EPA reins in ranchers



For years, a bureaucratic gap in Oregon law has allowed some ranchers to violate the Clean Water Act by allowing their cows' manure to seep into rivers. Now, the Environmental Protection Agency is cracking down.

So far, the EPA has fined 10 Oregon ranchers - some as much as $50,000 - while also requiring them to stop the flow of manure from their land.

"There are approximately 1.5 million head of cattle in Oregon and they generate about 7.5 million tons of manure per year," says Bub Loiselle of the EPA. "Great care must be taken to make sure that Oregon surface waters are not impacted."

Manure contamination is a threat to human health, he says, and can also affect water temperature, river habitat and the health of animals, including some listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Ranchers say the federal agency is going overboard.

"They are trampling states' rights," says Bob Beck of the Oregon Cattleman's Association. He says that ranchers are obeying Oregon law, and that the federal government is trying to drive the livestock industry off the land.

"We who have been on the same land for generations will be the caretakers of this land in perpetuity, handing it to each successive generation in better condition than we found it," says Beck, "if only we are allowed to do so by the socialists who are nowhere near the environmentalists they pretend to be."


Copyright 2000 HCN and Mike Stark

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