Private Economical Interest: Grazing on Public Land in Minnesota
Until spring of 2011, the state of Minnesota did not permit grazing on public or conservation lands. Partnering with the Minnesota Cattlemen’s Association (MSCA), the Minnesota DNR quietly launched an initiative to lease Minnesota Wildlife Management lands to cattlemen. Wildlife Management Areas are said to be “…the crown jewels of Minnesota’s wildlife management operation.” The initiative to expand grazing to public lands seems to be a legislative priority of the MSCA and, for reasons I find suspicious, an interest of the MN DNR.
Expanding grazing onto public lands is probably a bad idea for several reasons. Here are a few:
- It expands the geographical area to the point where farmer supervision is limited, thereby causing a higher risk of conflict. For instance, dead cattle are an attractant. The removal of dead animals on private lands is likely to be more prompt than on public lands; the lack of proper monitoring will inevitably cause issues.
- The presence of domestic livestock on public and conservation lands will naturally drive wildlife elsewhere, disrupting the natural cycle of predators hunting their prey and supporting a balanced ecological system.
- The fact that the DNR is endorsing the initiative to expand grazing onto public lands should be distressing to hunters, as deer and elk in Minnesota will be scattered.
Unlike western states, Minnesota has not held the tradition of grazing on public lands – the motion to adopt this tradition occurred very recently. Because of this, I have to question the motive behind this seemingly whimsical new initiative.
As an explanation for this move, DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr stated, “It’s vitally important that we leverage our individual resources and protect and restore the state’s prairies, grasslands and wetland complexes. Not only are these landscapes important to wildlife and clean water, but they can provide economic opportunities for local livestock producers and landowners through grazing and haying.” Aha! Economic opportunities. Private interests.
Once private interests are vested, they will control the agenda to the detriment of the public interest. Politics at their finest.
And while I am not certain, this initiative seems to fall rather neatly in line with the anti-wolf agenda, pushing the boundaries of our Minnesota wolves’ God-given natural habitat back even further. Do we really think there won’t be negative repercussions from gradually – and rather secretively – driving our nation’s wildlife out for our own domestic agendas?