Thanks for your post. It reminds me of my time hiking in the Steens Mountains, going to the Alvord Desert Hot Spring and venturing in towns like Fields, Oregon. I don't eat red meat because I dealt with many ranchers from the Alvord to around Enterprise OR, who treat the land like complete shit, shot anything that they don't like, and had this very arrogant attitude about rules to follow.. I remember walking through many places where it look like a WW1 battlefield covered in cow manure/patties
Big props to the stranger for sourcing this kind of quality input on a breaking news issue. One of the many things, along with Heidi and Sydney's great reporting recently, that make you an important source of local and regional news.
"you city slickers come out here with your Corrupt Gubmint and your Subarus and your Gore-Tex and your UN Helicopters and tell us how to ranch. we live here and we don't need you know-it-alls with your facts and science! we just need your subsidies."
Thanks for a very good insight, Tobias. I'm kind of with @1, fuck the whiny, destructive, non-caring ranchers. Their vote is no more important than my vote.
Betsy Hammond (no relation to the ranchers) has a pretty good survey of the history of the refuge in today's Snoregonian:…
Entitled inbred assholes demand their right to Free Stuff. This is truly the American Dream.
Good article.
I've been to Steens Mountain/Malheur Refuge too and beautiful country.

If the thugs haven't left by spring I suspect a lot of people will decide to go visit the Refuge.
I wonder if they'll try to keep "the people" out.
Of course they'll try to keep 'the people' out -- because 'the people' aren't THEM.

Themselves are the only people they're interested in.
The tragedy of the commons, same old deal. Do these people really have no education at all?
Don't have time to read this article or commenters' links right now, but wanted to say my last visit to Steens Mountain/Malheur was as a kid on Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI) summer camps. It's important to note that many ranchers are sophisticated and sensitive stewards of the land (whether their own or leased), passionate advocates for native-species preservation, and often active in restoration projects as well. Urban dwellers interested in Western land and water issues should read High Country News (
@9) You must be kidding. You must know that every one of them are home-schooled.
I know this is a long shot, but can anybody tell me what that black and yellow (and a little bit of white) bird is called? It's very striking.
@12: By dint of my arcane internet powers, I reveal to you thus:
The bird is Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus, the Yellow-Headed Blackbird.
These bootstrap-pullers don't want government handouts. Theft is more sporting.
Tobia - See if you can read and completely absorb the following --- Art I, sec 8, para 17... "To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;..."
@15: What is your claim? What point are you trying to make with that quote about D.C. and military bases?
so the assertion is that cows destroy land by eating grass and fertilizing it at the same time? good thing those millions of buffalo were almost made extinct otherwise the ecology of the land would have been destroyed by the natural system that had evolved long before people started paving over it so they could drive to a nature refuge.
They would have to occupy the sanctuary for a year to affect "thousands of yearly visitors"; don't worry, they will be gone in a few days. Why would your dad, uncle, and his best friend want to visit what is primarily a bird refuge in the middle of winter, when most of the birds will have flown south and even most of the mammals are hibernating? They are better off postponing their trip down to the refuge until spring anyway.
@17: Cows aren't migratory the way bison are. Your utter ignorance of overgrazing is a testament to your stupidity, not a mark against land management policies.
@19 cows aren't allowed to be migratory. how many head of grass fed cattle do you take care of? probably a lot less than i do.
@20: The reason for cattle overgrazing the one same plot of land is irrelevant. The fact that they inevitably do is reason enough to restrict ranchers from lands desired to be protected.
My field of study is where sedimentary geology and ecology and evolution come together. I think I know a little bit about the first principles of land management. But go ahead, tell me that cattle don't do anything to the land that bison didn't used to do. I know better than to believe that load of trash.
so you've never actually managed land or livestock. good to know MY ignorance and stupidity is on display
@19 - It's this sort of conflict that is at the center of all this. Ranchers run their cattle the way they always have. They don't intend to hurt the land, but land management practices have come a long way in recent decades and they don't often realize that they're exploiting the land in a way that is not in its best long-term interests.

So the gov't comes in with evidence-based practices and tells them they should do things differently. Sometimes they're kind of assholes about it, or at least they're tired of having to have the same arguments over and over again, so their short. The ranchers get bent out of shape by someone from "Washington" (even though most BLM bureaucrat are from the west, too) telling them what to do so they bitch about it constantly.

