while I am pretty sure I am in the minority here, I don’t think it is such a big deal as long as it is restricted, and during low use periods for good purpose. State wildlife responsibilities and jurisdiction is a good purpose if it is carefully regulated. This elk collar thing is no big deal; they do surveys in winter in helos already and have for years; the wolf thing without approval is another matter in my mind, and IDFG should be held accountable if it was truly something other than an honest case of mis-communication. So, fine them and let’s move on. These lawsuits are silly.
Wm why are the lawsuits silly?
when laws are deliberately abrogated or broken, when agencies are corrupted, and when administrative rules or relations are otherwise unenforced, followed or corrupted what is the solution?
Fortunately, our laws provide one – to litigate and settle the matter in a court of law.
I don’t see that as silly but as a necessary check and balance. On this forum and context litigation by environmental groups and interested parties prevents resource extractors, agencies with a bias or political agenda, and people with too much money and lobbying power from wasting public resources and corrupting laws and regulations.
That does not seem silly to me especially when it comes to wolves when all of the decisions have reversed agency actions or state policies that are patently egregious, or arbitrary and capricious.
the silly/terrible part is that litigation is necessary to make our politicians and agencies follow the laws, respect public opinion and consider all stakeholders and to use the best available scientific data in making key decisions.
The big red flag for me overtime I consider any angle of wolf management is that horrifically biased unsatisfactory wolf recovery plan that made a mockery of the intent and purpose of the ESA. What recovery plan for any other species would pass the red face test when imposing so many burdens on wolves and so many liberal reasons for willing them despite the ESAs prohibition on using economic loss as a reason for killing a listed species. the recovery population thresholds are embarrassing.
Bad News Bears, Malheur Militants, the names are not very positive:
The hits keep coming! Bless their little hearts.
By Darwin’s liver! It’s chock-full of stupid in there.
At least everyone gets to see I suppose.
We also recognize that the Native Americans had the claim to the land, but they lost that claim,” Bundy said. “There are things to learn from cultures of the past, but the current culture is the most important.”
Well, we could always still make good on treaties and promises that we have reneged on in the past, in order to move forward? The current culture is not the most important.
Thousands of Artifacts Stored at Oregon Refuge Held By Armed Militia
If we run over Native American archeological sites with ATV’s and destroy cultures as a Bundy was involved in in Utah (and who knows what might be destroyed or plundered at Malheur), then we truly will have become America’s (Vanilla) ISIS.
I gave their old man the benefit of the doubt the first time around because he’d been ranging his cattle for 20 years or more – but I can see a disturbing trend here.
“In a new crime in their series of reckless offences, they assaulted the ancient city of Nimrud and bulldozed it with heavy machinery, appropriating the archaeological attractions dating back 13 centuries BC,” it [Iraq’s Tourism and Antiquities Ministry] said.
This is priceless (speaking of the artifacts): “”Before white man came, so to speak, there was nothing to keep cattle from tromping on those things,” Bundy said.”
Oh, and their sign…spell check, anyone? And are they implying that the refuge is BLM land?
“The most violent element in society is ignorance.” ~Emma Goldman
Aside from the fact that the items were not ‘artifacts’ then and being actively created and used, there were no cattle tromping anywhere, nor enterprising thieves of them.
‘enterprising thieves of the artifacts’.
What would a good old fashioned Klan meeting be without a concurrent coyote hunt? 🙁
This may have been posted already–video of protesters ripping the militants’ tarp off the refuge sign:
FYI, there’s a lively discussion going on in the comment thread to this article in today’s Oregonian:
Oregon standoff Day 15: What you need to know Saturday
I think I’m holding my own, but more allies would be welcome 8^}.
Mal, no comment section is coming up when I click on the link you provided. Facebook, Twitter etc. Yes. None of which I subscribe to.
Mal, did get comments to finally load, and load, and load but didn’t see yours. I got blurry eyed wading thru too much BS 🙂 although there were some good comments like the person that went to the Malheur Bird Refuge and took out a membership.
Posted this from that site under Interesting Wildlife News thread, needs to be posted on this thread too, for anyone who can attend:
Kudos for your support to WWP, Mal. I can’t afford to do $10 a day (till the lunatic Bundy Bunch vacate) but will get a donation off, because I do appreciate all WWP does, protecting wildlife AND our public lands.
