Dump cows - for what?

  Dear HCN,

In Debra Donahue's opinion, "The writing is on the wall: Livestock grazing on semi-arid public ranges is uneconomic and unsustainable. The only solution is removing livestock altogether" (HCN, 2/28/00: A prof takes on the sacred cow). I'm not familiar with the implications of that statement in the state of Wyoming; I do know what that means here in Montana, where many of our valley bottoms receive less than 12 inches of rainfall.

Put ranchers out of business and we lose open space, access, wildlife habitat, riparian corridors and scenic views to developers. Subdivisions and homes will spring up where these ranches once stood. With them will come noxious weeds, overgrazed horse paddocks, access restrictions, vegetation conversions and barriers to wildlife movement.

Surely there are other solutions than offered by Donahue's narrow view! Your editors juxtaposed Donahue's opinion and a review of her book in the same issue, led by an article about saving the West's disappearing open space. I hope the contradiction didn't elude you - and I certainly hope your readers understand the consequences of taking up the banner of "removing livestock altogether" from public lands. Donahue assumes because public lands have a negligible influence on the national livestock industry we can discount the effect of ranching on our lives. Ranching in southwest Montana contributes significantly to the quality of all our lives here - whether we profit economically from their industry or not.

Janet Bean-Dochnahl
Ennis, Montana