Couple seeks to prove grazing can be good | VailDaily.com

Couple seeks to prove grazing can be good

Allen Best

KETCHUM, Idaho – A couple from San Francisco four years ago set to out to prove that livestock gazing is compatible with public lands. Buying several sheep outfits, they formed a company and hired a staff of biologists and other consultants to monitor operations on the 24,000 acres of private land and 730,000 acres of public lands at their disposal.

The guiding belief, as expressed by Mike Stevens, the chief operating officer of Lava Lake Land and Livestock, is that long-term protection of both public and private range lands requires that they be economically be useful. If not, the private lands will inevitably be subdivided and hence become more difficult to manage as whole landscapes. If land isn’t ranched, there will be more roads, more spread of noxious weeds and less winter habitat for wildlife.

Can they be both light on the land and profitable? That’s the million-dollar question. The company has promised to keep the sheep moving and away from nearby water sources. Sheepmen have long prided themselves on the latter, unlike cattle that tend to congregate in riparian areas.

As for making money, the plan is to market the lamb as “all natural,” meaning no antibiotics and growth hormones, and ultimately organic, which means no use of pesticides or herbicides on the public lands. With the organic-food business growing by at least 15 percent annually, it’s no longer a fringe industry.

John Marvel, executive director of Western Watersheds Project, applauds the goal, but told the Idaho Mountain Express that only those who can afford to write off the cost of the land can afford to do what Lava Lakes is doing. But the large lesson he thinks is being demonstrated is that to reduce grazing impacts to acceptable levels the herd sizes of both sheep and cattle must be reduced substantially.

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Drought revealed by level of Lake Tahoe

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Lake Tahoe fell below its natural rim in the days before Thanksgiving, the most extended period for such a low level since 1995. This reflects a drought that continues, despite a wet summer and early snowstorms, reports the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

However, the lake is still well more than two feet above its lowest recorded level, which occurred in November 1992.