Skip to comments.Ranchers fight to keep grazing in Grant County (OR)
Posted on 05/10/2009 11:10:52 AM PDT by jazusamo
JOHN DAY -- Ranchers and environmentalists have locked horns over cattle grazing for years. Now a battered economy and a looming court decision are fueling a full-on battle in Grant County.
On one side, ranchers and the county chairman say proposed grazing limits could deal a knockout punch to more than a dozen cattle operations and, because of job losses and lost tax revenue, county social services.
On the other side, an environmental group says wild steelhead are in decline because of stream bank damage caused by grazing cattle.
"The mood here is not good," says Mark Webb, chairman of Grant County commissioners in Canyon City. "A lot of livelihoods" ride on the pending ruling by U.S. District Judge Ancer Haggerty in Portland. A hearing in the case is scheduled for June 9.
The debate affects an eastern Oregon county that has twice the space of Delaware but just 7,500 residents. Grant County is so sparsely populated that it has only one stoplight and three fast-food restaurants, plus a one-night-a-week movie theater in an old Rebekah Lodge. Towns are tiny, with frontier-style buildings harking to the gold rush.
More than 60 percent of the county's land is federally owned, and the John Day River system has more miles designated as wild and scenic than any in the nation.
The recession has hit the county especially hard. The unemployment rate in March, according to figures by the Oregon Employment Department, was 18.8 percent, compared with 12.9 percent statewide and 9 percent nationwide.
At issue are six grazing allotments on U.S. Forest Service land. The allotments, all in the Malhuer National Forest, encompass about 250,000 acres across a vast tapestry of mountains, canyons, meadows and pine forests.
Three environmental groups, including the Bend-based Oregon Natural Desert Association, filed a request April 10 for an injunction that would banish cattle from the allotments.
Brent Fenty, the group's executive director, says damage in the allotments is severe and threatens the survival of native Middle Columbia steelhead, federally listed as threatened in 1999.
"Something needs to be done about it," he says.
Fenty says the environmental group has collected data over a decade that show steelhead runs far below historic levels.
Webb, the county chairman, says 17 ranches use the six allotments and that long-term closures could drive at least half of them out of business, worsening unemployment. The drop in tax revenues, in turn, would shrink funds for social services, hurting even Blue Mountain Hospital in John Day, he says.
And Webb says an injunction could actually hurt steelhead habitat by shifting cattle to private ranchland, where overgrazing could occur along streams. On the ungrazed federal land, grass could grow out of control in summer, raising wildfire risk. And ranches could even be broken up, he says, resulting in homebuilding and loss of rangeland and habitat.
Environmentalists, he says, forget how much fish and wildlife habitat ranches provide.
Spencer Hovekamp, spokesman for the National Marine Fisheries Service in La Grande, says the injunction, if granted, would mean eight allotments in the Upper and Lower John Day River and its North Fork and Middle Fork subbasins would be closed to livestock. Two allotments were closed by a May 2008 ruling.
He traces the grazing debate to two decades of fighting over timber sales in national forests. Without logging, tree canopies have expanded, he says, shading out grass. Cattle migrate toward streams, he says, where grass is more plentiful.
He declined to comment on steelhead numbers, saying only that the fish are not recovered. He says it's possible to have both steelhead and cattle on the Malheur National Forest, though it may mean more fences and more cowboys tracking cattle on horseback.
Ranchers, meanwhile, have formed a legal defense fund to fight for cattle grazing: The Five Rivers Grazing Permittees. The group's 42 Grant County ranchers have assessed themselves $10,000 each for attorney fees, says co-chairman Ken Holliday of John Day.
Holliday, 53, says cattle are sometimes blamed for stream bank damage caused by elk and wild horses. He also says a rule prohibiting more than 10 percent stream bank disturbance on some allotments was grabbed out of the sky by the National Marine Fisheries Service. The rule couldn't be met even if no cattle were present, he says.
Environmentalists "are beating ranchers over the head and trying to put us out of business," he says. "I don't understand it."
