Why aren't there more Clive Bundies?

Before Cliven Bundy imploded in racist rants, he was a right-wing darling, courted by Fox News and threatening to lead a resurgent Sagebrush Rebellion. But other than the armed “militia” who descended on his ranch, no other rancher followed suit.

In fact, Bundy appears to be the only rancher in Nevada who is refusing to pay federal grazing fees. Why?

The big reason is that the federal grazing fees are so cheap – only$1.35 a month per animal unit (a cow and a calf –calves eat free!). By contrast, private landowners, states and even other federal agencies charge much, much more for grazing privileges—with rates running anywhere from $20 to $150 per AUM, or 15 to more than 110 times what BLM charges.

You’d have to be an absolute wacko to look this gift cow in the mouth. Bundy’s stance is like a shoplifter complaining that there is no free home delivery for the merchandise he has lifted.

And despite all the talk of heavy-handed environmental restrictions, BLM is one of the laxest land stewards on the planet. Much of the rangeland it manages has been pounded into moonscape-like oblivion by overgrazing. BLM rarely enforces restrictions to protect the land. In fact, it officially claims that livestock impacts are too complex to understand. But it is not too hard to understand that Bundy has hundreds of European-stock cattle, bred for the lush fields of countries like England, grazing in the Nevada desert. The reason BLM needs a helicopter to gather Bundy’s trespassing herd is that each animal needs hundreds of acres of desert land to survive.

Not surprisingly, these Nevada lands are in horrible shape. Heck, much of the land Bundy’s cows have been munching for the past 20 years are National Park lands “managed” in absentia by the BLM.

Even if Bundy were to pay his grazing fees, that should not constitute an entitlement to trash public lands. PEER is pushing BLM to enforce its own range health standards for water quality, watershed functionality and wildlife habitat. Help us end flagrant abuse of your public lands. Sincerely,

Jeff Ruch
Executive Director

P.S. Maximize your gift! Every dollar goes further on May 6th 2014.

On May 6th 2014, from 12:00 a.m. to 11:59:59pm, PEER is participating in Give Local America. Every donation will be stretched further if you donate to our organization through http://www.givelocalwashingtondc.org/#npo/peer. We hope you will consider supporting us on May 6th!

Your donation will go a long way in helping us protect the environment.

P.P.S. Are Coca-Cola dollars again influencing national park policies on selling disposal plastic water bottles? Coke, the maker of Dasani bottled water, is a big giver to Yellowstone. That park, however, is choking on rising piles of discarded bottles yet will not consider a ban, as other parks have recently done. Things don’t always go better with Coke.

P.P.P.S. No one will regard this as the golden age of scientific integrity inside the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. It took us a year to pry out an internal report showing FWS managers obstructed an enforcement effort to determine if factory discharge into a river was killing aquatic life. The scientists who reported the problems were punished but the guiltiest manager was given a prestigious assignment as a regional science coordinator. FWS Director Dan Ashe has told Congress he will make things right but his agency has been dragging its feet for months on the whistleblower complaints. Ashe claims that resolving these matters is complex but it is not. These are relatively simple, straightforward cases that could easily have been handled in days. What is complex is how Ashe can continue to talk about his agency’s scientific integrity with a straight face.
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