To the editor:
In a Feb. 22 letter, Trudy Carter calls for elimination of domestic livestock on public lands. She claims livestock grazing ruins land and says ranchers are subsidized by government.On Jan. 23, Dr. Thad Box, dean of Utah State University's College of Natural Resources, said "western ranges have improved and are in the best condition in this century."
He noted that livestock grazing is critical to proper management of rangeland, wildlife habitat and watersheds. He noted livestock are an important substitute for herbicides to control undesirable plants on rangeland.
Those who would eliminate Utah's cattle and sheep industry (that's what would happen if public lands were denied to the industry) don't realize what they're asking for.
A recent USU study shows 40 percent of the jobs in central Utah depend on agriculture, 29 percent of the jobs in the Bear River region, 26 percent in the Uintah Basin and 12 percent in the highly urbanized Wasatch Front.
Utah agriculture is highly dependent on livestock grazing on public lands because more than two-thirds of the state is in public ownership. Livestock is the major sector of Utah's agricultural industry, which puts about $2.3 billion into the Utah economy every year and, overall, is the propellant force behind about 20 percent of all jobs in the state.
Utahns buy top-quality beef, lamb, leather goods and woolens at a lower percentage of their income than citizens of any other country.
Grazing is, in fact, the only way for the public to get any return on most of the public land in Utah that would otherwise not be used. This return comes in better watershed management, fire control, numerous water developments and range improvements that help wildlife, plus the jobs that come from agriculture and agriculture-related industries.
And almost everyone realizes proper harvest of rangeland perennial plants is essential to future growth of those plants. Livestock harvest is a renewable resource.
Ranchers pay rent on federal and state lands of $1.86 per animal unit month, not the $1.35 stated in Carter's letter. Wildlife graze the land at the same time. Other statements in her letter are also erroneous.
If the letter writer finds disfavor with stockmen, that is her right. But the fact is that livestock growers are a friend to job holders and consumers alike. And with rare exception, Utah's domestic livestock are cared for in a very professional, caring way.
Executive vice president
Utah Farm Bureau Federation