Is there a role for private conservation dollars?

What Else would Cowboys and Ranchers Do?

Cowboys are workers hired to tend cattle on a ranch. Ranchers own the ranch and hire (and fire) cowboys.

Cowboys are declining in number as ranches increase in size and automate their operations. All-terrain four-wheelers and pickup trucks have replaced horses in many instances, and most cows spend more time in feedlots than on the open range. The pay is lousy and the hours are long. You've got to love the job.

Ranchers are declining in number as well. Economic reality is either forcing consolidation into larger operations (usually by mega-corporations) or creating "part-time" operations where the rancher or their spouse must work a day job in town to support the ranching lifestyle. Small-scale public lands ranching is rapidly becoming economically untenable.

As grazing permits are bought out, ranchers could use the funds for retirement, or to acquire private land elsewhere to continue their operation. Cowboys will continue to decline in number, and not many are pursuing the career anyway.

Opportunities exist to convert or diversify ranch operations into bed and breakfasts, hunting and fishing lodges, pack operations and birding meccas. 1 Some ranchers will seize such opportunities, some will not.

Finally, only one in five ranchers in the West holds a federal grazing permit, so the effects of permit buyout on local communities would be minimal.

Would permit buyout create new rights in grazing permits?


1. There have been several recent articles published in various journals, including Rangelands and Range Management, trumpeting the economic advantages of non-grazing business opportunities to public lands grazers.