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Guest opinion: No welfare — ranch families are backbone of economy

Katie Day
Katie Day with husband Carl and children Cade, 5, and Tate, 1.
Staff Photo |

I am writing in response to Gary Wockner’s guest opinion titled “Oppose welfare ranching, not wolves, in Colorado.”

I refuse to stoop to Mr. Wockner’s level of name-calling and character assaults. I will, however, speak out in defense of the agriculture-ranching industry.

Mr. Wockner states “they pay almost nothing to send hundreds of thousands of head of livestock across our public lands, sometimes obliterating the natural landscape as the livestock devour native grasses, pound the soil into dust, and wallow in and destroy streams and rivers.”

This is a completely false statement and horrendously insulting to the agricultural community. I am a third-generation, native Colorado rancher, so I will speak from that standpoint. We as livestock owners and holders of U.S. Forest Service and BLM grazing permits are required to also be landowners.

On that privately owned land we pay property taxes. These property tax dollars fund many positive things for our communities such as schools, road maintenance, parks, libraries, public safety and others. We also, just like everyone else, pay income, sales and use taxes.

The public lands referenced by Mr. Wockner are multiuse. That means that the use of national forest land is divided among five major uses: timber, range, water, recreation and wildlife. No single use is more important that any of the others. Recreationalists pay no fees, only the applicable taxes for their personal situations.

Yet, we as livestock owners are one of the only users of the national forests required to pay permit fees and associated costs. We are also constantly monitored by the U.S. Forest Service and BLM. If we are not good stewards of the land and destroy our parcel of allotted grazing permit, we will lose our right to hold the permit. We are required and monitored to keep our allotments to U.S. Forest Service standards.

As part of our desire to constantly improve our permits, we also build and maintain ponds and watering locations. After the required environmental and archaeological studies, ponds are constructed that also provide additional water locations that benefit wildlife as well as our livestock and the rangeland. These watering locations spread all populations, domestic or wild, out on the rangeland minimizing impact.

As business owners and stewards of the land, we are not going to destroy or abuse the land on which we depend for our successful operations. Obviously we have been doing a good job, because most livestock operations have been around for multiple generations.

Our agriculture operations are much more to us than just a job: they are a way of life and a legacy. The forest and wildlife management systems in place are working to everyone’s benefit. The system rewards those who act appropriately with continued use of the land and punishes those who abuse the right by loss of use.

Why on Earth has Mr. Wockner chosen to target and defame the agriculture industry when wolves are the current issue?

The Colorado agricultural/ranching families are not welfare recipients. According to the Colorado Department of Agriculture; “Colorado’s livestock industry represents the backbone of the state’s $16 billion agriculture industry.” Obviously, agriculture is vital to the Colorado economy and the continued health of public forest lands.

Katie Day and husband Carl ranch in the Silt/New Castle area.


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