Homesteading is a lifestyle that involves using available land to create self-sustaining environment. This can encompass many aspects, including growing and preserving food, producing electricity, and even making fabric and clothing.
It’s a great way to get your hands dirty, learn new skills, and be more self-sufficient. But not everyone is cut out for homesteading, so be sure to do your research before deciding if this is the right path for you.
The liberal Biden administration is, apparently, dropping the other shoe for the Montana federal grazing district ranchers. The first shoe dropped in 2014 when the federal solicitors argued in front of the Montana Water Court’s Water Master that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had built the reservoirs and pits on the federal allotments therefore they owned the water and our cows were their beneficial use. Why the Montana Water Master agreed with them when he had to know they were totally wrong on all counts is anyone’s guess. Six of the Montana Supreme Court justices also bought the BLM’s faulty argument in upholding the Water Court’s decision. They can’t claim ignorance because Justice McKinnon wrote a scholarly dissent that totally destroyed the majority’s decision (Case No. 15-0533, MT Supreme Court, 2016, MT 348). These actions have effectively deprived the Montana ranchers of a vested property right (their water rights) on their federal allotments.
The other shoe to drop is the BLM’s recently released proposed rule, “Strengthening the Stewardship of America’s Public Lands”. This innocent sounding document has three key elements. The first is to prioritize designating and protecting Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), the second is to elevate conservation to one of the multiple uses in the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) and the last is to designate range health assessments and how those standards are applied across the landscape. The details will come out as opponents argue against the rule but it is probably safe to say these three components have the potential to destroy all livestock grazing on federal grazing district allotments.
It is sad that the most successful public/private cooperative program ever undertaken in America, the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 (TGA), has continually been under attack by hatefilled individuals and organizations that want to remove ranching from the federal rangelands and destroy this very successful symbiotic relationship. Unfortunately, when the liberal democrats got the upper hand in Washington D.C. in 2020 it was only a matter of time before the domestic livestock grazers of the federal domain would come under intense bureaucratic pressure.
These people seem to forget why the TGA was enacted in the first place. Try to picture what this country looked like in the early 1930’s. Homesteading of the available public lands was coming to a close as all the habitable land had been taken. Vast tracts of land were not claimed because they did not contain dependable water and the poor soils and topography were not amenable to farming. The market for draft horse teams was high during the 1920’s so many adjacent homesteaders maintained large herds on the open federal range. In addition, anyone could graze livestock on these public lands and, as a result, they were severely overgrazed. Then the drought hit.
The resulting dust bowl of the 30’s forced Washington to act and in 1934 President Roosevelt removed all unclaimed federal land from the public domain, effectively ending the homestead era. Congress also passed the TGA which gave the adjacent resident rancher’s livestock access to the forage on sufficient federal land to help put together an economical ranching unit. The Department of the Interior hired a very capable rancher, Ferry Carpenter, to carry out this mandate. He did an amazing job!
The stated goals of the TGA were; to stop the extensive overgrazing, stop the erosion, help make the agricultural operations economically viable, help the economy of adjacent communities, and improve the habitats for wildlife. The federal Grazing Service, which morphed into the BLM, was charged with helping to fulfill these goals. In spite of the roadblocks Mother Nature has thrown at the ranchers over the last 90 years, the TGA goals have been met and most range experts would agree that livestock grazing has improved the federal range. You would think the BLM would be broadcasting that fact instead of trying to destroy this very successful collaboration. Over the years the ranchers and BLM Range Personnel have learned that these less productive soils are very susceptible to misuse and grazing must be managed. The results definitely suggest the administrators in the 1930’s were right that these lands were, “chiefly valuable for grazing…”.
What would the result be of removing the humans and their livestock from the land? The vegetation on the land would change and the communities dependent on the ranch families for economic viability would decline. The vegetation changes would depend on soils, topography, elevation, fires, climate, etc. Some changes would probably be slow and imperceptible like the encroachment of pine or juniper trees. After a few years the previous condition would be forgotten and the new vegetation communities would be accepted as the norm. The adjacent towns would change from catering to the agricultural industry to servicing recreationists and tourists.
There is a move to replace humans and their livestock with free-ranging bison in some areas. However, unmanaged grazing of any ungulate will devastate this rangeland the same as it is doing in Yellowstone National Park. Also read the journals of the 1804 Lewis and Clark expedition up the Missouri River through eastern Montana to get an idea of what unmanaged bison grazing will do to the range. Apparently, the hope is that a large free-ranging bison herd will bring lots of tourists (and their money) to this bleak landscape that they generally drive rapidly past.
It is a shame that we will lose this productive historic way of life that is maintaining and improving the ecological integrity and sequestration of carbon of this comparatively poor rangeland to an idealized destructive scheme to produce a nonexistent utopia. It would be refreshing if the proponents of this program would truthfully tell us what their plans really are so the general public could decide if this is the future they want.
Box 37, Hinsdale, MT 59241