Back in the 1980s, it became an article of faith among well-meaning "environmentalists" that grazing cattle on arid Western lands serves to "destroy fragile ecosystems."Has anyone actually found proof of these large native ungulates in the Mojave desert tortoise habitat? And, as near as I can tell, the only lands that are ungrazed in desert tortoise habitat are, 1) only recently so, or 2) so dry as to be worthless to grazing. It isn't really a fair statement. It's like saying that there are more tortoises where there is some grass, there are only cows where there is some grass, and therefore, tortoises prefer to be around cows. Not entirely accurate, is it?
Western ranchers presented evidence that desert plants developed in an ecosystem that needs large ungulate grazers to churn their seeds into the soil, to fertilize wetlands, to carry moisture into arid valleys and thus benefit tortoise populations -- which is why more tortoises are found on grazed land than ungrazed.
The ranchers argued that grazing prevents the buildup of excess tinder that can make range fires more frequent and severe, that game species profit from the ranchers' water improvements and efforts at predator control.Tinder? "Range" fires? Let's face it folks: the most flammable things on the western public lands are the invasive species, plants that came in and are spread by cows. What did all the "game" species do for water before the ranchers "improved it?" (Hint: they drank from the springs that were undeveloped and free-flowing before the ranchers diverted them.) And predator control? Don't get me started. That has screwed up more ecosystems than Las Vegas.
And the ruling?
"It sends a pretty important message to the government that if you screw with a small ranching family and put them out of business, you have to pay big bucks," exults Lyman "Ladd" Bedford, a San Francisco-based lawyer who has argued the case since Hage first filed his lawsuit.Groan. It sends the message that the federal government is supposed to put the preferences of one businessman ahead of the will of the public on public lands.
That isn't true, and it isn't right, and I hope that the Forest Service appeals the ruling.