Farm Policy in Age of Climate Change Creating Another Dust Bowl, Critics Say | InsideClimate News

GR: Most farmers and ranchers don’t preserve the land. They sacrifice soil and long-term productivity for profit or food. We have to give up the common belief that those closest to the land give high priority to the land’s health. Farmers and ranchers may understand the harm they cause, but opportunities and pressures keep them from sustainable use of the land. Examples from huge corporate farms and the small fields of indigenous people indicate irresponsible behavior dominates across a spectrum of objectives and imperatives. In general, the ‘grow or die’ mentality of contemporary businesses dictates corporate behavior, and social competition and the pressure of the growing population’s need for food dictate indigenous behavior.

The story below shows how desire for profit is destroying the land in America.

Farm policy critics say the latest Farm Bill is helping turn widespread drought into another Dust Bowl. Credit: Getty Images

“The last Farm Bill contained incentives for farmers to keep planting on degraded land, setting up potential environmental catastrophe.

“Over the past decade, farmers in the Great Southern Plains have suffered the worst drought conditions since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. They’ve battled heat, dust storms and in recent weeks, fires that devoured more than 900,000 acres and killed thousands of cattle.

“These extreme conditions are being fueled by climate change. But a new report from an environmental advocacy group says they’re also being driven by federal crop insurance policy that encourages farmers to continue planting crops on compromised land, year after year.

“Dust bowl conditions are coming back. Drought is back. Dust storms are back. All the climate models show the weather getting worse,” said Craig Cox of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which released the report Wednesday. “You’d think the imperative would be on adaptation, so we don’t make the same mistakes we did back in the 1930s.” –Inside Climate News (Continue reading: Farm Policy in Age of Climate Change Creating Another Dust Bowl, Critics Say | InsideClimate News.)

Armed herders invade Kenya’s most important wildlife conservancy

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Eastern Escarpment of the Great Rift Valley, Northern Kenya (Photo by the Luxury Safari Company)

GR: Combine global warming-forced drought with politics and you get indigenous people destroying nature so that they can live a richer life than their neighbors.

Drought in Samburu, to the north of Laikipia, has led to herders ranging further afield than normal. Photograph: Stephen Morrison/EPA

“Thousands of heavily-armed herders are invading conservancies, private properties and smallholdings in Laikipia, one of Kenya’s most important wildlife areas, as they search for pasture for their cattle.

“Over the past couple of weeks, about 10,000 nomadic herders, armed with automatic rifles and driving 135,000 cattle, have left a trail of destruction and chaos in the county, just three hours drive from Nairobi. The herders have indiscriminately killed wildlife – from elephants, giraffes, zebras and lions to family dogs. Residents have been injured, some seriously. At least one person has been killed, according to reports.

“This is just the latest but most serious clash between the herders and the residents of Laikipia, after a series of incursions dating back at least a few years. This time private game lodges, ranches and smallholdings owned by farmers are being targeted systematically. David Mwaweu, who owns a small farm, said that armed herdsmen passed his way as they marched towards private land where they have since been “stealing grass for their cows”.

“The wildlife deaths appear to be a tragic byproduct of the violence. At least six elephants have been killed in the last two weeks, and graphic photos of a decapitated zebra and a skinned buffalo, among many others, have been posted on Twitter and Facebook.“

An elephant carcase found at a Laikipia waterhole. The elephant had been shot. Photograph: Laikipia Farmers’ Association

“The elephants are being shot for several reasons,” said Max Graham, CEO of Space For Giants, a conservation organisation headquartered in Laikipia. “First, the herders are coming into conflict with elephants at water points, and shooting at them to scare them away. Second, some of these herders now in Laikipia, but not indigenous to the area, are traditionally hunters: to kill an elephant is a rite of passage in their culture.” –Adam Cruise, Armed herders invade Kenya’s most important wildlife conservancy | Environment | The Guardian

Rangeland forage availability and management in times of drought – A case study of pastoralists in Afar, Ethiopia

Poor Management of Livestock Grazing

Wild Horses and Weeds

Wild Horses on a Former Great Basin Shrubland Destroyed by Livestock Grazing, Invasive Plants, and Fire. Abusive practices allowed by U. S. land management agencies continue at this site even now that little is left.

