Cows versus Trout in the Sierra

The Los Angeles Times had a provocative article in yesterday’s edition, with the same title as today’s post.  See:

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-trout-grazing-20110925,0,4939371.story

The site of the story by Louis Sahagun is the same general area that I visited last week.  While there, I saw several alpine meadows where beef cattle were grazing.  At the time, I wondered how this could be economically viable.  These were pretty remote meadows, and bringing the cattle up to and down from these meadows must be quite a chore.  And since these are snowed over much of the year, such cattle transport is mandatory.

The article discusses the impact that grazing may have on native species, including the Golden Trout.  But it also touches on an even broader issue: the uses and management of federal lands.

The national forests are managed by the US Department of Agriculture.  The motto of the Forest Service is “Land of Many Uses.”  This is in stark contrast to the national park system, which is managed by a totally different cabinet position: the US Department of the Interior (which my friend Bill reminded my that, as George Carlin noted, deals with everything outside!)  The national parks are intended essentially for a single purpose: recreation.  (Yes, I realize that preservation and conservation are required here too, but the stated purpose of these parks is their enjoyment by the public.)

In the western United States, the largest landholder by far is the federal government.  It takes a host of personnel and funds to manage and maintain these lands.  And while I certainly don’t envy the feds the task of managing national parks, I think the national forest folks have a much more daunting task.  Solving the cows vs. trout question will be no fun at all, and it is just a single issue in the complex world of the “Land of Many Uses.”

I just hope I can continue to go hiking, camping, and backpacking up there!

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