December 7, 2005
Rocky Mountain News
Market conservation in the cross-hairs
A conservationist effort to
restore depleted grazing land in southern Utah is in trouble because of local
opposition. According to The New York Times, the Grand Canyon Trust has spent
more than $1 million to end grazing on more than 400,000 acres near the Escalante
The trust cut deals with willing
ranchers whose cows couldn't get fat on the hard, dry soil anyway and were happy
to sell off their grazing rights. But now these deals are under unfair attack
by local politicians who've filed suit to roll back the agreements. The case
is pending before an administrative law judge in the Interior Department, and
could end up in federal court.
Michael E. Noel, the Republican
state representative leading the attack, claims that allowing the sale of some
grazing rights means "we go down the path of eliminating all grazing on
That's preposterous, but the
fact that the deals are under attack points up how even the best-intentioned
activities can be thwarted when they're conducted on public lands. The government
is the owner, and the government is always subject to shifting political winds.
Bill Hedden, executive director
of the trust, has said he's going to stop buying grazing rights in the area
because of the opposition.
Those grazing rights should probably be put up for sale to the highest bidder. Then whoever bid on them would not have to worry about political attacks thwarting their goals.