To the editor:

A short time ago, you ran a letter to the editor in the Readers Forum that I feel needs to be responded to. It contained propaganda, deceptions and untruths about the livestock industry and grazing on public lands."A cattle-caused environmental devastation" is, in truth, a well-managed landscape that has consistently improved over the past 100 years. If indeed the public lands are overgrazed (one cow to 26 acres of land), why is there both written and visual documentation on file that proves just the opposite?

Forty-three percent of the 11 Western states may be public land, but a considerable amount of that land mass is rugged rock formations and areas not suitable for grazing or anything else.

Without water development projects and other improvements on those lands, paid for by ranchers, wildlife would cease to exist in many areas and the lands would be unsuitable for use, no longer benefiting the economy or generating revenues.

Dry grass fires would rage, erosion would occur and the land would degenerate to a state of uselessness. Does that really make sense? It certainly isn't what the founding fathers of our great country had in mind with regard to the role of public lands.

The statement that "cattle are turned out on the range and must fend for themselves" shows little knowledge of range management practices. Range block salt and various supplements are constantly used on grazing lands to guarantee healthier cows. Water sources are regularly monitored and maintained. Stockmen ride the range often, checking on their cows.

Calves are brought home to be fed and taken care of. Sick cows and calves are doctored and watched over. A cowboy can personally identify every one of his cows and knows immediately when one is missing.

And if there are complaints about range livestock "suffering terribly at the hands of their owners," may I offer some countercomplaints about humans "suffering terribly" at the hands of sick environmentalists. Personal property has been sabotaged, burned and destroyed, livelihoods have been threatened and even wiped out (wilderness does not put food on the table for hungry children).

Livestock ranchers have been and always will be stewards of the land because their very lives depend on it. What's good for the land is good for them. They are the true environmentalists because they have managed, improved and cared for the land long before the illusions of wilderness preservation evolved. And they most certainly are not the cruel, ruthless, bad guys they are accused of being.

In conclusion, here's some food for thought:

- Cows do less damage to our public lands than backpackers. What cows leave behind is beneficial, while human waste is known to infect the soil and plants with life-threatening viruses.

- Public lands were meant to be tools to make our nation mighty and great, not tools to tear it down.

- If we take away the multiple-use rights on our public lands, we take away the fundamental rights of freedom upon which America was founded.

Louise Liston

Garfield County commissioner