What Others Have Said About Mike Hudak
Dr. Michael Hudak is a Sierra Club activist who has done more than anyone else to move the Sierra Club toward a science-based policy on the impacts of commercial livestock grazing on public lands. He is a tireless educator, fastidious researcher, and clear-minded political analyst. These three traits make him an invaluable asset to the cause of protecting natural resources from further destruction and to the cause of restoring lands already damaged.
—Ed Dobson, former secretary, Sierra Club board of directors
His work on the “grazing on public lands” issue sets new standards for commitment, dedication and effectiveness. He not only prepared information and slide presentations on the impact of grazing on public lands, he took it around the country in an unprecedented grassroots educational outreach effort, speaking to thousands of Sierrans and others concerned about the future of our public lands. Mike is a true environmental hero. And for that he has my appreciation and thanks.
—Christopher B. Bedford, late documentary filmmaker,
president, Center for Economic Security, Montague, MI
Mike Hudak has seen more of the West’s controversial grazing allotments than anyone alive. Because of his extensive travels and his thorough review of the issues surrounding these lands, Mike can authoritatively discuss the hype and the reality of western livestock production. This is a person who has seen the good, bad, and the ugly first hand on the ground and knows what he is talking about.
—George Wuerthner, author, photographer, conservationist
His talent as a photographer and his broad knowledge of natural history combined with his passionate affection for the land and wildlife of the West make powerful and effective presentations—you learn some biology and ecology; you have the enjoyment of beautiful photography; and you get mad!
Humane Carolina, Raleigh, NC
Mike’s photos and written explanations provide a overwhelmingly clear picture of the disastrous ecological problems created by the attempt to continue livestock production on public lands. Mike’s photos catalogue horrendous losses of wildlife habitat as well as the destruction of springs, seeps, creeks, and rivers across the West. Anyone looking over these photos will be convinced of the need for ending this wasteful and archaic abuse of public lands.
—Jon Marvel, former executive director, Western Watersheds Project, Hailey, ID
Statement by Mike Hudak
I’m a former computer industry researcher now devoting my efforts to environmental advocacy. I received the PhD in advanced technology (specialization in computer science) and the BA in mathematics from the State University of New York at Binghamton (now
as well as the MS in computer science from
My doctoral and subsequent industrial research focused on the development of adaptive, artificial neural systems and their application to signal analysis. (See my
about Restricted Coulomb Energy Classifiers for an example of this work.)
During 1993–94 I was the Binghamton (NY) regional coordinator for the
Beyond Beef Campaign
which mobilized grassroots support in favor of
offering a vegetarian burger at all of its North American outlets.
In 1997, after several years of observing livestock impacts while hiking on western public lands, I undertook an intensive study of livestock production both by reading and by travel across the West—travel that over subsequent years totaled more than twenty months.
Between February 1998 and May 2000 I gave forty-five presentations to groups, chapters and committees of the Sierra Club throughout twenty states in an effort to rally support for the club opposing ranching on public lands. I also wrote several
for publication in Sierra Club group and chapter newsletters. By the summer of 2000 I’d obtained resolutions from fifteen of the club’s state chapters and twenty-two of its groups representing 37% of the club’s approximately 600,000 members—these were resolutions calling for the club’s opposition to commercial livestock grazing on federal public lands.
From June 1999 to May 2000 I was also a “resource person” to the Sierra Club’s Grazing Task Force. In this capacity I was privy to actions of club entities as they pertained to the club’s grazing policy. For example, I learned in December 1999 that the club’s national board planned to consider revising the grazing policy at its May 2000 meeting. When, in early May, the board chose to postpone discussion of the grazing policy until its September meeting I concluded that I needed to immediately begin qualifying a member ballot initiative as an alternative to board action. Otherwise, were the board to approve a weak policy at its September meeting or to further postpone action, it would then be too late to qualify such a ballot initiative for the next year’s club election. Consequently, I called for the qualification of a ballot initiative in support of ending commercial livestock grazing on federal public lands. My efforts alone resulted in obtaining roughly 600 of the 1,307 signatures the initiative needed to qualify. Dozens of club activists obtained the rest.
Simultaneously with gathering signatures on the ballot petition, I chaired a Sierra Club subcommittee that advocated for the club’s adoption of conservation policy in support of ending commercial livestock grazing on federal public lands. (Read the
that our subcommittee issued for consideration by the club's board at its September 2000 meeting.)
Negotiations in which I participated at the club’s September 2000 national board meeting in San Francisco led to the
adopted by the club’s board of directors at that time. Despite weaknesses in this policy I thought it sufficiently strong to enable the club to support a national campaign advocating for the voluntary retirement of federal grazing leases with financial compensation to ranchers. As such, I gave the agreement my tentative support and called for the withdrawal of the ballot initiative for the following year. Some club members, with whom I’d worked on the petition drive, disagreed with my views and completed qualifying the initiative which was subsequently defeated by more than a 2-to-1 margin in the club’s 2001 board election.
Despite the new policy’s potential weaknesses I am nonetheless gratified that one of its provisions, not available under the previous policy, has been used to good advantage by some of the club’s groups. (See, for example,
Glen Canyon Group, Utah Chapter.)
The policy also opened the way for club’s endorsement of the
National Public Lands Grazing Campaign’s
federal legislation that would provide compensation to ranchers who voluntarily relinquish their federal grazing permits.
In the years since adoption of the Sierra Club’s current grazing policy I continued my investigations of western grazing allotments and to write
to develop Internet
speak at a variety of organizations, conferences, and colleges throughout the United States about unsustainable ranching practices on America’s public lands. (Currently, those presentations number 144 across 25 states and the District of Columbia.)
During the academic spring semester 2004, I co-hosted (with Bill Huston) a 1-hour weekly radio interview/call-in show
The show’s guests were nationally prominent experts in the fields of social justice, environmental conservation, and human impacts on animals.
The first four years of my tenure with the the Sierra Club’s Grazing Committee (first as a member [beginning in 2007] and subsequent leadership [2008–2013]) were largely devoted to seeking a new congressional sponsor for voluntary grazing retirement legislation, as the bill promoted by the National Public Lands Grazing Campaign had lost its congressional sponsor in early 2007. Our objective was achieved in November 2011 with Congressman Adam Smith (WA-9)
agreeing to sponsor the
Rural Economic Vitalization Act.
Congressman Smith has reintroduced the
in every subsequent session of Congress.
During 2004–2007 I wrote, edited, and published
Western Turf Wars: The Politics of Public Lands Ranching,
an oral history featuring land managers and grassroots activists with first-hand experience of public lands ranching.
In 2016 I produced a web-based installation of Lynn Jacobs’s book Waste of the West: Public Lands Ranching.