GR:  The researchers that performed this study end their report with an urgent call for range science to make Ethiopian grazing sustainable. It is probably a futile call. Range scientists studied and developed sustainable grazing systems in the U. S. almost a century ago. U. S. government land-management agencies applied various “rest-rotation” systems to millions of acres of public lands beginning in the 1930’s. Nevertheless, U. S. ranges have steadily lost productivity. Vast areas have deteriorated beyond any hope of recovery. This happened because desires of an industry consisting of ranchers and corporate conglomerates opposed scientific management from the beginning. U. S. Government agencies under the control of politicians representing the grazing industry never properly applied the restrictions required for sustainable management. Along with lost cattle-raising possibilities, there has been a massive loss of wildlife and native plants. It is now clear that range science cannot prevent short-term human desires from trumping wise management and long-term sustainability.

Grazing Research Highlights

  • “Afar pastoralists mainly depend on natural rangeland resources for their livestock.
  • “Supplemental feeds (e.g., crop residues) were not frequently used.• Average herbaceous cover of rangelands was <25%.
  • “In times of severe drought, migrating with livestock was most common.
  • “Afar pastoralists applied little rangeland conservation and mitigation efforts.

Grazing Research Abstract

Many Eastern African rangelands comprise marginal land, where climatic conditions are poor, access rights are increasingly limited, and land degradation is progressing. We conducted participatory land use mapping and vegetation assessment to identify the most important rangeland locations and their condition in Afar, Ethiopia. Further, we conducted 79 interviews across six villages to assess pastoralist adaptation strategies during drought times. In the dry season, livestock feed resources represented rangelands far away from the village (in 76% of the cases) while 50% and 40% of pastoralists also used cake concentrates and crop residues, respectively. During the wet season, rangeland resources close to villages, albeit with rather low herbaceous cover (<25%), contributed 80% to livestock forage. In times of severe drought, migrating with livestock was the most common (70%) adaptation, in combination with purchasing feed (50%) while <40% of the pastoralists sold or slaughtered animals. Afar pastoralists applied little conservation and mitigation methods, most commonly they removed livestock pressure to allow the pasture to recover. Overall, pastoralists in Afar still strongly depended on natural rangelands and their resources. Hence, to manage these sustainably a monitoring scheme must urgently be established for investigating rangeland quality and resilience to drought and grazing pressure.” –Anna C. Treydte et al. (Continue reading:  Rangeland forage availability and management in times of drought – A case study of pastoralists in Afar, Ethiopia).

The noisy political attack on new national monuments. We have heard the same now for 130 years | The Wildlife News

GR:  This insightful blog post provides historical perspective for public lands protection.

Cattle in the Sonoran Desert.  Heavily trampled soil without soil microorganisms that can absorb and store moisture, convert solar energy to nutrients, increase plant root efficiency, and protect the soil surface from erosion and invasive plants. Photo by George Wuerthner.

Cattle in the Sonoran Desert. Heavily trampled soil without soil microorganisms that can absorb and store moisture, convert solar energy to nutrients, increase plant root efficiency, and protect the soil surface from erosion and invasive plants. Photo by George Wuerthner.

“The recent designation of Bears Ear National Monument in southern Utah by President Obama engendered a predictable storm of rhetorical protest from Utah’s politicians. Yet a review of their comments and those made historically by western politicians when earlier Presidents had unilaterally created public reserves shows surprisingly consistent responses.

“In 1887, two weeks before leaving office, Democratic President Grover Cleveland after losing his bid for re-election to Republican candidate Benjamin Harrison, set aside 20 million acres of western lands as “forest reserves.” Republicans were offended that a “discredited leader” of a party that had suffered defeat in national elections two months before could unilaterally create new reserves on public lands.

“Reaction to President Grover Cleveland’s 1887 decision to create forest reserves (precursors to our national forests) in western states resulted in similar local outrage and calls to repeal the new reserves. In one historic account of events, the author claims that “in every case…these political spokesmen claimed they spoke for the people of the West. Their solicitude for the settler was in party hypocritical, insofar as they sought to use individual entry and claim to public lands for the enlargement of their own special interests.”

“For instance, Senator Wilson of Washington characterized the proclamation as a “ghastly mistake” and “dasterdly blunder”. He called it a “violation of all rights without notice to anyone.”

“Senator Petticrew of South Dakota denounced the order as contrary to law and called for the entire revocation of it.” –George Wuerthner (Continue learning:  The noisy political attack on new national monuments. We have heard the same now for 130 years.)