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Ranchers are behind predator control

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Dear HCN,
Tom McNamee’s predator-prey article is one of the finest pieces on the subject of predators and predator control I have ever read (HCN, 3/31/03: Tinkering with nature).

Typically writers who tackle this highly controversial issue are biased either for or against predators. Such articles seldom shed light on the issue, but do generate much heat. McNamee does a fine job of presenting both sides of the problem. I was particularly impressed with his elaboration of the complexity of the issue and of the role played by habitat in the ups and downs of both predators and prey.

As pleased as I was with the article, I find myself compelled to call attention to one factor that did not receive the attention it deserves — the role played by the livestock industry. Ranchers were responsible for the elimination of wolves and grizzlies and such prey species as prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets from most of their historic habitat in the Lower 48 states. Further, 150 years of abusive grazing adversely impacted virtually all prey species and lowered the productivity of all grazed rangelands. Ranchers today continue to be the chief obstacle to restoring wolves to some of their historic range, including suitable habitat here in Arizona. Surprisingly, McNamee barely mentions the impact of grazing on wildlife habitats.

Steve Gallizioli
Fountain Hills, Arizona
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