Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West

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<p>In the American West, the sky is wide and the mountains are grand. Everything is on a big scale - including the debate over livestock production on the nation's public lands.<p>For more than a century, ranching and its associated activities (such as the growing of irrigated feed crops) has been the major land use over most of the western states. While many Americans think of cowboys as heroes and the "Wild West" as a place for cattle roundups and rodeos, others see livestock as a scourge upon the land. What is most disturbing to some activists is that ranching activities occur not only on private property but also on public lands - more than 300 million acres of federal, state, and other publicly owned lands are used by private ranching operations. For the most part, the ranching operations pay very low fees to run their livestock on these lands, and also receive numerous government subsidies including range improvements, fencing, and predator control.<p>Welfare Ranching presents one side of the debate over public lands ranching, offering a graphic look at the negative consequences of livestock production in the arid West. The authors highlight changes in the region that they see as being caused by ranching, and examine what they feel are problems associated with using tax dollars to support environmentally questionable activities. Through photographs and essays, the book shows examples of overgrazing along with what the authors argue are more subtle signs that indicate large - scale ecological disruption. The authors also discuss changes that could be made to help solve some of these problems.<p>Welfare Ranching gives one view of the cultural and historical causes of the current situation and offers a vision of possible renewal.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Whereas the effects of urban sprawl and clear-cut logging are readily apparent, the far-reaching and devastating consequences of large-scale livestock production are less obvious to the untrained eye. In this excellent overview of the ecological and economic consequences of ranching in the arid Western United States, natural historian and photographer Wuerthner and environmental activist Matteson present a collection of impassioned essays by scientists, conservationists, and economists. As writers like Edward Abbey, T.H. Watkins, and Carl Bock point out, livestock grazing has caused irreversible damage: it has degraded water quality, eroded the soil, introduced invasive plants, and endangered countless native plants and wildlife. Although the West accounts for less than three percent of U.S. meat production, livestock grazing occurs there on an enormous scale (a single cow uses one acre in Mississippi but 250 acres in Nevada). To provide enough space, three million acres of public land are being used by private ranchers with the help of government subsidies a consequence of the ranching industry's political power. This oversized book has 175 full-color photographs plus a resource directory and a bibliography. Although rather costly, it is highly recommended for both academic and public libraries and is particularly suitable for environmental and Western collections. Ilse Heidmann, Olympia, WA
Cattle and sheep ranching on 3 million acres of public land out West take a beating with this huge club of a book (12x13<">) designed for a cattleman-size coffee table or a library map-table. Wuerthner, a jack-of-many-trades environmentalist, writes several articles, which are interspersed among some 35 penned by Edward Abbey, Terrence Frest, Stephanie Parent, and others (no contributor information provided). The book's large, unvivid pictures do not usually achieve their intended effect (which is, however, made explicit in captions indicating cattle-damaged land), because the content is not as obviously troubling as pictures in, say, DeVall's (1994). Compared to the book's ambiguous photographs, however, the prose is unambiguously anti-ranching in the arid West, but not necessarily anti-rancher: "The ranchers' plight is of great concern and must be dealt with in good faith...." Published by the Foundation for Deep Ecology and distributed by Island Press. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781559639422
  • Publisher: Island Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2002
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 11.75 (w) x 13.35 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Table of Contents

Pt. I This Land Is Your Land 1
Public Lands Ranching: By the Numbers 5
Ranching Myths 7
The Iron Pentagon 16
Pt. II Cultural and Historical Roots: The Grasp of the Cowboy on Contemporary Consciousness 18
In the Beginning: Cow 23
Beef, Cowboys, the West: American Icons 27
Land Held Hostage: A History of Livestock and Politics 33
An Evil in the Season: The Cattleman's Welfare System Begins 41
Pillaged Preserves: Livestock in National Parks and Wilderness Areas 47
Free Speech: The Cowboy and His Cow 57
Pt. III Looking Across the Arid West: What's Wrong with This Picture? 62
Understanding Range Management 67
How to Look ... and See 70
Pt. IV A Century of Trashing Public Lands: Ecological Impacts of Livestock Production in Arid Western Landscapes 162
The Science of Nature and the Nature of Science: Questions of Fact and Value 167
Surveying the West: A Summary of Research on Livestock Impacts 171
Lifeblood of the West: Riparian Zones, Biodiversity, and Degradation by Livestock 175
What the River Once Was: Livestock Destruction of Waters and Wetlands 179
Cattle and Streams: Piecing Together a Story of Change 185
Stink Water: Declining Water Quality Due to Livestock Production 189
Guzzling the West's Water: Squandering a Public Resource at Public Expense 195
The Soil's Living Surface: Biological Crusts 199
Comrades in Harm: Livestock and Exotic Weeds in the Intermountain West 203
Silent Springs: Threats to Frog Habitat from Livestock Production 207
Native Snails: Indicators of Ecosystem Health 211
Birds and Bovines: Effects of Livestock Grazing on Birds in the West 217
Ranching in Bear Country: Conflict and Conservation 221
A West Without Wolves: The Livestock Industry Hamstrings Wolf Recovery 227
Prairie Dog Gone: Myth, Persecution, and Preservation of a Keystone Species 231
Sage Grouse: Imperiled Icon of the Sagebrush Sea 237
Where Bison Once Roamed: The Impacts of Cattle and Sheep on Native Herbivores 241
A War Against Predators: The Killing of Wildlife Funded by Taxpayers 247
A Heavy Toll: Native Animals Harmed by Livestock Production 251
Pt. V Ranching Economics and Livestock Subsidies: The True Cost of a Hamburger 258
Taking Stock of Public Lands Grazing: An Economic Analysis 263
Mortgaging Public Assets: How Ranchers Use Grazing Permits as Collateral 271
It's What's for Dinner: The Health Costs of Meat 279
Eating Is an Agricultural Act: Modern Livestock Agriculture from a Global Perspective 283
Pt. VI False Hopes and Counterarguments: Ways to Stay Blind to the Critical Plight of Western Ecosystems 286
The Donut Diet: The Too-Good-to-Be-True Claims of Holistic Management 291
Just a Domestic Bison? Cattle Are No Substitute for Buffalo 295
Cows or Condos: A False Choice Between Public Lands Ranching and Sprawl 299
Using a Hammer to Swat Mosquitoes: Livestock as Management "Tools," 305
Pt. VII Looking for Solutions: Restoring the West and Wildlife 308
The Last Roundup: Options for Ending Destructive Public Lands Ranching 313
Upholding the Law: Litigation and Public Lands Livestock 317
Our Vision 322
Acknowledgments 323
What You Can Do 324
Groups to Contact 324
Assessing Livestock Impacts on Public Lands 325
Key References and Resources 326
A Guide to Livestock-Free Landscapes 327
Endnotes 329
Index 343
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