The killing of a wolf pup near Corral Creek close to Sun Valley was done to protect John Peavey’s business, Flat Top Sheep Co. Once again, this raises the question of why public wildlife should be killed to increase the profitability of private enterprises operating on our public lands.
It is especially disconcerting that Peavey did not implement minimum measures to protect his own sheep; instead, he used a taxpayer-funded “hired gun,” i.e., USDA Wildlife Services, to kill our wolves.
Grazing on public lands is a privilege, not a right. Why should Peavey sheep and his business interests be allowed to jeopardize, harass and kill public wildlife?
It’s important to note that Peavey’s sheep (and all other livestock on our public lands) are creating ecological damage to our property. His sheep pollute the water. Many studies have documented that sheep grazing can change vegetation, favoring some grazing-tolerant species at the cost of others sensitive to grazing pressure. Sheep also promote the spread of weeds and alien plants like cheat grass.
The presence of domestic sheep can transmit disease to wild bighorn sheep. This is the primary reason bighorn sheep are absent in many mountain ranges they once inhabited. Domestic sheep also trample and compact soil, reducing water infiltration.
The forage going into Peavey’s domestic animals is vegetation not supporting native herbivores and other wildlife.
Yet, businessmen like Peavey do not compensate the public for all these impacts. Instead, they get to graze their animals on public lands for a pittance, paying a paltry $1.41 per AUM (animal unit month) to feed five ewes and lambs.
I do not believe we should continue to subsidize private businesses on our public lands, but if we do continue to permit welfare ranchers to operate, then at the least, we should demand that if there’s any conflict, the domestic animals are removed, not our wildlife.
George Wuerthner, Livingston, Mont.