Yet another front opens in the battle by ranchers against the arbitrary rulings from the BLM

Tomera family

At a meeting of ranchers in Austin, Nev., a couple of weeks ago, someone was circulating a petition demanding that Doug Furtado, the head of the Battle Mountain district of the Bureau of Land Management be fired.

The reason for that animus is becoming clearer by the day.

At the meeting several ranchers reported that Furtado was demanding that all cattle should be off all riparian grazing lands by June 30. (Riparian lands are simply those near a water source such as a stream or spring.) Never mind the fact that almost 100 percent of the water rights, which are granted by the state and not the federal government whether on federal-controlled land or not, belong to the ranchers. Nor pay any heed to the fact federal Judge Robert Jones in the Wayne Hage case ruled that ranchers have a right to graze their cattle within a half-mile radius of their rightful water sources.

In today’s Elko Daily Free Press, Rex Steninger, whose family used to own the paper, reports that Furtado has ordered one rancher to not turn out any cattle at all this year on his public grazing range.

According to the newspaper account, long-time rancher Pete Tomera, who holds the majority of the grazing rights on the Argenta Allotment, met with a range conservationist at the Battle Mountain office for three hours recently to work out how many and where he could graze cattle this year. He already agreed to cut 8,000 AUMs (animal units per month) last year and another 11,000 this year, reduction of more than 1,000 head of cattle. His AUMs were cut 50 percent in the 1960s.

Tomera told Steninger he could understand not being allowed to graze if there was not sufficient forage, but that the past three months had brought moisture and drought relief to Mount Lewis, where he planned to graze cattle this summer.

But Furtado told Steninger, “They see green grass out there and all they see is forage for grazing. It is not forage, it is recovery.”

After the three-hour meeting Tomera and his wife, Lynn, had at the BLM office in Battle Mountain Tomera agreed to the 11,000 AUM reduction.  He said the range conservationist agreed with the plan. He drove home and found a phone message from the BLM that it was closing the allotment completely.

“I have worked hard my entire life to get along with the BLM and I have never been cited for trespass,” he was quoted as saying. “But then one man with some sort of vendetta comes in and, with a snap of his fingers, he makes a decision that can ruin the lives of my family. It’s terrible.”

How many businesses can afford to simply stop making money for a year?

Furtado said the range conservationist did not have the authority to make an agreement. “Staff cannot make management decisions. They don’t have the authority. They just make recommendations to management,” he said.

Tomera plans to hire his own range expert to counter BLM’s claims. Attorney and Elko County Commissioner Grant Gerber is representing him. But a legal fight against the deathless, well-funded BLM is a generations-long endeavor. All the original Hage family members are dead, yet the court fight has not ended.

Tomera said he has 1,800 cows and calves on his private land but he will run out of feed by the end of the month.

Tomera is inviting people to come and look at the allotment for themselves at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 17. Nevada’s congressional representatives are being invited along with state representatives and county commissioners from Lander, Elko, Eureka, Humboldt and White Pine counties.

Ironically, the Elko paper today also carries an invitation from the BLM to participate in “a review aimed at creating a more dynamic and durable way of developing the Resource Management Plans that guide its efforts.”

“As I’ve met with elected leaders and citizens from across the West on BLM issues, I’ve consistently heard two things: first, the BLM needs to more effectively address landscape-level management challenges; and second, planning takes too long.” BLM Director Neil Kornze is quoted as saying. “We’re listening to you and we are stepping forward to improve the way we work so we can make our process more flexible in planning across landscapes, more dynamic and responsive to change and less time consuming.”

The rest of the notice is pure, indecipherable bureaucratic jargon.

What doubly disturbing about the BLM kicking cattle of the range is that the grass will continue to grow and in the hot summer months will become kindling for wildfire that devastate the very creatures the BLM claims to protect — sage grouse, desert tortoises, deer, elk, rabbits, foxes, etc. — roughly three critters for every acre burned.

