What Will Happen If the Ranchers Are Gone?

Added 30 January 1997

There is a picture that begs to be painted. It is a picture of private land in the hands of someone besides ranchers. What do you see? A pristine meadow with elk and deer grazing lazily below dominating mountains? Try again. The actualization of your vision, the possible, is not very probable. Oh, you can keep the majestic mountains, but you will probably have to replace those elk for cabins or condos, and those deer for Land Rovers.

Unless organizations like The Nature Conservancy can come up with a lot of cash when ranchers are forced to sell their land, tens of thousands of acres will be sold to developers. And just what do developers do? They develop of course! Won't your peaceful meadow just look so much better with $750,000 homes crammed in on 1 acre lots?

That meadow would be far better off in the hands of a responsible rancher working within the bounds of the sustainable yield of the land. Certainly, the number of cattle on public lands needs to be reduced to achieve this, meaning that some ranchers will have to give up their livelihood. But all occupations and lifestyles will see declines at some point or another. That is often a sad fact, but it is inescapable. Or perhaps major corporations like Union Oil, Getty Oil, and the Vail Ski Corporation will back out of public lands ranching so that traditional family ranchers can continue the true heritage of the West.

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