Welfare Ranchers, Wolves, and the Externalization of Costs

Did a cow get your elk?

George Wuerthner has written another great essay about how ranchers are asking us to pay for the protection of their livestock on public lands by killing predators. They are also asking us to give up elk production on public lands when their cattle are using up vast amounts of forage needed to maintain healthy elk herds.

Welfare Ranchers, Wolves, and the Externalization of Costs.
George Wuerthner, NewWest.Net

13 Responses to “Welfare Ranchers, Wolves, and the Externalization of Costs”

  1. Cody Coyote Says:

    I don’t think George gets invited to be the keynote speaker at any Stockgrower’s conventions…

  2. jimt Says:


    Caveat: This is authored by DOW regional head in Montana, but the facts are the facts, and goes along with George’s article as well. You could extend George’s theme to include the wild horses and burros on public lands..same thing.
    They are eating “OUR” forage…

    we don’t eat any beef anymore except locally raised. Small and insignificant, I know, but I feel better on all levels.

  3. jdubya Says:

    I just “participated” in the Utah black bear management plan for the next 12 years. I say “participated” because most at the table were interested in just making sure their kill quota would be maintained while those of us who were more interested at protecting the animals only had a single vote.

    Anyway, the one big elephant in the room was the yearly carnage of the bears associated with pushing sheep up into the high country of the public lands. Predictably, year after year in the same locations, the sheep would move in, the bears would discover a new food source, and the FW would kill the bears. The suggestion that the Utah DWR work with Forest Service and/or BLM to enumerate such sites and then make recommendations to close them to grazing (or maybe swap sheep for cattle) was met with thundering silence followed by protests from state and federal rep’s that such communication couldn’t be done because it was all “too political”. Bullshit. It is just too easy for them to kill the bears, it keeps the FW in business doing so, and ultimately it leads to fewer bears, which was probably the long range plan anyway.

  4. jon Says:

    Of course, some hunters rationalize killing wolves because they suggest the animals “need” to be managed. I hear that all the time, as if somehow the natural world had gone to hell in a hand-basket before Euro Americans arrived just in the nick of time to rescue Nature from imminent collapse. Of course, the “need” to manage wolves is both a self-created and self-justifying excuse to kill animals that most hunters wish would just go away or at least believe should be kept at much lower numbers.

    All this talk about the so called “need” to manage wolves is disingenuous at best. Any good ecologist will tell you that wolves and other predators do not need to be “managed” since they are more or less self-regulating by prey availability and social interactions. The only reason one has to “manage” wolves is because state wildlife agencies want to sell more hunting licenses. (There may be rare instances where lethal action is necessary where an animal may have become habituated to people and poses a safety concern, but that is entirely different than “sport hunting”.)-George Wuerthner

  5. Layton Says:


    Just curious — have you ever had an ORIGINAL thought??

  6. Salle Says:

    “Most hunters spend more time complaining about the “antis” than doing anything meaningful to protect the habitat that is central to all hunting.”

    “The common assumption was that what was good for ranchers was good for society as a whole, much as the old saw suggested that what was good for General Motors was a benefit to the country as a whole. At least that is how the livestock industry has successfully sold the idea that taxpayers should subsidize their business operations.

    When bounties did not completely eliminate predators like wolves, the livestock industry successfully lobbied to have the federal government (you know the hated feds) create the Biological Survey in 1914. At its height of predator control efforts, the Biological Survey had more than 200 agents hired whose chief duty was to track down and kill the last predators, including extirpation of wolves from national parks like Yellowstone.

    Today ranchers continue to enjoy taxpayer funded federal predator control. This federal subsidy has allowed the West’s welfare ranchers to avoid one of the costs of production—namely practicing good animal husbandry practices that reduce predator opportunities and losses. Indeed, the livestock industry has externalized this cost on to the public at large and grown so used to federal predator control that they now consider a predator free environment a “right”.

    Amen, George.

    But then, what do they really want? Is it a wolf-free environment which leads to overpopulation of deer and elk who eat “heir” forage for cattle or what…?

  7. JimT Says:

    There is or was a meeting of private ranchers in Colorado Springs I heard about on local public radio station. I would love to ask them all to comment on the tremendous difference in costs between public land welfare ranching and what they have to spend for the same activity.

    And all for less than 1% of the beef in the West…and yet most public welfare ranchers are probably vehemently anti Fed..and don’t even get the irony. Just like Alaskans, who get 6 bucks back from the Feds for every one they send, and yet, they pride themselves on being self sufficient, and anti Fed…Amazing.

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