Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Wyoming data trespassing law creating chilling effect on science, dooming wildlife

Update, 20 May, 1217 MDT, New Federal Sage Grouse Protection Plan Ignores Threat from Ranching: KCET.
Given the deep discounts federal lands ranchers pay for grazing permits compared to those ranchers whose livestock graze on private land, public lands ranching is one of the most thoroughly subsidized industries in the West. If we taxpayers are essentially going to pay ranchers to graze cattle on our land, those ranchers should at least be willing to come to the table to address ways that their profits harm our irreplaceable wildlife.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service will extend federal protection to sage grouse unless states like Wyoming adopt strategies to guard breeding grounds.
Wyoming’s new data trespassing law made national headlines last week when an opinion column in Slate raised the question of whether it attempts to criminalize data collection activities among citizens, including taking photos on public lands such as Yellowstone National Park. That was the argument of Justin Pidot, a University of Denver assistant professor of law. He’s not an uninterested bystander in the issue, because he represents the Western Watersheds Project. At issue is that the law portends to apply to state public lands, and that it creates a question of whether it attempts to apply to federal public lands, as the non-profit Western Watersheds Project believes. “The mere fact that you have a criminal statute that applies to this conduct sends a real chilling message to citizens who might like to engage in these [data collecting] activities,” Pidot said. While lawmakers debated a data trespassing bill last summer, 15 ranchers sued Jonathan Ratner and the WWP for allegedly trespassing on private land to access Bureau of Land Management parcels to collect water samples. [excerpt: Gregory Nickerson, Wyofile]
Domestic cattle spread antibiotic-laced manure in sensitive ecosystems killing the fungi that break down organic material and strengthen trees' resistance to bark beetles in mixed pine/aspen forests.

Wyoming receives nearly half of federal mineral receipts. (pdf)
“Within agriculture in the West, the thirstiest commodity is the cow,” says George Wuerthner, an ecologist at the Foundation for Deep Ecology, who has studied the livestock industry. Christopher Ketcham, The New Republic.
As the Department of Interior identifies several states where bison can be reintroduced to historic ranges, some cattle producers are resisting overtures from tribes and the US Park Service to begin rewilding portions of the West.
Public lands ranching is the most widespread commercial use of public lands in the United States. Ranching is one of the primary causes of native species endangerment in the American West; it is also the most significant cause of non-point source water pollution and desertification. Hobby ranchers and corporate-entities hold the lion’s share of grazing permits on hundreds of millions of acres of public lands. Most of the rest of public land ranchers rely on service jobs in small towns as their primary source of income. Rural communities support public land ranchers not the other way around. BLM and Forest Service staff and conservationists continue to be subjected to psychological and physical intimidation in the field. [Western Watersheds Project]
Cattle worsen the cheatgrass cycle and endanger habitat essential to keystone species like the threatened Greater sage grouse.

Author Thomas McGuane examines the changing West: Albuquerque Journal.

Expect my home state of South Dakota to advance similar anti-science legislation.

Western livestock producers are the real ecoterrorists. Having a conversation about conservation with a conservative is like peeing into a haboob.

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