In response to Pagosa resident John Kappelman’s op-ed damning public-lands grazing (Herald, July 27), I find it logically impossible to disagree and congratulate Kappelman for doing his homework.
This is no longer 1930s Colorado. While public-lands grazing today – particularly domestic sheep – contributes little if anything to the national or local economies and supports only a very few rural residents, the costs to the land and to other potential sources of rural income have become unconscionable. As a lifelong hunter, angler and backpacker, I know firsthand that where domestic sheep graze – and herds of 2,000 ewes and lambs are not uncommon – you rarely see bears or other large predators, no bighorn sheep, and a visible reduction of all wildlife including birds and fish. I and many others have more than occasionally had to abandon recreational use of entire areas of the San Juan National Forest and Weminuche Wilderness, particularly in the Burnt Timber allotment above Lemon Reservoir, due to the pervasive stink of sheep, decimation of the natural biota, pollution of water and in some cases direct harassment by sheep guard dogs. I suggest that the loss of income to rural towns and businesses accruing from loss of backcountry recreational use arising from domestic grazing on public lands far exceeds any net income derived from grazing.
In America, the concept has arisen among small selfish minds that once you do a thing for a while – whether for a living or recreationally, such as ATVs on public lands – it becomes an inviolable “tradition” and even a “right” that carries no reciprocal responsibilities. In fact, just because someone earns a living or prefers to play in a harmful way does not give license to continue activities that clearly damage the public resource and inconvenience, annoy and displace the majority of users.
As Kappelman points out, complete with references to back his claims, allowing private livestock to continue damaging public wildlands while displacing other users is a democratic and financial anachronism that should have ended decades ago. John Wayne died a long time ago and was nothing but an actor anyhow.