And so on and so forth until the end of time.
@22: I know, me and my snooty book-learnin'. Are you telling me that continual commercial grazing of cattle does NOT degrade the land in a way that sporadic grazing by wild bison does not? Because I don't care if you're the biggest rancher in the West, I can pull up plenty of studies showing just how incorrect that claim is.
@24 sporadic grazing? don't you mean constant grazing? bison aren't known to eat pizza and cookies. too bad most of the land that bison once roamed is now plowed up and planted with corn and soy beans. i'm sure that's a much less harmful than an anecdote about some pasture as told by an archeologist.

you should see some of my fields when the weather doesn't cooperate, but the land always rebounds and renews itself, because the cows take care of the land and the land takes care of the cows. i work to make sure there's a balance of the right amount of land and the right amount of cattle. if you want to point me to studies where people have mismanaged their herd and their resources go right ahead. maybe one day you'll learn something new from a book i wrote from personal experience and snooty real world learning.
@23 here's the hitch, some of these ranchers have been running livestock on their land for decades or even a centuries time. if cattle ruined land how could people ever continue raising animals on the same ground for so damn long.
@25: Bison graze sporadically because they are migratory. They roam, which prevents them from doing too much damage to the same patch of grassland. (You can see elephants do something similar in the wild.) Cattle, meanwhile, are kept more or less in the same place, as the railroads pretty much spelled the end of the open range. This is not a difficult concept to understand, you twit.

It's good for you that you practice responsible land management by not trying to graze more than the land will support. Sadly, not everyone has that sense, especially when grazing their herds on land borrowed from someone else. (See the Tragedy of the Commons.) And that is why ranchers have to put up with all those regulations that they just won't stop bitching about. Heck, if you look just at the history of Malheur and the area, it was a real shithole before Uncle Sam stepped in, almost entirely because of cattle grazing.

Here's one other thing. Ranchers know about ranching. They've got practical knowledge. What they don't understand one whit of, with the occasional exception, is what underlies their business. You're not an expert in how bovines have adapted. You're not educated on the complex interplay of flora, fauna, lithology, meteorology, and soil chemistry on which ecosystems are based. You know what you need to know to raise cattle. But suddenly you think you know better than the hordes of ecologists and similar whose jobs it is to assess how the land can be responsibly used. Stick to what you know, buddy.
Oh, and I'm a paleontologist, not an archaeologist (nor a palynologist). There's a big difference.
There is no "going home" for the Bundys or anyone else involved in the Malheur crime spree.

They are going straight to jail, and it's high time that everyone involved understood that fact. Their future is about stacking their arms, submitting to arrest, getting booked and working on making bail.

And paying their debts to (American) society.

Complicating this will be dealing with the other domestic terrorists who will come boiling up in their wake, the paramilitary subculture that has self-authorized itself to gun down working-class Americans.

This is where we are today....
@27 i was referring to the archeologist in the article dummy.

you'd be surprised what people need to know to raise cattle and make a living doing it
@29: Oh, I'm well aware that there's a significant body of practical knowledge needed to raise livestock. But trust me, there so much more you don't know. If you're lucky, you've got a basic understanding of the local ecology. But I doubt you know a C3 plant from a C4 plant, and I certainly wouldn't expect you to identify the minerals present in a soil sample.
So are you going to give me some alternative history about how the land was never overworked by ranchers back before Uncle Sam got involved to make them play by some rules? Because the records say that you'd be wrong on that account.
why would i need to know a c3 from a c4. plants can tell one quite a bit about the condition of the soil.

when did i say the land was never overworked? you're presenting arguments i've never made. you didn't call me any names this time... very mature of you.
The economic effects persisted, in part, because of farmers' failure to switch to more appropriate crops for highly eroded areas. Because the amount of topsoil had been reduced, it would have been more productive to shift from crops and wheat to animals and hay.

"Capital-intensive agribusiness had transformed the scene; deep wells into the aquifer, intensive irrigation, the use of artificial pesticides and fertilizers, and giant harvesters were creating immense crops year after year whether it rained or not. According to the farmers he interviewed, technology had provided the perfect answer to old troubles, such of the bad days would not return. In Worster's view, by contrast, the scene demonstrated that America's capitalist high-tech farmers had learned nothing. They were continuing to work in an unsustainable way, devoting far cheaper subsidized energy to growing food than the energy could give back to its ultimate consumers."
@31: C3 and C4 plants use different metabolic pathways in photosynthesis. It's pretty important, but the point is that you, a rancher, don't need to know it for your day-to-day business. And therefore you don't know it, and therefore you are left with an extremely superficial understanding of the ecology you depend on, knowing very little of the vast and complex forces at work.