“With all the rain we’ve had the last three months, those mountains will be a tinderbox if the grass is not grazed off,” Gerber was quoted as saying. “Think of all the sage grouse, deer and other animals that will be killed if that mountain burns.” Gerber is the “father” of Smoked Bear, the mascot for preventing wildfire by properly grazing off the fuel.

Smoked Bear

22 comments on “Yet another front opens in the battle by ranchers against the arbitrary rulings from the BLM

  1. Winston Smith says:

    “Ze commissars have spoken! If your fruit is not ready when the scheduled work crew comes to pick it, that is your fault! If your fruit has already fallen to the ground when the scheduled work crew comes to pick it, that is your fault! If your fruit never grew, that is your fault and you will be shot! Ze commissars have spoken. So let it be written, so let it be done!”

    “He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.” – 1984

  2. Winston Smith says:

    Catch-22 = Agenda 21

  3. Vernon Clayson says:

    It’s like Harry Reid wrote or dictated that comment, it being kind of a Tourette Syndrome staccato like his speeches. Someone tell ranger danger that grass IS forage and has been for eons, Who’s next, sheep herders, what’s next, our manicured parks? I know it’s not about the animals, of course, it’s about power.

  4. Steve says:

    So the specialist does not get to make decisions about the things in which he or she specializes…those decisions are made by management.
    Management,,who proceeds to wipe out any of the specialist’s decisions as to whats best for the range so management can do….what? What is management doing?

    What is management at any organization supposed to do?

    Management is supposed to rely on and trust the people they employ to do the things the BLM is supposed to be doing in support of the lands they are charged with keeping and maintaining for all…even ranchers.

    Management should get out of the way of the conservationist who does know whats best for the land.
    Unless,,that is…management has another, less well known, use for those lands.
    Who benefits from ranchers and livestock being removed from Nevada range land?

  5. Rincon says:

    I can’t say that the BLM is fair in its management of the ranges, but I do want to point out that preserving endangered species is one thing, but drought is another. Freedom of land use led to the deforestation of Haiti and sub-Saharan Africa (unless anyone wants to give credit to global warming). Brazil of course, has lost huge tracts of land to slash and burn farming (after a few years of farming, the land typically becomes exhausted and thereby useless). Similar situations are common worldwide.

    It is clear that unless land is somewhat expensive, the human tendency is to use it until it is exhausted and then move on. Unlike most other ecosystems, deserts do not recover in a generation or two. Some oversight is necessary unless the land can be sold at a high enough price to encourage conservation. The responsibility of BLM is to ensure the health of the land, but it is certainly important that ranchers are not subjected to sudden and arbitrary decisions that injure their ability to make a living.

    But the BLM is damned either way. If they react gradually to a drought before it becomes severe, ranchers will grouse that the BLM was overly protectionist when the drought ends, but if they wait until the damage is obvious, then ranchers complain that BLM suddenly pulled the rug out from under them. Some of the blame rests on man’s tendency to exploit all kinds of marginally productive land instead of just leaving it be.

  6. Milty says:

    “It is clear that unless land is somewhat expensive, the human tendency is to use it until it is exhausted and then move on.”

    Where are these ranchers going to move on to?

    It would seem that the ranchers are in this for the long term (father to son for multiple generations), so that they would have an appreciation for stewardship of the land to ensure that they can use it as far into the future as possible. It seems that the ranchers would be the best judge of land use in this case.

  7. nyp says:

    If that were true then the “tragedy of the commons” phenomenon would not exist.

  8. Milty says:

    “Anthropologist G. N. Appell criticized those who cited Hardin to ‘impos[e] their own economic and environmental rationality on other social systems of which they have incomplete understanding and knowledge.'”

    Sounds kinda like the BLM.

  9. nyp says:

    I actually don’t know squat about how the Bureau of Land Management administers federal lands. That is why I have not written as much about that subject as I have written about, say, healthcare reform. But as a capitalist I believe that common ownership of a natural resource is in almost every case a prescription for economic trouble.

