From the broken record department, today we hear from state Sen. Dean Rhoads of Tuscarora, via a Review-Journal account by Ed Vogel, saying that the increasingly devastating wildfires that sweep Nevada every summer could be drastically curbed if only the BLM would allow cattle to graze for longer periods and reduce the cheatgrass that fuels the fires.
“Cheatgrass burns just like it is gasoline,” Rhoads was quoted as saying. He noted that more than 767,000 acres have burned this year alone.
This is something county commissioners and cattlemen across Nevada have been saying for years, only to have the message fall on the deaf ears of the BLM, Forest Service and stewards of federal public lands, which amount to more than 85 percent of the state.
Elko attorney Grant Gerber — who grew up in the ranching business and maintains the Smoked Bear website, which makes the same argument as Rhoads — says that prior to 1980 less than 25,000 acres of wildfires occurred each year in Nevada. Then the BLM and Forest Service started making massive cuts in the number of cattle and sheep allowed to graze on public land. The number of sheep fell 80 percent and cattle numbers were halved.
Now the acreage consumed by wildfire in the state each year is more than 600,000 — 24 times as much.
Rhoads pointed out at a meeting of the Legislative Committee on Public Lands Friday that the geniuses at the BLM have a policy of closing off burned land to grazing for two or three years, which allows the cheatgrass to grow and provide fuel for even bigger fires. The state senator said cattle should not be kept away for more than a year from land damaged by fire to break the vicious cycle of fires.
Vogel reported, “Witnesses said Carson City has used sheep every year since a disastrous 2004 fire to thin out the cheatgrass and other vegetation at the edge of the city. No major fires have occurred since.”
But, as Gerber observes, the federal agents are in thrall of the radical environmentalists, whose mantra is that the land should be returned to the pristine state before ranchers ruined the land by trampling it with sheep and cattle.
This philosophy can be extended to the debate over protection of sage grouse and other species that could be declared endangered and shut down human economic efforts such as ranching, mining, oil and gas exploration, hunting and fishing.
There has been a movement in Washington to “protect” more and more public lands by closing roads and returning the land to its “natural” state. The Wilderness Act of 1964 defines a wilderness area as one “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man … retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions … has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation …”
Ask any environmentalist if the native species should be maintained in the same numbers as before the rapine of the ranchers and they will answer volubly in the affirmative.
Little do they know that this number would be darned near zero.
This is a passage from the diary of fur trapper Peter Skene Ogden while crossing Nevada circa 1828:
“There were times when we tasted no food, and we were unable to discover water for several days together; without wood, we keenly felt the cold; wanting grass, our horses were reduced to great weakness, so that many of them died, on whose emaciated carcases we were constrained to satisfy the intolerable cravings of our hunger, and as a last resource, to quench our thirst with their blood.”
Before the sheep and cattle came and trampled the earth and fertilized it, there was nothing to burn and no game to eat. Humans and their domestic animals are part of this environment, but don’t waste your breath trying to explain that to the federal bureaucrats and the so-called environmentalists.