Grazing CMR refuge will harm wildlife

NASA just reported the drought in eastern Montana is so severe it is a once in a century event.

Not surprisingly, despite livestock grazing that some suggest could preclude large blazes, the drought in eastern Montana has spawned some recent blazes including the 270,000-acre Lodgepole Fire. The fire raced across grazed public and private pasture and rangelands.

Some ranchers who lost grass to the fire now must sell off their cattle, buy hay or seek out other private pastures for their cattle.

Unfortunately, some of these cowboys have requested the Dept of Interior to open Montana’s Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge (CMR) for grazing by their cows. And recently Secretary of Interior Zinke granted their wish and swung open the gate to grazing by their livestock.

It’s ironic that for the most part, the livestock industry regularly belittles the government, welfare queens, and paying taxes—yet they are quick to call on the government to assist with taxpayer welfare.

I do not mind helping people who have been impacted by a natural event. That’s what government is for and should do—even people who complain about government all the time.

But allowing cattle to graze the CMR is the wrong solution. The CMR grass is needed more by native public wildlife than by privately owned cattle.

In a drought, wildlife must scramble to find food and cover. During drought, there is often as little as one third grass production. In addition, wildlife displaced by the Lodgepole Fire must also search further for food, and no doubt some will be heading to the CMR.

In addition, livestock grazing during droughts is more likely to help favor the spread of weeds by disturbing soils and consumption of drought weakened native places.

While the ranchers have other options from leasing other private pasture to buying hay to reducing their herds, wildlife has no other options.

Let’s give the ranchers affected by fire a helping hand—provide loans, give emergency assistance, bring in hay from other regions—but let’s not compromise the public’s wildlife by allowing cattle to graze the CMR.

These are public lands that belong to all Americans, and they should be managed to benefit all Americans. Allowing private businesses to expropriate the food and cover that otherwise is needed by the public’s wildlife is not in the public interest.

George Werther 541-255-6039






  1. Helen McGinnis Avatar

    Also, CMR has a small mountain lion population. It was recolonized in the 1990s. In a recent study, every dispersing lion that left the NWR was killed. If cattle are introduced, it might lead to more lions being killed if they prey on calves.

  2. snaildarter Avatar

    one more reason to hate Trump

  3. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    I was wondering what this would mean for predators also. I’ve read this described as a ‘balanced’ use of public lands, as if human interests don’t already dominate.

    Under the previous administration, USF&W approved growing GMO crops in open air ‘test labs’ in the refuges too, until halted by court order.

    So it’s a general malaise across parties, priority of use of the public lands.

  4. Jim Coda Avatar

    I agree. Well said!

  5. Pamela Williams Avatar
    Pamela Williams

    As always, well said. Also infuriating!

  6. Joanne Gura Avatar
    Joanne Gura

    Great article…Is there anyone we can write or call that could make a difference in the decision? Public lands shouldn’t be left to people who aren’t the public to make such big decisions…

  7. Elk375 Avatar

    I have read about allowing grazing in the CMR wildlife refuge for several days now. They are going to allow grazing in an area that has not been grazed in a number of years. That area was not a part of the original CRM wildlife refuge but was Benny Binion Ranch that was some how acquired by the refuge and became a part of the CMR. I do not know the history of this acquisition.

    Benny Binion was the founder of the Horseshoe Club in Las Vegas and claimed on “60 Minutes” that he could not read or write. But he new how to add and did not want to learn how to do subtraction.

    They could be some deed restriction or other language in the conveyance that has allowed this to happen. Currently the CMR has millions of acres being grazed.

  8. Elk375 Avatar

    If they graze it fine, it they do not graze it’s all the better. Lets just be thankful that it is a part of the CMR refuge and public land.


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George Wuerthner