I'm pleased to see that you admit that, left to their own devices, farmers and ranchers often mismanage their land, stressing ecosystems far beyond that caused by natural variations. This is more or less what I have been saying all along here. And thus, it is beneficial and proper to have the usage of arable land regulated for the public good!
explain how the difference between c3 and c4 is important outside of the scientific community.

the bank doesnt care how well land is managed when someone's payment is late
@34: Do you really think that agriculture would be where it is today without the scientific community? And trust me, the distinction between C3 and C4 plants is hugely important to agriculture. Maybe not to farmers directly, but certainly to agriculture.
where is agriculture at today? large tracts of land get plowed under for monoculture crops that get sprayed with hundreds of thousands of tons of chemicals every year. feed lots and confined livestock treated with anti-biotics so routinely they are becoming largely ineffective. profits at any cost.

farmers don't call plants c3 or c4, they call them by name, they'll also tell you about the best growing conditions for them, trust me. so, tell me how "c3" and "c4" are important outside of the scientific community.
@36: Farmers can tell you where a given cultivar will grow and under what conditions it thrives. By understanding the biochemistry of plants, it's possible to design new cultivars fine-tuned for a set of conditions. Folk knowledge can't compare to what is possible through science and engineering.
You'll have to realize that agriculture owes a great deal to those academics you seems to consider yourself superior to. It was researchers in a lab, not farmers working the land, who developed golden rice. That goes for practically every advance.
i'm not impressed with your bullshit
@38: I'm not impressed with your dogged pride in your own ignorance.
it's not pride in ignorance, it's pride in knowledge of a subject i actually participate in. if you don't want make yourself look impressed with your own ignorance stick to paleontology
@37 how about instead of spending time and resources genetically modifying rice to decrease vitamin a deficiency (where'd they get that rice to genetically modify anyway?) maybe they should spend that time and those resources actually providing a diversity of already available vegetables and herbs to people that are malnourished.

the hubris of you 'intelligent' people…
@40: You proudly insist that you don't need to know anything about plant biochemistry. Congratulations, you're not a scientist.

@41: You're not the only one saying we shouldn't be distributing golden rice, that people should eat a more varied diet rather than take advantage of the benefits offered by scientific advancement. It's easy for you to say that, since you're not a poor subsistence farmer in Southeast Asia who can't afford to do that, but has been gifted rice seeds that will provide him and his family with proper nutrition.
And seriously? You're saying the farmers who produced the original seed rice deserve the credit for the invention of golden rice? You're awfully bitter to be so against bioengineering even when it's being used to save lives pro bono.
@40: And a difference between you and me, perhaps the crucial difference, is that I take a healthy interest in knowledge beyond what I need to do my own particular job. I'm a paleontologist, which means I need to know evolutionary biology, physiology, and sedimentology. But I've also taken it upon myself to learn genetics, general and organic chemistry, statistics, ecology, planetary geology, and cell/molecular biology. And those are just the sciences! I also dabble in world history, comparative religion, literature, and Judaic theology. Why? Because I think it's important to learn things just for the sake of being well-educated and cultured, as our citizenship in an advanced society allows, a notion you have shown some resistance to.
"it's not pride in ignorance,"

It is PRECISELY pride and ignorance. Which you keep demonstrating in your arrogant dismissal of plant biology. (And that doesn't have an impact on the overall ecology, which would affect ranching? Pull the other one....)
@42 you proudly believe golden rice will provide proper nutrition, your ignorance is showing. people cannot live on rice alone, that's why children are going blind in the first place dingus.

@43 no the difference between you and me is that i am depending on a science that has been practiced for millennia. you are arrogantly saying genetic science, which is just in it's infancy is more reliable than cultivated and dependable food items which have been around for centuries and are part of culinary tradition. and guess what evolutionary biology, physiology, sedimentology, genetics, general and organic chemistry, statistics, ecology, planetary geology, and cell/molecular biology are things farmers NEED to know in some form

maybe you should focus on learning some manners, you wouldn't come off as such an arrogant prick

@44 i depend on plant biology, i don't need to know the scientific labels of 'c3' and 'c4' to understand how plants interact within an environment.
@45: Wow, you're reaching. Children are going blind because you can't live on rice alone? No, children are going blind because they suffer from Vitamin A deficiency. Rice is not normally a good source of Vitamin A, but golden rice is, thanks to the transgenes implanted in its genome. There are a lot of people getting decent nutrition except for that deficiency, and replacing regular rice (a dietary staple in the region) with golden rice remedies that. Problem solved, through science.

