No sooner had the Bears Ears National Monument been proclaimed than local Utah politicians launched a concerted effort to undo it. Kirsten Allen and her gang at Torrey House Press have gone to great lengths to help support the making of the Monument and may indeed have played a role in its creation by the President Obama and the Department of the Interior. They created and published Red Rock Testimony and took hundreds of copies to Washington D.C. They simultaneously came out with Edge of Morning, a book of all Native voices in support of the Bears Ears. These are very nice people, why would they promote an outcome that local people don’t want? Continue reading
I have been promoted.
The other day I was compared to and quoted on the same page as Yvon Chouinard and Peter Metcalf. Chouinard has never heard of me and Metcalf might have to be reminded, but I will take it as my moment of greatness anyway. I guy now from Monticello, from Moab before that, and perhaps New Jersey originally, got worked up about a comment I made about not wanting a gravel pit in Torrey-Teasdale on a Facebook post of his and he dedicated an article on me (and Yvon and Peter) in a faux objective, compulsively contrarian piece. The unhappy guy refers to himself as a journalist and considered reporting about me his duty. So as not to seem too flattered by the attention, I admit he comes across more as a committed victim than he does as an objective journalist.
Equal justice under law
The immense damage I see to public lands in southern Utah caused by private livestock grazing motivated me to start Torrey House Press. The public would not put up with current land management practices if they knew about them and I want to get the word out in literature. The land practices are absurd, and I will get to that, but what concerns me even more about the Bundys taking siege to the public buildings at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge is how it makes a mockery of the American principle of equal justice under law. Continue reading
Note to self – get out more. I have never gone out less than since we started an environment oriented publishing company. We did manage to get out this week for a short hike. These shots are up Big Cottonwood Canyon in the Wasatch Mountains in early June. The trail moves quickly into the Mt. Olympus Wilderness Area, one of Utah’s first wilderness areas. Signs remind you that logging and grazing have been eliminated for 100 years and the place is riotous with spring life and growth. There is nothing like this in the southern Utah national forests where logging and grazing still run rampant.
Darlene Avery hiked with us. She was in town from Colorado Springs to prep for Kirsten’s daughter’s wedding. I will have to formulate my thoughts to express more but we spent some good time talking about loss, being, becoming, and beauty. Some of the time was with a camera. These are shots with my brother’s point and shoot.
I hope to go back up and shoot more of the abundance and compare with the forests in southern Utah.
This weekend is a three day river trip on the San Juan River.
My wife and I are both sixth generation Utahns. We own homes in both Salt Lake and Wayne counties. We were married in the Capitol Reef National Park outdoor amphitheater in 2010. Together we cherish the natural landscape of Utah, our pretty, great state. Except for one thing. We have become sensitized to the damage done by livestock grazing on public lands. Our pioneer ancestors worked hard to survive in the arid country they were charged with settling, and we admire the determination and pluck it required. But public lands ranching doesn’t make sense anymore, and the more we learn about what our forests could be, the more we see the degradation–and absence–of plant communities and wildlife habitat. There is hardly anywhere we can go outside of the wilderness areas of the Wasatch where we don’t see it. This bothers us so much we started a publishing company in part to shed more light on public land mismanagement. We also volunteered with Mary O’Brien and the Grand Canyon Trust to do grazing damage assessment and now serve on the board of directors of Wild Utah Project with Allison Jones.
I borrowed the elephant part of the title to this blog piece from our neighbor in Torrey, Chip Ward, from something he said in a recent Tom’s Dispatch post about beaver habitat destruction by ranchers. Kirsten and I feel that if there is one simple, single thing that would most improve the natural landscape of Utah it would be the cessation of public land livestock grazing. It is everywhere yet its economic benefits are miniscule and for only a very few. Currently, 97% of the Dixie, Fishlake, and Manti-La Sal National Forests in southern Utah are actively grazed by livestock. But only one percent of Utah’s gross domestic product, or economic output, is agriculture, and only a small sliver of that is from public land grazing. Yet that one percent of economic production uses 82 percent of Utah’s water and almost all of the public land. Predators like wolves, key to ecologic balance, have been eliminated. Others like coyotes, and now even crows, are hunted down by the state. Beavers have been virtually outlawed in Garfield County, just south of Wayne. Aspen, willow, and cottonwood growth have been stunted by livestock browsing. The problem is conceptually easy to fix, but it goes largely ignored. When it isn’t ignored, reform is blocked by tiny but powerful special interest groups. In the West, the iconic cowboy and his cow remain mythical and sacred. Like the king with no clothes, the public land is exposed and much the worse for it.
