Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Grazing Limits Feed Tension in Nevada

Rancher Pete Tomera slowed his pickup truck on a dusty mountain road one day last week and swept an arm toward tall green grass blowing in the wind: "Man, look at all the feed a cow could eat," he said. Since last summer, Mr. Tomera's 1,800 cows have been banished from these mountains in northern Nevada, part of a clampdown by the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management against grazing on federal lands during an extended drought. An additional 500 head of cattle owned by two other ranching families have been ordered off a roughly 350,000-acre grazing allotment managed by the BLM in the Shoshone Range about 10 miles to the south of this town. The animals have been put out to private pastures or fed hay at far greater cost than on the public land. Early this week, dozens of supporters of the ranchers staged demonstrations to protest grazing policies that they say are overly restrictive, especially in light of recent rains that have turned many hillsides green. "If you put a mouse in a corner, he will fight for his life," said Mr. Tomera, 68 years old, whose family, like many here, has ranched in the area since the 1800s. "That's what we're doing." The dust-up comes after a confrontation in southern Nevada between rancher Cliven Bundy and the BLM over his nonpayment of grazing fees to the federal government. The conflicts echo rising frustrations across the West over federal control of the region's vast mountains, deserts and forests. In San Juan County, Utah, a group of ATV enthusiasts led by a county commissioner this month rode into a canyon the BLM had closed to vehicles in 2007, despite warnings from the federal agency against trespassing. Friday, the Tomeras, Filippinis and rancher Shawn Mariluch signed a temporary agreement that allows them to graze their cattle on BLM lands, with strict limits in place on the amount of grass the cows can consume. If those requirements aren't met, the cattle can be ordered off the land. Ranchers said they had no choice but to sign, or face rising expenses to keep their cows penned up and fed. The ranchers worry the limits are "unattainable," and they are pushing for the removal of Doug Furtado, the BLM district manager, and protest the BLM's position. "We kicked and fought and screamed, but that's not something they would budge on," said Mr. Tomera's wife, Lynn...more

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