Ranchers complain about losing control while accepting government handouts.
The Buffalo Gap National Grassland of South Dakota doesn’t have buffalo any more but it certainly has a handful of ranchers with a strong sense of entitlement. They are worrying that wilderness designation will “steal” control that they seem to believe they should have over these publicly owned lands. Amazingly, the new wilderness designation leaves their control in place and allows them to continue grazing.
In the article ranchers bring up the tired old argument that Easterners are telling them what to do with “their” land but it’s not their land and the idea to designate it as wilderness, as the article points out, came from people who live there too.
“These outsiders from New York and New Jersey are telling us what to do, all these special interests,” Hermosa rancher Denise Baker said. “They’ll get the designation, pat themselves on the back and leave. And us? We’re stuck with it.”
Grazing in the National Wilderness Preservation System has been an issue for a long time and grazing, which is a commercial enterprise, is certainly incompatible with the meaning of wilderness. However, established grazing in wilderness is protected in the Wilderness Act but should it be? At minimum, as with other wilderness proposals, there should be language which allows for the voluntary retirement of grazing. The health and biodiversity of the land should be foremost in the management of these rare landscapes, and restoration of bison should also be considered here as well.
Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Farm Subsidy Database and you can find that a few of the named ranchers in the article receive government subsidies on top of those cheap grazing fees. Should they have control if they aren’t paying their own way?
S.D. ranchers fear wilderness act steals control.
THOM GABRUKIEWICZ – Argus Leader