In February, about 500 supporters showed up at a benefit auction at the Grant County Fairgrounds, raising $77,000 for ranchers' legal costs.
But as bills mount, Holliday says, ranchers may not be able to keep up the fight much longer.
Enviros won’t be happy until every steer is off BLM and Forest Service land and raised in feed lots.
Good folks in Grant County. VERY conservative. I almost moved there.
These enviro nazis have overstepped their bounds, no one elected them to anything, they are strickly self-appointed terrorists. I feel terribly sorry for the ranchers and farmers who are losing the war against these useless people. However, electing the moronic Senator there says much about the PC thinking that has infected many Oregonians. Sad.
I have relatives in Harney County and it’s the same, the folks there good people also. When areas are as sparsely populated as those counties people look out for one another.
There’s not a lot of money in ranching contrary to what many believe. Ranchers are very hard pressed to keep up with the constant attacks from the enviro nutjobs who play to the emotions of the do-gooder city people to raise millions.
What's not to understand? Environmentalists are absolutely clueless about private property rights and that private landholders can actually be GREAT stewards of the land. Private landholders & ranchers have to be. They make their livelihood from it.
Thanks for the ping, Jaz.
One of the great things about private ownership is that the owners tend to care about their property.
Grazing on public land does not have this selfish incentive, in fact, it seems somewhat socialist.
Logging on public land has the same drawbacks.
Well said, Fly. And without being able to graze cattle on lease land it will run the smaller private ranchers out of business. They can’t buy enough land to make a go of it and most of the lease land is not used by the public anyway.
“private property rights”
Is this about private land or public land?
Ranchers act as stewards of the land on leases in Eastern OR, I know that for a fact.
“Ranchers act as stewards of the land on leases”
Stewards or not, it is not their land, and they have no long term incentive to protect it.
The incentive they have is knowing they’ll be out of business without it. Many of the ranches I’m familiar with have been in operation over half a century and longer and have used those leases.
Lets differentiate between public and private land
I believe it has been differentiated here. Lease land is public land and ranches I’m familiar with have their private land but also lease public lands for grazing.
Thanks for linking that, George. It’s good to see people coming together to fight the enviros and USFS over these issues.
The hippies are upset that their dope growing operations may get exposed.
You’ld think the USFS would beg ranchers to graze cattle in the forests, the cows surely would eat the MaryJane and it would save enforcement costs. :-)
“I have relatives in Harney County and its the same, the folks there good people also. When areas are as sparsely populated as those counties people look out for one another.”
Or at least stay out of each other’s way, eh? Seriously, human beings weren’t meant to live stacked up in the city.
We should at least have the choice...if the enviro’s get their way we’ll all be festering in cities.
“When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe”
I sent all these articles on to my son because what happens to these leases also happens to ORV use on historic trails on these lands...
Please notify me via FReepmail if you would like to be added to or taken off the Oregon Ping List.
Yes. The “stream bank damage” argument is downright childish. Another example of the childishness of suburban trout fishermen’s associations would be an addition to Colorado regulations, where out-of-state trout fishermen managed to outlaw live bait for kids there. ...shame. Let them stock their eastern suburban backyards with trout, IMO.
The word, overgrazed, is linguistic activism used by environmentalists—a word that can be beaten by proper rudimentary education in agriculture. Pastures need fertilization and seeding, even in drier areas. Soil needs healthy roots to hold it in place and to retain water. Richer pastures do not noticeably deprive aquifers of water.
As for trout, they need rocky streams, and herds of cattle only drink and ford in very small parts of those streams. Trout have coexisted with vast numbers of buffalo, elk, deer and antelope on the ranges. They can coexist with relatively small herds of cattle.
Me...I’ll shoot various ruminants and others, consume some of ‘em, tag ‘em and make coats and rugs out of ‘em. That should make the slick city entertainers of trout happy, but it probably won’t. ;-)
I was visiting a ranch a few years ago in Oregon. The rancher ran a bunch of cattle up on BLM land. He said that many years ago their was a section of stream that the BLM folks came into and fenced off so the cattle couldn’t get near it. Then they cleaned it up of all the dead trees and stuff around the creek.
