Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Cattle drive - From lowland pastures to mountain meadows

Dick Gaiser, 68, and his brother, Bill Gaiser, 70, are part of a family business involved in ranching in Tuolumne County since 1918. The “GH” brand on their cattle was first registered that same year. “The older families, the Englers, the Rosascos, we all help each other,” Gaiser said Friday near his allotment. Jerry Rundle, Terri Arington and Nathan Rosasco were among the people who showed up Friday afternoon near Gaiser’s grazing allotment, south of Sourgrass Bridge on the North Fork Stanislaus River. Rundle worked on foot, while Arington, Rosasco and others worked on horseback with Engler and the Gaisers. “When we were kids, we used to start down around Don Pedro and drive cows all the way to Twain Harte,” Gaiser said. “We were doing that in the early ’60s. We’ve relied on trucks and trailers since then.” Challenges local ranchers face each year include striving to break even, Gaiser said. “In the cattle business, you expect price fluctuations,” Gaiser said. “Feed, hay, supplements, and that’s reflected here, too.” Some environmental groups, including the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center in Twain Harte, are critical of grazing in the Stanislaus National Forest and other parts of the Sierra Nevada. The group used to advocate from “improved grazing practices” but has shifted to opposing all livestock grazing above 7,000 feet elevation. CSERC staff say meadows found at higher elevations provide habitat for the federally listed Yosemite toad and Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog. Lokey said he’s fed up with environmental groups and their attention to grazing. “The biggest thing these ranchers are battling up here in the mountains is mismanagement of the forest right now,” Lokey said. “Some of the activists have agendas. They want the cows out.” Gaiser said he’s seen changes in approach from the Forest Service and grazing management over the years. “They say the pendulum swings,” Gaiser said. “Things have gone toward the environmental way for a bit. Now it’s more back to center. The rules we have to live by are probably stronger than they’ve ever been. Sometimes it seems there’s a lack of common sense.”...more

 “They say the pendulum swings.”  And so it does.  To the environmental left, and the back towards the center, but never quite to it.  Thus a ratcheting affect moving federal policy to the left since the late 1960's.  The pendulum swings, but so do ranching families, many of whom are no longer there.  That is one of the reasons I support the transfer of these lands back to the states.  Otherwise, we'll see another fifty years of pendulum swings, and there will be nothing but hobby ranchers remaining, or just as likely, no cattle at all on the federal range.  For those who say a new administration will fix things, that we just need to tweak the reg's or policy, that we must engage in more collaboration and embrace the "all hands, all lands" concept, I say you are fooling yourself.  In reality, you are condemning us to more years of pendulum swings, and to the eventual demise of our ranching heritage. 

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