Outcome-Based Grazing: a Cattle Industry Public Lands Power Grab

Welfare Ranchers Go for a Bigger Bite of Public Resources

The flexibility of the BECO permits paves the way for even more extreme exploitation of public lands with “hazardous fuels” or “targeted”grazing. The BECO ranchers are already clamoring for this, in synch with a West-wide livestock industry push to severely graze public lands claiming this will stop wildfires. The same cattlemen who beat out the public lands so badly that they have become infested with flammable cheatgrass and other weeds now claim the only way to save the lands from burning is to let their herds beat the land out even worse. There’s no limit to the industry’s gluttony and hubris.

Because the BECO lands have long been recognized as crucial to sage-grouse persistence, and these particular ranchers have resisted even modest changes in grazing to protect wildlife and the public interest, the allotments have been the subject of protracted litigation. Several years ago, the Federal District Court in Idaho issued a ruling in the Salazar case telling BLM grazing must yield to sage-grouse and sensitive species needs here. So what has the Trump BLM done? Finalized a surreptitious “Outcome Based” grazing scheme that will help wipe out the birds for the economic benefit of the biggest cow operation in the West and a few others.

Green New Deal?

Not a day goes by without news of a Green New Deal. Any real Green New Deal for the West must include terminating public lands livestock grazing. Every time I go to Battle Creek, central Nevada, the Oregon Owyhee or Steens country, I see springs and streams battered by livestock with their perennial flows being killed from cow-caused erosion and desiccation, and uplands succumbing to cheatgrass from cow disturbance.

Grazing is right now, immediately, before our very eyes causing what climate change is predicted to bring about. Desertification, ruin of wildlife habitat and biodiversity loss from grazing have long been known. Grazing stress acts synergistically with climate stress to intensify land degradation and fast-forward predicted climate change impacts. There is now substantial data on the role of free-range cattle in generating greenhouse gases. Fewer than 18,000 public lands ranchers (with an increasing number of corporate, hobby, speculator and subsidy-seeker operations) hold the West hostage and are setting public lands on an irreversible course. Will any politician take them on? Or will a Green New Deal on public lands be more of the same slicing and dicing of habitat with remote-sited corporate-owned wind and solar farms and high voltage transmission lines that reinforce a wasteful centralized energy model?

Katie Fite is a biologist and Public Lands Director with WildLands Defense.