From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 5, Number 10 - June 2, 2005
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Free Yellowstone from domestic livestock

by Cat Urbigkit

There's a new attack occurring on livestock grazing on the western range. It's a promotion called "Free Yellowstone from domestic livestock."

According to information from Forest Guardians, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is one of the few places in the nation where all the species of plants and animals that were here prior to the arrival of Europeans to North America still survive. With 75-percent of the region consisting of public lands, this group claims it's time to get rid of livestock grazing. Its claims are ripe with exaggerations and oversimplified to avoid substantial issues such as disease transmission and the fact that when protected predators kill livestock, it's a taking of private property.

Forest Guardians claim that "a battle is taking place over who controls our publicly owned land - livestock ranchers or the public. ... Every blade of grass eaten by wildlife is viewed by ranchers as stolen from the mouths of their livestock. In all of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, only Yellowstone National Park and the National Elk Refuge prohibit livestock grazing."

Forest Guardians claim that as a result of the livestock industry's domination of the Greater Yellowstone landscape:

Bison are imprisoned inside Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Those that migrate beyond the park boundary are hazed back into the park or are slaughtered by state and federal agencies.

Grizzly bears and wolves are safe only within the confines of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Outside of these areas they are captured, tranquilized, relocated or killed if they prey on livestock.

Bighorn sheep are confined to small, isolated mountain ranges. Bighorns that leave their home range to expand into nearby suitable habitat are killed to ensure they do not mingle with domestic sheep grazing on publicly owned land.

Pronghorn are forced to negotiate 105 fences twice a year in their 120-mile migration between Grand Teton National Park and their winter range.

Prairie dogs are shot, trapped and poisoned. Although this extermination campaign is directed at prairie dogs, it has also wiped out the black-footed ferret, swift fox, ferruginous hawk, mountain plover, burrowing owl, prairie falcon, prairie rattlesnake, Great Plains toad and many other native species that rely on the habitat created by prairie dogs.

Forest Guardians claim, "While livestock production on publicly owned land provides a prestigious lifestyle and private profit center for a privileged few, it provides no public benefits."

Forest Guardians stated, "It is time to demand that our government free the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the nuisance of livestock production on publicly owned lands by ending this program and managing our land for the public benefit."

Forest Guardians has historically focused its environmental activism in the Southwest, but has undertaken this new campaign for the Yellowstone region, including printing a poster touting their claim that livestock grazing harms Yellowstone wildlife. Grazing is often the subject of attack by this group.

Forest Guardians Executive Director John Horning was given the "Edward Abbey Memorial Hooved Locust Award" by Jon Marvel's Western Watersheds Project at the RangeNet 2004 conference in New Mexico.

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