Western Watersheds: public lands ranching hurts communities

Update, 2200 MDT:
U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials say they agree with a Nevada sheriff's position that rancher Cliven Bundy must be held accountable for his role in an April standoff between his supporters and the federal agency. Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie said Bundy crossed the line when he allowed states' rights supporters, including self-proclaimed militia members, onto his property to aim guns at police. [Martin Griffith, AP]
Update, 5 July, 0630 MDT: South Dakota earth hater legislator Betty Olson is defending a Hutterite colony caught in a wetlands dispute with the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Story by John Hult in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader linked here.
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]

Cowspiracy Official Trailer from First Spark Media on Vimeo.

A mycological survey of once-prolific bolete habitat on Minnesota Ridge in the Black Hills revealed that most of the land is either covered by standing dead pine or it's been logged into the dirt.

In the last several decades domestic cattle have spread antibiotic-laced manure throughout the area killing the fungi that break down organic material and strengthen the trees' resistance to bark beetles in mixed pine/aspen forests. Perhaps needless to say, no mushrooms were to be had.

The good news? Aspen is coming in everywhere and water is either running or standing throughout the central and northern Hills. Spring Creek, south of Rapid City is running at bank full; and, more rain is on the way.

As the Department of Interior identifies several states where bison can be reintroduced to historic ranges, some cattle producers in South Dakota are resisting overtures from tribes and the US Park Service to begin rewilding portions of the state.
Ranchers who rely on the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Oglala Sioux Tribe grazing permits were recently notified that their leases will expire in October 2015. The plan would reintroduce buffalo into the South Unit by carving the Stronghold Buffalo Grazing Unit out of private land and leased lands within the South Unit of Badlands National Park. It was approved in June by the tribal council. The tribe is currently working with the National Park Service to create the nation's first tribal national park that would encompass the 133,000-acre South Unit. The plan includes the return of bison to the park and the end of cattle grazing. "The National Park Service and the tribe are working to resolve issues that will result in legislation that could be introduced," Perry Plumart, Sen. Tim Johnson's press secretary, told the Journal on Wednesday. Plumart said the senator is impressed by their cooperation. [Andrea Cook, Rapid City Journal]

Cattle shitting in a sensitive watershed on the BHNF: note bug kill. Antimicrobials in manure kill fungal communities necessary for healthy forests.

There are eight grazing allotments on the Northern Hills district that can no longer support livestock.
There are four federal land management groups that allow grazing: the National Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the National Park Service. Tom Smith, range staff officer for the Northern Hills Ranger District of the Black Hills National Forest said there are 36 allotments in his district, eight of which are vacant. The allotments add up to 304,387 total acres and each allotment ranges from 1,223-20,479 acres in size. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has 504 grazing allotments in Western South Dakota said Carmen Drieling, the group’s rangeland management specialist. “It’s a rate based on a formula that we have nothing to do with,” Smith said. “Congress set up the formula during the Regan [sic] administration and has done nothing to change it.” Currently that rate is $1.35 per grazing pair, per month. “It’s ridiculously cheap,” he said. “If you were to lease private land to do the same thing, you’re looking at $30. $20 would be cheap.” [Mark Watson, Black Hills Pioneer]
Betty Olson is an earth hater state legislator defending the Bundyists in Nevada. Writing in the Black Hills Pioneer she says:
The federal government shouldn’t be allowed to own any land within a state’s boundaries unless it is granted permission by the legislature of that state, and so far, no state has given that permission to the federal government.
President Obama, it's time to rewild the West: tear out the main stem dams, extend the CM Russell Wildlife Refuge to Oacoma, South Dakota along the Missouri River and to Yellowstone then to the Yukon.

It’s time for cougars to enjoy Endangered Species protection and for you, Mr. President, to dissolve the Black Hills National Forest; and, in cooperation with BIA Forestry and Wildfire Management and the US Park Service, rename it Okawita Paha National Monument then make it part of the Greater Missouri Basin National Wildlife Refuge.

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