Letters, Jan. 7, 2015 

West Valley City 911 Dispatchers Really Care, Grazing Rights & Wrongs

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West Valley City 911 Dispatchers Really Care
I read the article ["You're on Your Own," Opinion, Nov. 19, City Weekly] about the couple from France who had their car stolen and were able to track it with the phone that was in the car. They got no help from the 911 dispatcher.

The reason I am writing is to let you know that the 911 dispatchers in West Valley City are just the opposite. I have nothing to say but praise for the way they have handled my calls. I have always been attended to and even once when I said I could do without assistance—the fire department still came out to check and make sure things were OK.

In all four times that I have called, the operator made me stay on the line and talked to me the whole time until help arrived. Please show this to the West Valley City 911 dispatchers if you readers know any of them.

Jean Daniels
West Valley City

Grazing Rights & Wrongs
As executive director of the Western Watersheds Project—an advocacy group dedicated to ending public lands livestock grazing—I'm disappointed with the government's acquiescence to law-breaking on public lands across the West that has led to the armed occupation of one of America's premier bird sanctuaries. This weekend's militia takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is another battle in the "War on the West" that extractive industries have been waging for 150 years.

The occupying militia is led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy, sons of Cliven Bundy, the notorious rancher who has refused to pay his fees for years and continues to illegally trample fragile desert tortoise habitat with his trespassing cows. The militia initially claimed the occupation was to support local ranchers and convicted arsonists Dwight and Steven Hammond, although the Hammond family has distanced itself from the Bundys' recent activities.

What Ammon Bundy considers tyrannical treatment of grazing permittees is actually a generous welfare program: Between 1995 and 2012, Hammond Ranches Inc. received $295,471 in federal payouts. There is enormous subsidization of public lands livestock grazing. While the going rate for grazing a cow and a calf on private land for a month in Oregon is $17, the equivalent fee on federal public lands is only $1.69. This artificially low fee creates a national deficit of at least $1.2 billion dollars every decade—hardly a sign that the federal agencies are trying to put ranchers out of business.

In fact, even the Malheur Wildlife Refuge is controversially open to livestock grazing use, despite the refuge system's mandate to protect wildlife habitat. Thousands of Americans visit the refuge each year to enjoy the unique bird species that frequent the Pacific flyway, pouring over $1.9 million into the local economy annually. When Ammon Bundy promotes his agenda of using the resource, he's overlooking the many Americans who "use the resource" to enjoy quiet recreation, like bird-watching.

Widespread livestock grazing occurs on nearly 220 million acres of public land in the Western states, and this is a leading cause of soil loss, species endangerment, invasive species infestations, and predator killing. Only 22,000 ranchers have the privilege of using federal lands for their operations, a business opportunity mistakenly referred to as a "right" by those that would seek to establish it as such. The courts have affirmed that there are no "grazing rights," and the Bundys' use of the term does not make it so.

There are no grazing rights, but there are lots of grazing "wrongs." The federal agencies failure to rein in the worst abusers of public lands livestock allotments has emboldened people like the Bundy brothers and others across the West to take land management into their own hands. It's time to stop caving in to their demands and manage wildlife habitat in the true public interest.

Travis Bruner
Western Watersheds Project
Hailey, Idaho

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