Medford Mail Tribune
August 20, 2003
Editorial: Buy them out
Reducing cattle numbers would ease pressure on the national monument
Cattle have been a bone of contention between ranchers, landowners and the general public since the West was settled. The most recent example is the flap over grazing on the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.
But the issue of grazing on public land long predates the monument. As long ago as 1997, private landowners in the Greensprings area along Highway 66 asked Jackson County commissioners to expand a livestock district, effectively ending open range on about 23,000 acres of land. The request was unsuccessful.
Now, the national monument has entered the picture. Opponents of grazing say about 600 head of cattle are causing environmental damage to sensitive creeks and plants and spoiling the experience of the monument for the general public.
The Bureau of Land Management has embarked on a costly study of the effects cattle are having on the monument. Cattle ranchers are generally keeping quiet for the time being, although they suggest that some of the damage blamed on their cattle is actually the fault of elk herds moving through the area.
To us, the solution to this dispute seems relatively simple. A majority of the ranchers now running cattle on monument land have said they would be willing to consider selling their grazing leases and moving their animals to private land, as long as the price was right.
Three years ago, ranchers were engaged in serious talks with environmental groups interested in buying the ranchers' grazing permits.