AR-News: Gallatin Forest would expand Taylor Fork grazing allotment

jim robertson wolfcrest at
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 
even more.

"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 
9,200 acres.

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, 
she said.

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 
the allotment.

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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