All summer we have publicly watched the Gulf Shore fishermen worry about the loss of their lifestyle due to the oil spill. It is very painful even when we aren't a part of the tragedy.
For an even longer period of time, ranchers in the western states have fought battles to save their lifestyles with little or no national coverage. Think of cowboys on horseback herding cattle and shepherds on hillsides watching over a flock of sheep grazing in national forests.
The American Sheep Industry Weekly News reports that acres available for domestic sheep grazing on the Payette National Forest will be reduced by nearly 70 percent. This decision follows years of federal court rulings sought by the anti-livestock group Western Watersheds Project. Groups seeking to remove all livestock grazing from federal lands are using bighorn sheep habitat as a surrogate to remove domestic sheep grazing allotments from the forest. "This decision is obviously devastating to sheep production in Idaho... Unfortunately, there is nothing in the Payette Forest finding that is going to protect the bighorn sheep," commented Ken Wixom, president of the Idaho Wool Growers Association. "If this issue were truly about the protection of the bighorn, they would not take those who have the highest level of incentive to help resolve the problem off the forest and out of the equation."
A similar situation is a recent settlement agreement between energy company El Paso Corp. with Western Watersheds Project and Oregon Natural Desert Association. El Paso Corp. agreed to provide $22 million to WWP and ONDA in part to create unprecedented federal legislation to allow for the buyout and retirement of federal grazing permits - threatening ranchers' grazing rights across vast portions of the West. Ranchers with grazing permits account for over half of all commercial beef cattle in the West.