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Know the West

Club supports flexible grazing policy

  Dear HCN,

"Zero-Cow initiative splits Sierra Club" (HCN, 2/26/01: 'Zero-Cow' initiative splits Sierra Club) fails to recognize that the Club is neither "zero-cut" nor "zero-cud." In its attempt to simplify it misses the real story. While the Club has a position that advocates an end to all commercial logging on public lands, private use and noncommercial logging for ecological restoration purposes is allowable. So, for those northern New Mexico traditional communities "where pinon pine is a winter staple for heat and cooking fuel," this type of personal noncommercial use is not affected by our policy.

The story also misses the mark on the Club's public-lands grazing policy. While a faction in the Club is trying to change the Club's policy so that all domestic livestock grazing on public lands would be opposed, this is not the existing policy supported by Board and the National Council of our Chapters - both of which rejected the no-grazing option in favor of a more flexible policy which specifically recognizes environmental justice concerns. Our policy, which bases decisions on what should be grazed based on ecological conditions rather than land ownership, was adopted unanimously.

Writing a story that attempts to pit urban against rural environmentalists ignores the fact that rural and urban residents are equally appalled at the clear-cutting and overgrazing that have destroyed our common heritage. The public lands belong to all Americans, and citizens in cities are equal owners with their rural counterparts. The vast majority of our public lands have been overcut and overgrazed, and logging and grazing reform are long overdue

The problem is that for too long decisions about logging and grazing have been determined by large corporate loggers and ranchers who do not represent the urban and rural public interest in our public lands. Andy Sanchez, who grazes 14 head of cattle in New Mexico, is not the problem, and the Club's grazing policy seeks to accommodate his modest use while targeting the large corporate despoilers who threaten the public lands for all of us.

Bruce Hamilton
San Francisco, California

The writer is conservation director of the Sierra Club.