Tag Archives: range management

Not Very Home On The Range? Romney and Public Land

Former Governor Willard Mitt Romney doesn’t seem very ‘home on the range,’ that is, he’s not sure what the purpose of public land might be.   He told Nevadans:

“So I haven’t studied it, what the purpose is of the land, so I don’t want to say, “Oh, I’m about to hand it over.” But where government ownership of land is designed to satisfy, let’s say, the most extreme environmentalists, from keeping a population from developing their coal, their gold, their other resources for the benefit of the state, I would find that to be unacceptable.” [TP]

A brief primer:  Public land is public — many people use it.  And, many of the people who use it run cattle. As in cows. As in hamburger. As in Americans consumed about 26.4 billion pounds of beef in 2010. [ersUSDA ]  The USDA adds the following information:

“Range livestock production is predominate in Nevada with well over half of the farms raising cattle or sheep. The highest concentrations of cattle are in the northern part of the State. Cow-calf operations are most common type of operation and Elko county ranks among the leading counties in the Nation in number of beef cows. Northern Nevada is also home to the vast majority of the sheep.”

In these counties conversations are often sprinkled with terms like AUM’s, that’s the grazing fee set for western states.  Nevada ranchers pay a $12.50 AUM.  There’s a formula for that here. Once the cattle and calves are raised for sale, quite often on public lands,  they account for 39.2% of the total agricultural output in the state.  The output isn’t making anyone rich, 81.2% of Nevada’s farms and ranches are family owned, and the net farm income is $137,760 (this figure includes other, larger producers of potatoes, hay, etc.) [USDA]

Mining takes place on public lands in Nevada. The BLM has a handy guide describing the process for a mining company to get approval from the agency for mine operations in Nevada.  (link pdf) And, the agency notes that one very common reason for application approval delay is that the operators have provided insufficient baseline data on the proposed operation.  No one is keeping anyone away from the Gold.

Hunting and fishing happen on public lands. The Nevada Department of Wildlife is funded in four categories, and the department describes its income as follows:

“The license dollars that come in each year are used as match to the federal funds. For instance, most federal dollars require a 3-1 state match; for every $3 of a project we do using federal funds, we must add $1 of state dollars, or volunteer hours, or in-kind match (donations). In addition to license dollars a variety of other sources are also used as match, for instance nonprofit grants and Question 1 bond dollars can also be used for state match, as well as volunteer hours and in-kind match (donations of equipment.)”

We will gladly sell you a hunting license, a trapping license, a fishing license, and we will register your boat.  Nevada also sells duck stamps, trout stamps, deer tags, upland bird tags,  and mountain lion tags.  [See more]  Then we would be pleased if you stayed in our motels, bought gas from our service stations, ate in our restaurants, and purchased food from our local groceries.  We would politely ask that those happily hunting and fishing in our climes would listen when we tell you  “You can’t get there from here,” so we don’t have to engage in search and rescue attempts to find you.

What former Governor Romney appears to be grousing about are claims that wilderness areas prevent other commercial operations.  However, sauce for the Sage Hens  is also sauce for the Hungarian Partridges — and if a commercial operation invades a hunting area then there’s obviously a trade off in economic terms.  When the numbers are crunched, the total acreage set aside as wilderness in Nevada comes to 731,367, which sounds like a very big number until we convert the 109,806 square miles of this state into acreage and the number comes up as 70,275,840 acres. Thus the Wilderness designation applies to only 1.04% of our total land area.  Surely that isn’t too much to reserve for hunters, the hikers, and the fishing fans.

But, there’s nothing like getting a zinger into a GOP exchange about those “extreme environmentalists” to spice up a Republican plug for promoting the interests of polluters and exploiters.  Perhaps it’s too much to ask that GOP presidential candidates detach the epithets from words like environmental and ecological?

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Filed under 2012 election, Mining, Nevada economy, public lands, Romney