Besides donating to WWP, citizens can contact their elected officials. All US Senators and Representatives have contact pages on their websites. Ask yours to follow the example of Sen Martin Heinrichs (D-NM), who has taken a strong position in favor of public lands protection on behalf of all Americans. On Thursday he sent a letter to the US Attorney General, asking her to enforce the law against Bundy and his bozos:
Sen. Heinrich has long campaigned to increase access by hunters to federal land, notably in his Sportsmen’s Act which recently passed in Senate committee. He would prefer that hunters not take matters into their own hands, as the Bundy Gang has done, but shares their concern that federal regulations put too many restrictions on hunters.
My first comment on the article I linked was this (I hope blockquote tags work):
Two thumbs up! I hope some other folks will do this, and report that they did it on-line at newspaper websites that are covering the attempt to seize and redistribute the wildlife refuge.
There was one commenter who responded to my comment shortly after it appeared, saying he’d donated $100 to WWP himself. He even showed an image of the PayPal receipt. FWIW, we both got lots of “likes” 8^).
The New York Times has been tracking this pretty closely (search “malheur occupation” on their site), but only a couple of their articles are allowing comments. I just posted a slightly edited version of my initial Oregonian comment on one of those:
Inside the Armed Standoff in Oregon: Reporter’s Notebook
This morning I gave WWP another $10 and posted it in the comments to a couple of new Oregonian articles.
Another nut job showing up:
Yvette you commented earlier that you wondered what other damage they might be doing in the reserve
I guess they have paved a road, taken down cameras and some are guessing about what they might have done to NA artifacts.
Like WM I wonder what is the best route to deal with them, but I’m leaning toward rambo style removal and zero tolerance.
Why on earth are they allowed to pave a road? This is the third time the Bundys have been involved in clashes with the Federal government and outright defiance of federal laws. Why aren’t they in jail?
Ida, how does one pave a road in the middle of the winter. I think that it takes around 60 degrees weather to do paving, plus one has to have a hot batch plant, asphalt, and the equipment and man power to spread the hot asphalt. Think before you type.
Elk, thats a good question how did they pave but I find two articles on it easily perhaps they just put down another hard surface characterized as paving? anyhow this is what is being reported.
read the Jan. 14 entry for clarifacation
At least Kieran Suckling is there, in a shouting match with the militia. Go Kieran!
The foster children were his income? Why does it not surprise me one in this group has found yet another way to work the government system? These people are walking talking examples of exactly what they say they are against.
Reads more like a slavery operation to me. “Ranch-hands?” Find one of these kids and put a mic in front of them….
Those cows don’t feed themselves, you know.
I predict that if we examine each of the militants occupying the refuge headquarters, we will find almost all are scammers or economically or socially marginal people.
I’d not rate it as high as a genius move. They are still there, going on three weeks, doing who knows what kind of damage. Making them look ridiculous isn’t good enough of a response in light of the amount damage they can do, and keeping the public from enjoying it, and employees from their jobs.
“We have tremendous amount of deep pockets (who want) to invest in the people of Harney County,” he said, without naming names.
For the first time, he [Ammon Bundy] said the occupiers plan on getting loggers back on the federal land, opening a mill and cutting down parts of the dead forest.
“We plan on getting those loggers back on the land,” he said. “It will take some time to accomplish and we understand it’s a very large undertaking.”
Waiting for them to leave is looking less and less genius.
What will it take to get these goons in prison where they belong?
What do we have to do to get our law enforcement to enforce the laws on the books?
I’m OK with minimizing violence, in every tense situation. Sometimes that means firing straight away, but mostly not. Reducing militarization is popular (I think). It is not the same as waiting for them to leave. Doing nothing overt today is an option to weigh – it is an action. Their continuing to invent new forms of burning stupid is worth the price of admission. Now we get to see if “loggers” respond. I realize it’s hard to take though, and sympathize with worrying that the laws won’t be fairly enforced due to politics (of candidates who need to poll well in western states).
Another $10 donated to WWP today. $170 so far, and counting.
🙂 🙂 🙂
Anyway, this should make us feel a lot better about Malheur: