It is hard to realize that less than 29,000 ranchers in the West can have such an unreasonable political influence over public lands. Some major industries have laid off more employees than the total number of ranchers in the West.
We doubt that condominiums will ever replace ranches. The isolation, severe weather, lack of amenities and jobs will prevent this from happening. The irony is that more than twice as many cattle are raised on private lands in Texas than are raised in all of the 11 Western states.
The agricultural influence is furthered by statements by Wyoming Sen. Malcolm Wallop, who preaches that the survival of small towns depends on ranches and farms. This is an impossibility. According to the most recent Wyoming Data Handbook, all land-generated businesses including ranching, farming, timber, outfitting, guiding and trapping, constitute only 4 percent of the state gross product.
Through the years ranchers have gained undue political influence because they never had a demanding 9-to-5 job. They were always able to go attend any meeting or conference and make themselves known. At one time 30 percent of our state legislators were ranchers representing less than 4 percent of the population. In one recent state legislative budget session, 64 percent of the monies were allocated to the agricultural community.
These days the federal government spends $25 million on predator control for the livestock industry. Statistics prove that predator control does not work. Add to this the amount states and counties spend on this project, and the total could be used to start buying the Western ranches and returning them to public lands.
Since only 2 percent of the beef cattle in the United States is raised in the West, any "War on the West" is blown out of proportion. If changes don't come soon, we, the tax payers, will continue to subsidize a "nice way of life."
Harvey and Carolyn Duncan
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- Arnold Weissberg on Ranch Diaries: Building community in the middle of nowhere
- Steve Snyder on Only 40 years ago, the Earth got its day