Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Subsidizing Cows and Cattlemen

The grazing fee which the federal government charges cattlemen like Cliven Bundy has been reduced even further. The Animal Unit Month is now set at $1.88 per cow and her calf or five sheep, down from the $2.31 charged in the eighties. A wild lands advocate called the fee, "the cheapest all-you-can-eat buffet deal in the country." Two hundred and twenty million acres of public land are used to feed private cattle herds under 22,000 grazing permits. The federal program operates deeply in the red because the fee is based on an archaic formula that undervalues nutrients consumed and damaged caused natural ecosystems by grazing livestock. The fee does not cover range infrastructure such as crossings, ponds, and fencing, or erosion control, or vegetation manipulation or government provided predator control. This tremendous subsidy exists for solely for political reasons unrelated to the economics of stock herding.  It is interesting to note that science has concluded the most damaging food for the global climate is beef.  Methane is the culprit in this instance.

Free predator controls includes killing wolves accused of "depredations". A term of art that makes normal predation sound like a crime of moral turpitude.  Despite reimbursement programs to agriculturalists who loose an occasional cow or sheep, they insist the federal and state governments "managing" remaining wild carnivores who take stock to supplement their wild diet when it is difficult to find or depleted by exterminating them. The USDA's notorious Wildlife Services often uses inhuman means to kill an apex predator that is necessary to a healthy ecosystem. The ethics of these lethal practices are indefensible. Wildlife Services, which receives tax revenue from state governments like Oregon, is simply a killing machine, there is no "service" involved except extermination. This agency has been again sued in Idaho to stop its plans at the behest of Idaho's Department of Fish & Game to exterminate a host of wild animals without assessing the environmental impact of the wholesale slaughter. The slaughter is supposedly to protect the endangered sage grouse, a favorite game bird.

In response to a petition by 19 conservation groups, Wildlife Services did agree to stop using its horrendous and indiscriminate cyanide bomb, M-44, to kill wildlife. The petition was filed in response to the injury of a Poccatello boy and the killing of his dog by the spring loaded device in February 2017. When bitten, the bomb explodes sodium cyanide into the face and nostrils of the investigating animal regardless of its legal status. In its extreme arrogance, the agency did not agree to a total ban, informing the petitioners in its letter that it would condescend to notify them of new M-44s deployed in the state thirty days in advance.

Not only is the agency arrogant in its barbaric 19th century treatment of wildlife, but the interests it serves exhibit the same poor attitude.  The self-proclaimed "owners" of the west received another setback at the hands of a federal judge in Nevada recently. A ruling handed down by US District Judge Gloria Navarro assessed rancher Wayne Hayes $587,294.28 for non-payment of grazing fees on public lands.  The ruling is perhaps the last gasp in an anti-government feud begun by his father decades ago.  Like Cliven Bundy, he adheres to the ridiculous legal position that federal ownership of Nevada land is null and void.  Hayes claimed ownership of state water rights gave him de facto title to surrounding public land.  Judge Navarro strongly rebuked the crackpot legal reasoning by citing Article IV of the federal Constitution which Nevada  endorsed as supreme law when it joined the Union.   Section 3 states, "Congress shall have the power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belong to the United States... nothing [herein] shall be construed so as to Prejudice and Claims of the United States..."  Amen.  You have thirty days to remove your cows, Mr. Hayes.

You have an opportunity to voice your support of wolf conservation in Oregon this Friday when the Department of Fish and Wildlife holds it first Portland public meeting on its draft "wolf management plan".  That plan includes letting the public hunt wolves accused of eating too many elk or taking a rancher's stock.  There is no ethical justification for using lethal means to control wolf populations, which in a better world are self-regulating, let alone allowing the out-of-control Wildlife Services to set off cyanide boobytraps in the back country.  Other countries and states have demonstrated that non-lethal control methods work well if agricultural interests cooperate and human fear dissipated.  Using hunting from which the managing agency obtains revenue as a control method biases the plan toward extermination, not tolerance.   The wolf population has already leveled off in Oregon.  What science shows is that when a carnivore species becomes unprotected as happened to the wolf in eastern Oregon in 2015, human conflicts and stock predation go up.  Just say no to hunting wolves in Oregon.  Public comments begin at 8:00am, Friday, at Embassy Suites PDX, 7900 NE 82nd Avenue, Portland OR.  US Person will see you there!