The Plight of Public Lands Ranching
A Sampling of Western Media and Related Documents, Summer 2002



Drylands: continuing drought pummeling ranchers, livestock
Associated Press. The Capital Press (July 5, 2002).

"Making matters worse, prices are dropping because of oversupply and poor quality. 'The flesh on the cattle is at an all-time low," said Clay Parsons, president of the Marana Stockyards and Livestock Market and a rancher in southern Arizona."

Official critical of forest grazing practices
Associated Press. The Santa Fe New Mexican (July 14, 2002).

"A U.S. Forest Service supervisor said his agency's management of grazing in the Santa Fe National Forest is the worst he's seen in 35 years.

After receiving a memo from David M. Stewart, regional director of rangeland management, Santa Fe National Forest officials announced they were ordering cattle off 86 grazing allotments in the forest."

* * *

"Acting Forest Supervisor Gilbert Zepeda said Friday the memo didn't contain anything that local managers hadn't already recognized. He said the forest had been planning to take action before receiving the memo.

"'I don't disagree that range conditions are in very bad shape,' [Acting Forest Supervisor Gilbert] Zepeda said. 'In cases, it's quite possible that cattle shouldn't have been put on.'"

Ranchers a dying breed: West's once-thriving cattle industry suffering
Judd Slivka. The Arizona Republic (July 15, 2002).

"The small cattle rancher in the United States is on a long, slow trip to the slaughterhouse."
"In 1970, there were nearly 2 million ranches in the country. There are barely 1 million today, and the trend is a downward spiral. The average ranching family in Arizona earns more than half of its income from off-ranch jobs.

Shifting policies, dismal profits threaten small ranches' survival
Judd Slivka and Rocky Barker. The Arizona Republic and The Idaho Statesman (July 15, 2002).

"'The state of the industry is pretty much a disaster,' said Randy Kieser, a longtime rancher."

* * *

"There are court battles with environmental groups. Changing restrictions on what ranchers can do with the land they lease from the federal government. A public that's eating, per person, 15 pounds less beef and more than 20 pounds more chicken each year than they were 30 years ago."

The dying ground: in Southern Utah, cattle are dying and ranchers are going broke; Utah declared agricultural disaster area
Paul Foy (AP). The Spectrum (July 22, 2002).

"It's so dry in Enterprise that [Rancher Leon] Bowler sent hundreds of his cattle to Nevada, on average an even dryer state than Utah, to graze for the summer. It's so dry, two of his neighbor's cattle dropped dead just from being moved from one scratchy pasture to another.

Almost everywhere in Southern Utah ranchers who depend on surface waters are losing cattle. They can't sell the head at auctions because nobody wants to buy them, yet many ranchers can't afford to buy feed either."

* * *

"After four years of drought, we're all broke, and the banks aren't lending us money," said Gayle Evans, 70, whose 600 head of cattle are practically starving. "I just don't know what to do about it."

On the other side of the mountains, Fenton Bowler shrugs at the offer of government help. A low-interest loan would do little for Bowler, 69, a third-generation rancher who could ill afford to pay it back.
"I'm going broke and out of business. The drought did it. I lost at least 30 cows," he said.

Bowler, of Veyo, Utah, says he hasn't seen a decent rain since February 2001. His pastures are "just a dust bowl," so like many ranchers he moved some cattle to northern Nevada, paying more for the trucking and grazing than they may be worth.

For years Bowler has run summer cattle at Grass Valley in the Dixie mountains. It could well be called Death Valley now, virtually without a blade of green grass. The Forest Service is ordering the few cattle he has there off the public land.

* * *

"'It's a disaster,' said Bowler, standing over the carcass of a cow that was too weak to lift its legs from a once-muddy water hole. 'There's no future in this. You got to do something else.'"

* * *

"As if the drought weren't bad enough, Utah farmers have been plagued by grasshoppers, Mormon crickets, a late frost, a cold spring and high winds, a combination of disasters like never before."

Ranchers look to Mother Nature for liquid help
Martin Reed. Gillette-News Record (July 30, 2002).

