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Posted Fri Oct 10 2008: from New West:
Guzzling the West's Water
What is particularly ironic about livestock-caused stream dewatering is that it usually makes little economic sense. In much of the West, the value of leaving water in the river to sustain native fisheries or to provide for water-based recreation is often vastly greater than that of the beef produced with the same amount of water. Leaving water in the river to support fishing may ultimately be far more beneficial to local economies than using it for irrigation. Yet we regularly sacrifice the fish to produce beef -- a commodity that is already produced more economically and with less environmental impact in other, naturally wetter, parts of the country. In biology, it can be useful to categorize causative factors as either proximate or ultimate. In the arid West, livestock production is often the ultimate cause of species endangerment, though other factors, often more readily recognized, may be proximate causes. Thus, many dams in the West are proving to be ecological disasters, yet the dams themselves are only proximate causes of deteriorating aquatic ecosystems. Many dams would not have been built but for the demand for water storage for irrigation.
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But dryland ranchin' is part The American Way of Life. Heck, it's a symbol for Marlboros. How can we endanger that?

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