Public-land users and abusers


I own property that borders several thousand acres of national forest, and with my neighbors control the area's access road ("Public land, locked up," HCN, 12/9/13). These public lands are used for grazing and for recreation. We allow public access, but are also aware that the public is basically clueless when it comes to land ethics. Indiscriminate shooting leaves damaged signs and broken glass; Boy Scouts deface natural features; ATVs trample sensitive areas; wildlife is poached. The worst time for us is summer, when all it takes is some idiot shooting fireworks or a drunken group's unattended fire to destroy the entire watershed.

We take exception to the bad rap given to ranchers, because it's this user who exhibits the most responsible use of the land. The grazing permittee makes sure the fences are in good repair, clears deadfall from hiking trails, moves cattle to prevent overgrazing, and contributes funding and labor to our weed-control program. He's the steward, and he pays for his use. The rest of the public just uses it.

My neighbors and I periodically consider closing our road to protect the public land from the public. Given the anti-grazing sentiment that we all hear and read about, along with all the impacts the public creates, I can't blame responsible ranchers for keeping the public out of public lands adjacent to their homes. As Aldo Leopold said: "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community."

Steve Laster
Clancy, Montana

John F Mijer
John F Mijer Subscriber
Feb 03, 2014 11:45 AM
I agree with most of what you have to say Mr Laster. I suspect you also know of ranchers who are not responsible public land grazers. I applaud you care of the land, but don't agree that you can block access to public lands simply based on the fact that you pay for the benefits to graze your cattle. John Mijer Ogden, Utah
Janine Blaeloch
Janine Blaeloch
Feb 04, 2014 02:17 PM
"[The rancher is] the steward, and he pays for his use. The rest of the public just uses it." ?? Actually, the public pays for its use by providing the money that funds public land management--including funding to oversee grazing allotments and repair and/or mitigate the damage done by livestock grazing.
Kirk Hohenberger
Kirk Hohenberger Subscriber
Feb 04, 2014 03:08 PM
The public grazer does not pay, enough , a Perpetual subsidized fee of about 1.35 a AUM. While private grazers pay about 25 dollars a AUM . The only excuse I here for the incredible low fee, is they maintain the fences. Ok then lets raise the fee to the free market norm , and millions of new dollars will be generated to hire more BLM employees to actually check on the range conditions, and maintain the fences , and actually check on the range conditions more then once every ten years. Most of the public land I check on in Montana is grazed down to the dirt by the end of the season, leaving almost nothing for grouse, and other wildlife , this is not being a "good steward ".