I'm not saying any of those perplexing things you attribute to me. I'm just saying that there are things that bioengineering can do that are impossible with traditional agricultural methods, and that agriculture owes a lot to science. You think you're raising cattle the way people did a thousand years ago? You have access to unprecedented tools, from the elimination of certain diseases to the availability of motor vehicles to the use of antibiotics that make cattle diseases that used to mean total ruin nothing more than an inconvenience. Meanwhile, I'm studying a branch of science that's only even existed for about two hundred years, and boy, have we come a long way.

If farmers need to know those things, how come you don't know them? Do you know the difference between a synapomorphy and a symplesiomorphy? Can you distinguish a thoracic vertebra from a lumbar one in mammals? How about depositional energy; can you identify the energy of a depositional environment by looking at the grains in a sediment? Do you know the distinction between an allele and a haplotype? Can you assign formal charge to atoms in a molecule? Do you know what resonance is? Can you tell a normal distribution from a chi-squared distribution? Do you know what Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium is? Can you give me a ballpark timeframe for when the Late Heavy Bombardment occurred? Or maybe you can explain the difference between a kinase and a phosphatase. These are all VERY BASIC CONCEPTS in those various fields; I'd be impressed if you could correctly answer more than one without Googling.

If you are upset about me being rude to you, or if you think I'm arrogant, it's too bad. Don't flaunt your ignorance and I won't flaunt my knowledge.

And as for C3 and C4 plants, just look it up in your spare time; I believe Wikipedia has a good entry on them. Believe me, folk knowledge and hands-on experience are NOT enough to grasp that particular concept. (Never mind CAM plants.)

I'm not saying you're bad or stupid for being a farmer. I'm just saying you need to stop acting like you know more than the experts who spend their careers studying ecology, land management, conservation, and the like.
read the link i posted @41.

"There are a lot of people getting decent nutrition except for that deficiency, and replacing regular rice (a dietary staple in the region) with golden rice remedies that." what? seriously, WHAT? if they are deficient in a needed nutrient so much it affects their health it's rather presumptuous to say they are getting decent nutrition.

agriculture is a science! a multi-disciplinary one at that. those bioengineering practices would be impossible without traditional agriculture practices.

"You think you're raising cattle the way people did a thousand years ago?"
nope, never thought that or said it. you're terrible at reading minds, so please stick to making up statements to argue against. it's to bad you don't see the harms that the use of some of those technologies you flaunt are causing.

acting like i know more about what? alleles? haplotypes?
do you know how to grow your own food? do you know how to grow food for a hundred people?
i'm guessing you didn't pop out of the womb with all that information anyway, so, if you can learn it how hard can it be. it's rather ridiculous of you to act like you are superior because you learned something that i have not or forgotten.

"I'm just saying you need to stop acting like you know more than the experts who spend their careers studying ecology, land management, conservation, and the like."

now you bring it back to land management, and conservation. something i'm actively engaged in. i would tell myself i don't know anything about that but i don't need to, you're already doing it for me.
but why would a farmer need to know about ecology or land management or conservation anyway. their time would be better spent studying plant metabolism or meteor strikes or fossils or genetics. farmers do have a plethora of spare time on their hands, it's not like they're doing anything.
i can't expect anything less from somebody who thinks a team of people standing up a 500 lb stone and splitting it by hand is 'grueling'.

here's my mentor on conservation, he's forgotten more than you know about farming. who have you learned land management and conservation from?
"I'm just saying you need to stop acting like you know more than the experts who spend their careers studying ecology, land management, conservation, and the like."

which brings me back to my original synopsis of the article. an archeologist saw this one field turned into mud this one time and the field was 'destroyed' and that's an all encompassing knowledge of how ranchers treat land. B U L L S H I T

[read the quotation again]
AND if you think the buffalo didn't turn parts of the prairie into mud after heavy rains, floods, and spring thaws AND you believe the premise of the article that big thousand pound animals making grasslands into mud 'destroys' them, then youre dumber than those rocks you carry around.
@47: It's possible to have a deficiency in one nutrient while having an otherwise balanced diet. You are going to extraordinary lengths to disparage a significant advance in aid to impoverished communities.