Over the last four or five years we have gathered photos illustrating both the damage from livestock grazing and what the forests could be when protected from grazing. Clicking any of the photos in the gallery below will take you to a slide show where more detailed captions are available. Perhaps many of the pictures need no caption to tell the story. We often photograph “exclosures,” areas fenced off to keep livestock out in order to assess grazing impacts. Virtually all of the exclosures we find are routinely violated by the ranchers — which makes sense since it makes them look bad. Cows are also supposed to be herded away from riparian areas, but in all our forest travels we have only seen the one cowboy pictured below.
The Southern Utah Forest Service is instituting a grazing assessment and inviting comments (send emails to “email@example.com”) and concerns. We hope they take this chance to begin to run the forests as other than a subsidized ranch.
From my co-publisher at Torrey House Press. How Amazon does to the economy what public land livestock grazing does to the ecology.
Have you seen your favorite nonprofits urging you to join ***zon Smiles: You Shop ***zon GIves program? Sign up, and your favorite public radio station, environmental organization, homeless shelter, you-name-it will receive a percentage of every purchase you make at ***zon, at no additional cost to you. Seems pretty win-win. And so feel-good. But don’t let the smile fool you: here be dragons.
First of all, the contribution the selected nonprofits get is small. Tiny, really. It sounds great to have a portion of your next order of printer paper going to your favorite children’s hospital, but only 0.5 percent of each purchase goes to the designated nonprofit. That means if you wanted to give $50, you’d have to spend $10,000 through ***zonSmile. Which means $10,000 to ***zon, $50 to your charity. Who’s the winner here?
Second, the donations are made by the ***zonSmile Foundation, not you, so one of…
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The BLM has got its tit in a wringer. From an environmental standpoint the BLM is a classic captured agency run locally both by and for ranchers. The agency has long overlooked grazing permit infractions of all sorts. Often outside nongovernmental organizations have to sue to win enforcement of standing laws and regulations. The BLM’s action of enforcement has been so lax that when they do try to enforce a decades old egregious and blatant defiance of U.S. law and multiple court orders, like the unanswered defiance by Cliven Bundy, they are unable to do so. Which opens more than one door in a good news – bad news sort of way.
That bad news is that the government is inviting anarchy. If one guy, like Cliven Bundy with his delusions of grandeur, can defy the government by going loud with right wing media and inviting a bunch of gun toting friends to gather around, why can’t everyone start making up their own laws? Already Utah San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman is rallying a group to flout federal law and ride their ATV’s into a closed canyon next month. Presumably they will take notes from Bundy and bring their guns. Mike Noel, a Utah legislator, did the same in Paria Canyon in 2012 with no repercussions. Yet when environmental activist Tim DeChristopher practiced civil disobedience by waving a bid paddle at what turned out to be an energy auction held illegally by the BLM, he was promptly sentenced to two years in federal prison. Utah’s federal judge Dee Benson did not allow DeChristopher’s motives to be discussed in court, only whether or not he technically broke the law. “Equal Justice Under Law” is engraved on the front of the U.S. Supreme Court building. When special interest groups like livestock and energy producers or rural county commissioners on ATVs can crony up with the federal courts and agencies to manage legal outcomes, we are knocking on the door of fascism.
The good news for the BLM’s tit is that Cliven Bundy appears to be a lunatic to the vast majority of rational Americans. All the media attention on public land grazing abuse will shine some light on BLM practices and might encourage the agency to toe the line and regularly enforce existing regulations. This attention can open the door to a little public awareness to the otherwise boring issue of public land management, particularly the damage done by livestock grazing and the irony that this grazing would largely come to and end if it were not subsidized and/or if ranchers were permitted to sell and thereby retire their permits.
It will be up to non-governmental organizations and writers alike to go through the good news door. I’ll see what we can do at Torrey House Press with some appropriate Green Shorts.