One week, Idaho Governor Butch Otter blames wild fires on the under grazing of public lands by livestock. The next week, he's blaming the cheat grass, an invasive species. Everybody knows that cheat grass invades an area after overgrazing by livestock. What's Otter really after? That's easy. Otter derived his millions through his relationship with Simplot, who has over 2 million acres of grazing leases. Otter: working so hard for so few.

Cattle ranching is not a dominant agricultural activity in the West.

As per the USDA, federal lands grazing provides about 26.5 percent of livestock forage and only 0.29 percent of all Idaho income - but only 0.04 percent of the income for all 11 western states.

That is $4 earned from public lands grazing for every $1 million earned from all other sources. This is totally insignificant to the economy, yet public perception is distorted.

The truth is, livestock devastates the areas grazed, eating grasses down to the dirt and facilitating the spread of invasive plant species.

Livestock tramples springs, creeks and any water source it can find, and then craps in it.

Cow devour feed meant for wild game, which leads to damage payments when game feeds on private land.

If everybody owns the public land, why do a fraction of a percent of the owners have the authority to trash it?

Public lands grazing occurs at the expense of other important economic resources such as fisheries, wildlife, water quality, recreation, biodiversity and ecological processes - all having tremendous economic value. Let's focus our energies on these resources, Butch, and on the public.

Mark D. Reaney, Jr.

Lewiston, Idaho

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