AR-News: Gallatin Forest would expand Taylor Fork grazing allotment
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Thu Sep 11 02:57:09 EDT 2003
Gallatin Forest would expand Taylor Fork grazing allotment
By SCOTT McMILLION, Chronicle Staff Writer
The Taylor Fork drainage south of Big Sky is a wondrous place filled with
wildlife: grizzly bears and moose, wolves and elk.
It's so important to animals, and to people who enjoy wild places, that the
federal government has spent or promised to spend nearly $15 million to buy
thousands of acres of private land there.
The drainage also hosts hundreds of cattle during the summer months.
Now the Gallatin National Forest is proposing to raise the number of cows by
13 percent and increase the number of acres where they can graze.
The idea rankles Glenn Hockett, president of the Gallatin Wildlife
Association and a former range specialist for the U.S. Forest Service and
Bureau of Land Management.
"It's pretty disappointing," Hockett said. He said he'd like to see even
more wildlife there: bison and bighorn sheep.
But Tris Hoffman, a Forest Service range management specialist in West
Yellowstone, said bringing bison into the discussion isn't even relevant,
given the long controversy over those wandering giants.
"We're not here to write new laws and change policy," she said Tuesday.
She said she expanded both the number of cattle and the acreage involved in
order to reduce impacts, not to increase them.
The grazing allotment has existed for decades, she said. And while lots of
wild animals already prosper there, she wants to improve things for them
"I honestly believe if I can spread out the impacts a little bit, it will
improve and be better for wildlife," she said.
The allotment currently allows 221 cows and their calves to graze there from
July 1 to Oct. 15.
Hoffman proposes to raise that number to 250 pair.
She also wants to open 1,900 extra acres to grazing, bringing the total to
The plan calls for new fencing and other work to keep cattle away from
streams and sensitive areas, which would improve fish and wildlife habitat,
The Forest Service would pay for the materials, but the permittee, Keith
Fairbank of Dillon, would have to provide the labor.
Fairbank could not be located for comment Tuesday.
Hoffman said she proposes raising the number of cattle to offset the extra
expenses Fairbanks would incur.
But Hockett said all cattle should be removed from the area, and it should
be managed for wildlife.
He cited a proposed piece of federal legislation that would pay ranchers to
abandon their allotments.
The Voluntary Grazing Permit Buyout Act, which Rep. Chris Hays, R-Conn, is
expected to introduce this year, would pay ranchers $175 per animal unit
month, the amount of grass a cow and calf eats in a month, to walk away from
Buying out this particular allotment would cost $150,000.
The bill has met with mixed reactions in Arizona and Utah, where it has been
debated for months. Some ranchers like the idea, others don't.
The Montana Stockgrowers Association opposes the plan, according to Jay
Bodner, that group's natural resources coordinator.
Selling an allotment is one thing, but permanently retiring them is bad for
ranching and for rural communities, he said.
Allowing buyouts provide grazing opponents a mechanism to "drum up
controversy," he said.
In fact, if one person is unkind to an animal it is considered to be
cruelty, but where a lot of people are unkind to animals, especially in the
name of commerce, the cruelty is condoned and, once large sums of money are
at stake, will be defended to the last by otherwise intelligent people.
-- Ruth Harrison, author of Animal Machines
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