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Cattle or Trout

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Re: Cattle or Trout

Postby oldranger » Wed Sep 28, 2011 11:39 am


Spoken like a geologist! :D


Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!

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Re: Cattle or Trout

Postby dave54 » Mon Oct 10, 2011 11:02 am

If it were all that simple…

As mentioned in the above posts, grazing is not just permitted by law, it is required. The Multiple use act mandates livestock grazing as one of the values --Wood, Water Forage Wildlife, Recreation – all with equal consideration and no one use given priority over another. This, of course, automatically sets up a conflict. As noted by many environmental writers, and in a few court decisions, the Forest Service has contradictory and mutually exclusive legal mandates each with constituents ready to litigate when the Forest Service tries to find some balance and compromise.

Many times grazing is not inconsistent with good riparian habitat and fisheries. Modoc National Forest (created for grazing BTW) has implemented some creative methods of using cattle as a management tool enhancing watershed and fisheries. Intensive grazing management has been successfully used to control undesirable invasive plants and stimulate growth of desirable. And the economics of public land grazing is increasingly understood as overall beneficial. Two separate studies I am aware of demonstrate public land grazing helps control urban sprawl. The private ranch at the core of the grazing operation could not survive without the public grazing land. The ranch owners would be forced to sell the family legacy to the highest bidder. Much of the open space in the Sierra foothills between the urban centers and the NF boundary would disappear. As been noted by many “The worst managed ranch is still better wildlife habitat than the best planned subdivision.” Lately, even the sierra club has softened its stand against public land grazing.

There is some misunderstanding about the grazing fee structure. The Forest Service does not set the fee. The fee is calculated from a formula set in law by Congress. The BLM is responsible for setting the fee according to the formula, and the Forest Service charges the determined rate. Neither political party has shown any serious interest in revising the formula. The last half-hearted attempt was in 1994 (IIRC) and that attempt died when the Clinton White House signaled its opposition.
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Re: Cattle or Trout

Postby mokelumnekid » Tue Oct 11, 2011 12:43 am

dave54- good points. I understand the issues regarding the grazing fee and so on, and the inherent contradiction in the agency mandates, and thanks for clarifying and pointing that out. In my experience these same mandates are applied in different ways in different forests, reflecting the particular "bias" and philosophy of the Supervisor and staff.

I am only directly familiar with the Stanislaus Nat'l. Forest management issues (and somewhat in Humboldt-Toiyabe), which I have followed for many years. Having read various EIS and planning/impacts documents, I don't recall that a case has been made that in the *alpine* environment of Amador, Calaveras, Alpine, and Tuolumne counties 6,000-10,000 ft., the cattle are actually improving the habitat in any way. As I said above, in my experience, and others who document these things, it has proven to be very difficult if not impossible, to prevent a net destructive impact on the riparian habitat in that elevation range. I think there are important differences between Modoc and say Stanislaus, not just geologically, but also perhaps in the management of the resource. Sounds like Modoc is a bit more forward looking in that regard. It is gratifying to hear about the successes in Modoc and that is welcome news. But in my experience Stanislaus has been slow to acknowledge the problems, and Humboldt-Toiyabe even more so.

You bring up good points about the growing realization that grazing in the foothills may be better than another subdivision off Hwy 49 and there abouts. And to the degree that the high country "free" grazing is a financial necessity for that, it is perhaps a worthwhile bargain. Just anecdotally, the grazing families that I know from the Calaveras area are not in that position. They are doing quite well. Of course I don't see the whole picture, but I'd like to see the tax records of all the permitees to asses to what degree this is a lifestyle choice (running cattle to the high country) as opposed to finding summer forage for the same cattle at market rates. I understand the arguments, but I'd like to see the data. I'm guessing- just guessing- that if the high country grazing ended today, it would not be a deal breaker for most of the grazing families (the ones that I know have other robust sources of income). But I could be wrong about that.

Boy I would love to see a win-win situation in Stanislaus like you describe in Modoc. As I said previously I'm not hostile to the idea, but have seen a whole lot of damage done because it is so hard to physically manage the animals in the alpine back-country.

As oldranger pointed out, there are fewer animals in play now than 20-100 years ago. In the end there frankly aren't THAT many cattle in the central Sierra high country- but the rub is that it doesn't take many to raise hell. :confused:
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Re: Cattle or Trout

Postby Mradford » Thu May 31, 2012 2:13 pm

Has there been any recent update on this?
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Re: Cattle or Trout

Postby SSSdave » Fri Jun 01, 2012 8:58 pm

Recall reading this thread and the LA Times article last fall and intending to post my two cents but apparently never got back to it. Some excellent comments! So will add a few belated words. Especially liked mokelumnekid's trained geologist summary of that section of the Central Sierra. If you and I ever find ourselves hiking down some trail, our jaws are certain to get overworked. I've commented on grazing in the Sierra occasionally on other boards.

Am not familiar with the section of the southeast Sierra discussed in the news article so cannot comment on that but have backpacked extensively between Sonora Pass and Tahoe where I am strongly against allowing cattle grazing in SOME places there. And have written Toyabe NF in the past at length. Grazing in the Sierra Nevada is fine as long as that is down at lower and mid forest elevations. However at the crest areas the damage those heavy beasts do to small streams and meadows is utterly disgusting. Cattle folks would be wise to figure out how to avoid those areas on their own before some judge or legislation kicks them out of such places and more. That is where they sew seeds of opposition because it is the high crest areas of the Sierra that most backpackers and hikers visit. And one can count on visitors being disgusted when they see what cattle do. One of my favorite zones is about Ebbetts Pass and that is the main area my complaints have focussed on.

I would like to hear those involved start talking about constructing barbed wire fences because otherwise even if cattle are dropped off at mid forest meadows, some are sure to continue traveling up stream courses to highest elevations. And I do not expect ranchers to be the ones to construct such fences as most of them simply do not have the wealth or manpower to do that. One really doesn't need to construct complete fences but rather block water courses cattle follow up plus a ways up the side of those canyon walls enough to discourage that movement.
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