Presentations by Mike Hudak
Why We Love 'em,
How We Let 'em Destroy the Earth
Western ranching is extremely damaging to the natural environment, responsible for impacting almost as many threatened and endangered species as logging and mining combined. Yet criticism of ranchers—the perpetrators of this destruction—is hard to find. Few national environmental organizations speak about the issue. (Some of these organizations even have a rancher on their boards.)
To inquire about bringing a live presentation to your organization, email Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Federal Public Lands: Wildlife Habitat or Livestock Pasture?
Livestock production is the single most destructive human activity on our Western public lands. Neither logging, mining nor recreation negatively impacts as many native species over so vast a region—260 million acres in all. Nor has any other activity impacted the West for so long—since the early 1600s for parts of the Southwest and since the 1860s everywhere else.
Throughout the West livestock grazing has been the catalyst for converting lush, perennial grasslands into fields of weeds that are fire-prone, less resistant to soil erosion and altogether less productive of wildlife. Riparian zones, although comprising less than 1 percent of the West, provide habitat for 75 percent of its wildlife species. Ninety percent of these areas in the Southwest have been degraded by livestock or livestock-related agriculture. Even upland forests have been degraded, as cattle grazing has made trees more susceptible to disease, insect infestation and catastrophic fire.
Despite its severe environmental impacts, public lands ranching enjoys the support of our government officials who have stuck taxpayers with roughly $500 million in annual subsidies to the industry. Some of that money represents cost overruns by the agencies managing public lands. Some goes to water and other agricultural subsidies. Some goes to the restoration of wildlife habitat damaged by livestock. And part of the subsidy funds the government sponsored killing of roughly 100,000 large predators.
In this slide presentation I’ll briefly review the history and politics of livestock production in the American West. I’ll visually compare several pristine landscapes with their livestock impacted counterparts, and I'll provide examples of how these impacts are bad for native wildlife. I’ll also touch upon economic aspects of the ranching industry relevant to mounting a national campaign to entice ranchers into relinquishing their federal grazing permits.
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