I’d like to emphasize three points from Rocky Barker’s article (Depth: Cattle and Fire, Sept. 4). First, cattle and sheep are not native species. Sagebrush vegetation evolved with deer and pronghorn. These are small, lightweight animals that move around a lot. Cattle are heavy and are forced to stay on one piece of ground by fences. Cattle remove vegetation that sage grouse need for food and nest cover, and they have been removing these plants every year for over a century. You can’t do that without fundamentally degrading the ecosystem.
Second, Rosentreter pointed out that livestock destroy the cryptogamic crust through the trampling action of their hooves. Where this crust is in place, the soil is protected from wind erosion and there are more nutrients in the soil. In most places, this crust is gone — another huge impact of over a century of grazing.
Third, Barker says that BLM spends $89 million a year to “manage” livestock while taking in only $12 million in fees. Here’s an idea — get rid of the BLM grazing program, thereby reducing the federal government, give the difference of $77 million directly to the grazers, and get the cows off of our public lands.
Terry Rich, Boise
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