Friday, April 08, 2016

A tale of two wildlife refuges

By Erik Molvar

The strange and tragic spectacle of the armed seizure of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge this January by Ammon Bundy and his ragtag band of miscreants began with hostilities between refuge officials and a local rancher, jailed for setting illegal fires on public land. But for the fence-cutting and livestock trespass by Dwight and Steve Hammond on National Wildlife Refuge lands, this ill-conceived standoff may never have gotten started, much less escalated to the level of armed conflict.

Livestock trespass at Malheur isn't limited to one arson-happy family of ranchers. "I find trespass cattle on the refuge every year," remarks Dr. Steve Herman, an ecologist on the faculty of Evergreen College. "Once I found cowflop on the headquarters lawn."

Herman travels to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge every year to study the bird life, sometimes bringing students from his bird-banding class on nearby Steens Mountain. Waterfowl from the refuge wetlands can travel a mile or more to nest in the uplands, Herman notes, and this oasis in the midst of the southern Oregon desert boasts waterfowl production to rival the world-renowned prairie potholes region of the northern Great Plains.

"There were great nesting areas in the uplands in the old days," Herman recalls. But about 20 years ago, the National Wildlife Refuge manager opened up the uplands up to livestock grazing. Instead of recognizing the impact of livestock, however, refuge officials blame bird declines on non-native carp in the streams and lakes. "They blame the carp for the decline of waterfowl production, which is now only 10 percent of the original production," notes Herman, referring to the invasion of non-native carp that now stirs up silt in local waterways, affecting the growth of aquatic plants. "But the carp have been an epidemic for decades."

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge bent over backwards to accommodate local ranching interests, allowing large tracts of fertile bottomland to be converted to cropfields producing hay, buckraked into piles each autumn. Local ranchers turn out their cattle on hayfields throughout the refuge for winter-long feeding. Refuge officials have claimed that this heavy winter grazing warms the soil and increases the availability of insects for shorebirds and waterfowl that stop through on their migrations.

Not 30 miles from Malhuer, the Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge was calm and peaceful while down the road the militants brandished assault rifles, misquoted the Constitution and railed against federal land managers for not giving ranchers a fair shake. Unlike Malheur, Hart Mountain has been closed to livestock grazing for decades...

Molvar is the Sagebrush Sea Campaign Director with WildEarth Guardians

So there you have it.  Where there is livestock you have destruction of resources; "arson-happy", trespassing ranchers; guns and violence.  Where livestock are banned, things are "calm and peaceful."  The beer there actually does taste great and is less filling.  This is the kind of bunk your reps and their staffs are hit with every day.

And oh my, that "cowflop" on the lawn.  That alone warrants road blocks and the gunning down of citizens.

Yes, everything has finally been explained. 

1 comment:

Floyd said...

Apparently that guy was given a Ph.D. for something but his training did not teach not to step in anything that is soft.