  10. Petey, you are spot on.

    But common ownership of the health insurance industry should also be seen as a prescription of economic trouble.

  11. As Milton Friedman said, if everybody owns something, nobody owns it or takes care of it.

  12. nyp says:

    Yeah, but isn’t that what you want? If all of the federally-owned land in Nevada were sold to the highest bidder, and those owners were free to lease their grazing rights at market rates, do you really think the cattle businesses run by the Bundy and Hagues of this would would survive? My understanding, for example, is that private grazing fees are significantly higher than those charged by BLM.

  13. Private landowners provide water, seeding, fertilizer and fences. On public land the rancher pays for everything. Grazing fees were intended to provide “management” only.

  14. nyp says:

    I don’t know enough to get into that. But to me, the question is what would happen in the unlikely event that the public land were sold off at market rates to the highest bidder. Instead of
    dealing with the BLM, the Bundys and Hagues of the world would be on the other side of a commercial transaction with whatever megacorporations owned the newly privitized land. Those new private landowners would would have no interest in doing anything other than maximizing the return on their investment.
    Would the ranching activities still be economically feasible? Would the ranchers be better off, or worse off?

    My strong suspicion is that most of them would have to go out of business. But I don’t really know.

  15. Rincon says:

    “As Milton Friedman said, if everybody owns something, nobody owns it or takes care of it”. Generally true; unfortunately, private ownership of land hardly guarantees good stewardship. The landowners in Haiti, Brazil, and sub-Saharan Africa have certainly failed to protect their resource. Same thing with the sodbusters in the depression. Even in the fertile Midwest, making money in the here and now outweighs saving soil for future generations, although things are improving. The improvement occurs primarily because the land is expensive and the soil has depleted to the point where the threat is immediate in many cases. On cheap land, the cost of maintaining it properly is often greater than the money that can be made unless, of course, one just makes money and then abandons the land.

  16. Steve says:

    “My strong suspicion is that most of them would have to go out of business.”

    Under the BLM “management” scheme 50 of the 51 ranchers in Clark County have been driven out of business.

    Winston mentions catch 22 quite often….See why the things he writes about have value and worth, nyp? Don’t have to agree with him,,,but its worth trying to read through his snark to get to those nuggets.

    Besides, his snark is entertaining.

  17. nyp says:

    Perhaps ranchers have gone out of business in Clark County (or, as you put it, “driven out of business,”) because ranching is no longer economically viable in Clark County.

    The question remains: if all the public land were to be held by private interests exploiting the land and its resources for no other goal than maximum return on investment, would the ranchers be better off or worse off then they are today?

  18. Steve says:

    “because ranching is no longer economically viable in Clark County.”
    Due precisely to BLM management action, Nyp.

    “would the ranchers be better off or worse off then they are today?”
    The only way to answer that would be to try doing it. One thing is absolutely clear, the one rancher who remains was able to remain in operation even when he was paying for the permits.
    It wasn’t until the BLM made those permits fiscally unusable that ranching went from 50 to 1 in Clark County. And the BLM is doing it again outside of Clark County.
    The real trouble is that 85% of federal lands that should be ceded to the state of Nevada, after all Nevada owns the water rights on those lands…its only a small change to make Nevada the same as the other states in the union and give her the lands she hold within her borders.

    Would those ranchers be better off with state owned lands?
    This is a split the difference situation and I think it would be the best of both worlds.

  19. Winston Smith says:

    Thanks, Steve. Actually, I’m hoping to get Craig Ferguson’s job. I have a reasonably good Scottish accent. And I think I’ll keep the pantomime horse, but not the gay skeleton robot…

  20. […] is inviting elected officials and other ranchers from across central Nevada to come to his allotment on May 17 to see for themselves the condition of the […]

  21. […] is inviting elected officials and other ranchers from across central Nevada to come to his allotment on May 17 to see for themselves the condition of the […]

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