Many years latter they came back in, took down the fences, and hauled in old logs and stumps to dump in the creek! Turns out the trout like the shelter of the “junk” in the stream. (I’ve know that since I was a little kid - 40+ years ago!!??). And it seems that the cows tromping through parts of the creek stir up the bugs and critters hiding under the rocks which distributes them better along the creek, and keeps too much muck from settling in the creek.
Agreed. Sometimes, it appears from environmentalists’ arguments, that they are against life itself in the West.
Time to fight back on these EnviroNazis. The cattle are not hurting the streams. Fish counts go up and down in cycles due to ocean conditions. This is just them trying to destroy another business.
Pray for America
Well, I DID buy property in Grant County, Oregon, just this month.
And, I can say for sure that these Environmentalists are REALLY Anarchists.
So, they are Enviro-Anarchists
All for the very same cause-—> Obama Socialism/Neo-Marxism
Cloward-Piven Strategy & Saul Alinsky’s ‘Rules for Radicals’
Yes, since I bought property in Grant County, Oregon just this past week I became very curious as to these ‘Environmentalists’.
What I have found out is they are part of an elaborate Enviro-Anarchist Network.
In other words they are simply ANARCHISTS.
After the very same cause—> Obama Socialism/Neo-Marxism
They are tied to an Organization that has Embedded itself in EVERY SINGLE COUNTY IN OREGON & is Now actively working on Idaho Counties.
The ‘RURAL ORGANIZING PROJECT’ that promotes:
The defence and promotion of IMMIGRANTS RIGHTS, legal or not.
They also promote the Rights & Inclusion of ALL GENDER IDENTIES and Sexuality.
This Organization is HUGE and gaining and getting larger by the day because of donations and grants from the Government.
They want EVERYONE to promote LGBT in Every County in the Nation, and that’s what they are busy working on.
Here’s some links to this ‘Rural Organizing Project’
Public Defense Services ORA=Oregon Rural Action
Rural Development and Diversity thru Culture
the ‘RURAL ORGANIZING PROJECT’
These Anti-Cow Anti-Ranchers are just one in the same as all the Illegal Immigration Pro-Gay & Pro-LGBT Organizations all across the Nation.
They want to drive OUT the ranchers so they can Buy-Up all that Land and Develop it for Minorities and LGBT’s to have a Big-Happy Non-White U.S. Plain and simple that’s what they are after.
Public Land, this is why the Enviro-Anarchists are going after it.
Wish you two fellows could help out in this controversy.
I see the Ranchers really taking a beating because the ENVIRO thing is soooo popular now. And, these Enviro-Anarchists have ALOT of FUNDING/MONEY to play with.
They constantly get Donations from people that don’t have a CLUE as to how ranching and open country like that of Grant County works.
I’ve bought property in Grant County now and intend to move up there within a year or so.
I am not fond of ANY Enviro-Waco’s because they are ALL-The-Same-—> Anarchists..
Here’s a website with a guy that devoted all kinds of time to reaching a Median between the Ranchers & EnviroWacko’s(Anarchists), of course the Enviro’s REJECTED this guy that was trying to get them to understand ‘Holistic Grazing Planning Management’
Oh they’re not against Illegal Immigrant life or LGBT life.
Just Christian Working Class good people life.
These are one-in-the-same as ‘RURAL ORGANIZING PROJECT’
that has embedded and festered within EVERY SINGLE Rural
Community in Oregon now.
These people don’t realize what RURAL ORGANIZING PROJECT promotes at all.
They NEED TO KNOW what they do.
They get Government Grants and Donations to protect Gays, Lesbians, Transvestites and Bi-Sexuals, as well as Legal OR Illegal Immigrants.
These Enviro’s are nothing more than part of Green Anarchy.
You can say that they have “overstepped” allright!
Read this where they already “overstepped”.
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