Don't blame cows

  Dear HCN,

The recent issue on wildfires and exotic weeds continues a disappointing trend in your paper, of peddling panaceas rather than creating dialogue. In the opening page, the "usual suspects' are rounded up - grazing, farming, roads, mines - and from there it reads like a tabloid account of the Jon-Benet Ramsey murder.

One sidebar attempts to credit cattle with the wholesale weeding of the West. An activist-group employee, Joy Belsky, condemns livestock for carrying weed seeds and disturbing the soil surface. Do you expect us to believe that wild animals and birds don't carry a sufficient number of weed seeds? Or that elk and deer somehow float above the "delicate soil crust?"

There's nothing sinister about the grazing and trampling of herding animals. Any biologists worth their salt would know that this is vital to a healthy grassland ecology, necessary for new grass and brush seedlings to take root. Following Belsky's solution, we would certainly see more landscapes like that pictured on the facing page. Here we see scrubby sagebrush among dead and dying grass plants, all surrounded by 90 percent bare soil. Ironically, you titled the photo, "A healthy sagebrush ecosystem."

A little more depth, please, and fewer quick fixes.

Chris Frasier
Limon, Colorado
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