All agriculture contributes to bioengineering is some of the organisms themselves and places to test certain projects. Bioengineering owes more to entomology than to agriculture.

"i am depending on a science that has been practiced for millennia"
Right there. Your current practices are as different from ancient ones as night from day.

I can grow food. I haven't devoted my career to it, nor have I extensively studied the practices necessary for doing so on a large scale. However, it's something I could learn if I had to. Meanwhile, you don't seem to have even a basic grounding in that variety of fields in which you claim farmers need to be proficient. Given that you don't know even the basics, what makes you think they're easy to understand? If they're so easy, they should present no difficulty to a smart guy like you, right? Watch some Khan Academy videos or something and find out!

If farmers could be relied upon to responsibly manage land, the government would not have had to step in and rehabilitate damaged environments. The problem with farmers is that their own profits and livelihood come first, before responsible land management should the two conflict. This is not a judgment on their morals, but simply an economic fact, and it is the basic reason for practically all regulation of industry.
@48: I never actually said that, dimwit. (The really grueling part is the prospecting, day after day after day.) Also, you don't know rocks like I know rocks; you can't quite understand.

@50: It's more than an archaeologist seeing a muddy field. It's an archaeologist working for a period of time in an area that has been severely overgrazed, and it's ecologists and other experts designing responsible policy to manage how private interests should be allowed to use land. And you think farmers should be left to make those decisions for themselves, because surely they won't damage the land the way they did in previous decades when they were given relative free rein!

@51: As I have been saying all along, bison allow grassland time to recover (something which grasses are uniquely adapted to do) due to their migratory nature. Commercially raised cattle do not, and must be carefully managed to avoid severe overgrazing.
And it just so happens that bioturbation (the disruption of sediments by animals) is rather central to my studies, it being the primary source of ichnofossils and one of the few lines of evidence informative of animal behavior in times past. So don't presume.
"You are going to extraordinary lengths to disparage a significant advance in aid to impoverished communities."

did you read the link i provided? the overview of golden rice and the data on the nutrient profile written by dr. vandana shiva is a bit more enlightening than your lack thereof.

"Your current practices are as different from ancient ones as night from day."

some of them are. it's a science that's been practiced for millennia.

"nor have I extensively studied the practices necessary for doing so on a large scale."

then you're speaking from a stance of complete ignorance. i suspected as much, so why should i go to the trouble of asking you questions i know you can't answer... it's ironic that you claim current practices don't resemble ancient ones when you don't know any... don't pretend your work is more grueling...

how does an archeologist know the difference between grazed and overgrazed? farmers are largely left to make decisions on their own except for on federal land. and i'm not so confident the govt is the most responsible party for the care of public lands since they allow mining operations and fracking wells on them.

bison are capable of overgrazing as well. if you know what that means.
@54: I read the article. It cites no sources, presents no analysis, and generally pulls numbers out of thin air. I know you're not a scientist, but you should know better than to link to that (essentially) BLOG POST. Most importantly, it completely misrepresents the purpose of golden rice; the goal is not to provide 100% RDA of Vitamin A but rather to, by replacing regular rice with golden rice, supplement the diet of people who already get SOME but just not ENOUGH Vitamin A. If you can't understand that, I truly feel sorry for you.

If you think I'm ignorant of agricultural practices, feel free to quiz me; I swear by all that is holy, I shall answer honestly from memory. I've got a decent understanding of how it all works, just not enough to jump straight in immediately. Meanwhile, if you can answer from memory any of the simple questions I posed, by all means impress me.

Archaeologists need to be familiar with sediments and vegetation. If they only studied humanity and not deposition and ecology, they'd be anthropologists. And trust me, if you've got a background in the sciences and you've seen healthy grassland, it's not hard to see that something's wrong with overgrazed grassland. Also, if you study an area and it stays a mudpit while nearby areas in similar settings thrive, it's a pretty good clue.

As I have explained perhaps three times in this thread, bison tend not to damage grassland in the way that cattle may because they migrate. Bison are capable of doing so, but their natural behavior prevents it (which is in accordance with evolutionary principle).
RDA is a nice measure, severe deficiencies need a good deal of supplementation and if the plan is to use a staple food to achieve that, it better be damn close to the RDA.

it's common to see similar conditions through out the years as weather patterns remain consistent. a pasture could be muddy year after year at similar times, like in a wet/rainy winter season with large ungulates who graze on vegetation that goes dormant in winter months and doesn't regenerate leaving it looking overgrazed.

environment plays a large role in behavior

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