Save the Desert Tortoise: Kill the grasshoppers
Woody Guthrie used to sing: "This land is your land. This land is my land from California to the New York Island. From the red wood forests to the Gulf Stream waters, this land was made for you and me..." Apparently, the Obama Administration and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) dont see it that way and are prepared to use heavily armed SWAT teams to pander to the environmentalists and the other anti-rural special-interest groups that provide major funding for the Democratic Party.
What is happening out in the Nevada desert, in Texas, and throughout the western states, pits Vegans vs. Meat-lovers, rural Americans vs. urban Americans, Environmentalism vs. the Wise Use Movement, Global Warmers vs. Global Coolers, the PC Movement vs. Free Speech, Eminent Domain vs. Adverse Possession, and all-powerful Federal Government vs. States Rights. So many stories, so little space.
The BLMs claim that the Desert Tortoise can only be saved by excluding cows and sheep from grazing on federal lands is not only bad biology, it could lead to the extinction of the Desert Tortoise. Why? Because cattle and sheep dung are vitally important to the diet of the Desert Tortoise.
Here is how it works: Cattle and sheep try not to eat poisonous weeds and grasses. Thus, they act as a poison filter for the Desert Tortoise. Moreover, they provide a pre-mastication service for the toothless tortoise which cannot masticate most of the tough desert vegetation. The digestion of the non-poisonous vegetation that began in the stomachs of food-producing animals such as cows and sheep continues in the intestines of the Desert Tortoise for about 17 days, all the while providing the tortoise with a life-sustaining source of protein, minerals, and other nutrients.
For the last 50 years, the BLM has been reducing the numbers of cattle and sheep permitted to graze on federal lands. Result: For 50 years, the population of Desert Tortoises has been declining. Lack of dung. But the enemy of the Desert Tortoise is not limited to the BLM. The even larger threat to the Desert Tortoise is the grasshopper.
Some cattlemen think sheep graze the grass too short, making it difficult for cows to find grass. But sheep are nothing compared to swarms of grasshoppers which can totally denude grasslands, even the deserts, of anything a cow, sheep, rabbit, or deer can eat.
Historically, prior to Teddy Roosevelt and the Progressive Era when overgrazing of federal lands was allowed (wrongly), the Desert Tortoise population soared. For the Obama Administration to use "save-the-Desert-Tortoise" as the pretext to run cattle and sheep off of federal lands is laughably preposterous.
"Highest and best use" was a basic principle of federal land management. Is it the highest and best use of federal lands and waters to use them for food production? Or, is it better to save the snail-darter, the Spotted Owl, the tarantula spider, and other non-edibles? Those are issues of public policy that need to be decided by the American people at the ballot box and not by non-elected, rhinestone cowboys in Washington, D.C.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame. He was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
©2014. William Hamilton.
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