"'The cattle market has dropped about 20 percent to 25 percent from last year. ... Last year there were a lot of calves that sold over $1.05 (a pound) for 100-weight. This year, things can change, but we're possibly looking at 85-cent to 90-cent calves for 100-weight,' [Nancy Tarver] said."
"Translated, a 550-pound calf at $1.05 a pound would sell for $576; the same calf at 85 cents at pound would sell for $468 a $108 difference."
"'That's an economic disaster,' Tarver said. 'Basically the drop in cattle prices just adds fuel to the fire for the rancher. There's nothing that says the market is not going to come back up. But there's nothing also that says it won't go down further.'"

* * *

"[Jay] Godley, a rancher himself, said cattle prices dropped in the wake of Sept. 11."
"'The drought is not entirely to blame for the prices,' Godley said."
"'It's economy related. Fat cattle are not selling near where everybody predicted they would be selling,' he said. 'We've really got two issues we're dealing with. We're dealing with the drought, and we're dealing with a poor fat cattle market.'"

"[Doug] Fuller, and almost every rancher in Wyoming, is faced with the inevitable."
"'You're watching the weather. You're hoping. But you know down the road somewhere you're going to have to make some hard decisions,' he said."

* * *

"'The farmers and the ranchers spend years building up the quality of the herd, and then you're forced to sell it off,' [Nancy] Tarver said. 'You can't buy that back at any price.'"

Cowpunchers left on ropes by drought
James Meadow, Rocky Mountain News (Aug. 3, 2002)

"'Grass? Hell, weeds won't even grow in my fields,' says Bob Gruenloh of Lamar, threading his way through an armada of four-wheel-drive pickups and cattle trailers to reach the La Junta Livestock auction barn."
"Gruenloh has driven 55 of his calves to the La Junta Livestock auction barn. Normally, he wouldn't be here until October and November, when the calves would be fattened and bring a much better price. But he can't wait."

"The Arkansas River isn't much more than a trickle. No one can remember it raining much around here going on two years, and the Rocky Mountains may as well be in Florida for all the snowpack runoff they have provided."

"Gruenloh's pastures are as brown as manure, meaning he has to buy feed. And with this year's corn crop dying of thirst in the fields and the price of hay starting to jump past $140 a ton - maybe twice what it cost last year - he just can't afford to feed his animals. So he's here to salvage what he can."

Commission considers future of wolf in Oregon
Jeff Barnard, Associated Press (Aug. 9, 2002)

"Birkmaier sees the wolf as a Trojan horse for environmentalists to push ranchers off the public range by reintroducing a predator that will make it uneconomical to ranch."

"'You barely can make a living in this business anyway,' Birkmaier said."

Ranchers face ruin
Skip Knowles, The Salt Lake Tribune (Aug. 19, 2002)

"There is not much romantic about the cowboy way this summer in the Great Basin, where drought is making hamburger of the cattle industry."

"'The cowboy way,' rancher Dave Baker, 36, of Baker, Nev., says with a chuckle: 'Dead tired, broken down, no money. That's the cowboy way.'"

"Down here it is pronounced 'drouth,' and it is driving ranchers off a financial cliff."

Drought Status Update
Bureau of Land Management, Lander Field Office, Wyoming. (Aug. 21, 2002).

"Most of the area administered by the Bureau of Land Management's Lander Field Office has experienced drought conditions for the past three years. Recent long-term projections indicate that these conditions are very likely to persist into 2003. Various steps were taken this year to mitigate drought impacts to the rangeland resource including: delayed turn-out dates, shortened grazing season, [and] accelerated grazing schedules…"

Green Mountain Common Allotment (GMCA) Status
Bureau of Land Management, Lander Field Office, Wyoming. (July 24, 2002).

"On May 10th a status report was issued by this office to update the working group members regarding out plans for the 2002 season. We believe that our continuing drought conditions require further modifications to current livestock grazing management on the GMCA to protect and provide for the long term health of the public rangelands."

Bureau of Land Management, Lander Field Office, Wyoming. (August 28, 2002).

"On July 24th a status report was issued by this office to update the working group members regarding our plans for the remainder of the 2002 grazing season. Since that time, our monitoring shows that most riparian areas are now below objective with limited opportunity for recovery."

"We believe that our continuing drought conditions require permittees to move their livestock out of areas that are at or below management objectives for the GMCA."