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This grazing bill is a disaster

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On May 25, New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici introduced the Livestock Grazing Act (HCN, 6/12/95). The bill would overturn Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt's Rangeland Reform proposal. The following is a letter to Sen. Domenici from longtime Arizona activist Steve Johnson.

Dear Sen. Domenici:

I am completely sincere in my belief that it is possible to allow livestock to graze much of our public lands, but your bill is not the way to go. If it should become law, the abuses it would codify would do more to move us toward a complete end to public livestock grazing than anything I have yet seen. SB 852 plays into the hands of the extremists who want to see all grazing of public lands stopped. Instead of stabilizing the livestock industry, it would do just the opposite.

You were quoted as saying that the BLM's new grazing regulations that would take effect Aug. 22 are "onerous." Please tell me exactly to what provisions you are referring. The Range Reform "94 process, in which thousands of ranchers, hunters, fishers, conservationists and other concerned citizens participated, gave everyone a place at the table. The final product, in my opinion, was a definite compromise toward the ranchers' positions.

In contrast to the slow and agonizing democratic process of Westwide hearings on range reform, SB 852 leaves no room for the public. It would lock out the public, make cattle king, prevent public access to our own lands, and legalize lawless acts such as no penalties for failure to pay grazing fees.

According to statistics developed by the U.S. Department of Commerce, income from cattle and sheep in New Mexico is less than 1 percent of the total state income from all sources. Although your state is growing, cattle and sheep income is small and getting smaller, as it is all over the West. SB 852, by shielding a very few ranchers from economic and ecological reality, prevents them from improving their operations so that they can survive.

In my opinion, SB 852 furnishes public land ranchers with a bucket of sand in which to hide their heads, while they foolishly hope what they refuse to recognize will go away.

Steve Johnson

Tucson, Arizona

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