West's Grazing Act Is Not a `Subsidy'
The article ``Old Ranch Traditions Blend With New Values,'' Oct. 25, was a welcome balance to the generally bad press that ranchers get in the East. But it still left the false impression that responsible range management is the exception among Western ranchers; and it referred to ``subsidized'' federal land as if that's the only kind there could be.
Kansas belongs to Kansans because the Homestead Act gave settlers in the Great Plains clear title to their farms. By 1875, the director of the General Land Office was reporting that the Homestead Act worked for crop lands, but not for arid range lands. In 1934, after a half century of attempts to accomplish in the West what the Homestead Act had done in the Midwest, Congress passed the Taylor Grazing Act, creating the present grazing permits. President Roosevelt's director of grazing told the stockmen that the policy was ``to give [your lands] the adjunctive pasture rights which naturally belong to them.''
Grazing rights acquired under the Taylor Act are no more a subsidy than are land titles acquired under the Homestead Act. The rural population of basin-and-range America are not sharecroppers; permit fees are not rents; and the rest of us are not absentee landlords.
Ranchers could devise conservation plans with their neighbors, but before the Taylor Act, drovers who had no investment in any land would buy herds and move them around on the public domain with no regard to local plans. To stop this practice, the Grazing Service attached ``the permit to the land.''
In 1946 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was born. Grazing schedules on public land are now set not by the rancher, but by the BLM apparatus that has perpetuated the simplistic and ruinous ``graze half, leave half'' policy that ranchers, county agents, and range scientists have been trying for years to replace with intelligently structured practices like the ones the article describes. If grazing fees do not cover all of the costs of that apparatus, who is being subsidized? Malcolm Whatley, Burlington, Vt. Private diaries?
I would like to comment on the editorial ``Packwood and Privacy,'' Oct. 28. I am an advocate of keeping all of our constitutional rights intact, including the right to privacy. However, in Sen. Bob Packwood's case, I believe that this right is not applicable. A diary is defined as ``A daily record, especially a personal record of events, experiences, and observations.'' Since Senator Packwood dictated them in his office to his secretary and transcribed and maintained them at taxpayer expense, these ``diaries'' fall in the public domain. They should not be protected under the constitution because he was doing this on his constituents' time, and his constituents have a right to know their contents. K. M. Devlin-McElroy, Stevenson, Wash. The price of `free trade'
Regarding the View From Capitol Hill article ``Fighting Bad Fisheries Policy,'' Nov. 2:
At last, a coherent exposition of the complex interrelationship between environmental/ecological issues and free-trade policy. As the vote on NAFTA approaches, I urge politicians to consider more than just the issue of jobs and to look, for once, to the future: to sustainable development.
The obvious shortcoming in NAFTA as it now exists is that it has the potential to undermine United States policy formulated to protect endangered species. Under NAFTA, the importation of tuna that has been caught by fishing around dolphins (which results in a high mortality rate among the marine mammals) cannot be legislated against. Massive dolphin mortality is ``trade irrelevant.'' Under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, Chilean fishermen kill marine mammals to supply bait for crab that enters the US market. Again, sanctions cannot be imposed because of ``trade irrelevance.'' Our own 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act is being subverted.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the concept of free trade, and indeed it has the potential to achieve much that it is touted to do. But NAFTA should be renegotiated. Congress should repudiate it Nov. 17 and should invite Mexico and Canada to immediately begin the renegotiation process, with sustainable development high on the agenda. Len Milich, Tucson, Ariz.