Mr. Kurtz brings to my attention commentary on another good bill Thune and the Republicans are holding hostage for the sake of more tax cuts for the wealthiest 1%. Well-traveled George Wuerthner at New West observes that S. 3310, the Tony Dean Cheyenne River Valley Conservation Act, would preserve our swiftly dwindling native prairie. Wuerthner also finds it ironic that a bill bearing Tony Dean's name would (contrary to Kristi Noem's willfull ignorance) protect existing grazing rights:
America has very little of its native prairie in any protected status. Most of the plains have been carved up by till farming, and the rest is grazed by livestock. Tony Dean Cheyenne River Valley Conservation Act would correct this by designating 48,000 acres as wilderness in the Indian Creek, Red Shirt and Chalk Hills areas of the Buffalo Gap National Grassland on the borders of Badlands NP. Walking these vast open breathing spaces reminds me of being on the vastness of tundra in Alaska. It's a sense of freedom that is more difficult to experience in more forested terrain. As with any designated wilderness, livestock grazing will continue. This is particularly ironic since Tony Dean, who was an outdoor writer in South Dakota, railed against welfare ranchers and their impact on the state for decades. However language could be inserted into the legislation to permit buyouts of grazing privileges so that eventually bison, not cattle, will be grazing these lands [George Wuerthner, "Omnibus Wilderness Bill Likely," New West, 2010.11.29].
Welfare ranchers? Did Tony Dean say that?
Well, he let Sam Hurst say it on his website, and in reference to this very land:
Welfare Ranchers on Public Lands," Tony Dean Outdoors, 2006]
Dean himself called the no-bid grazing leases on public lands "welfare ranching" in this article. Neither Hurst nor Dean was advocating eco-socialism. They argue for ending subsidies and letting the free market rule.
The Tony Dean Cheyenne River Valley Conservation Act would create a unique national grasslands wilderness. It's a good idea. So is ending the market-skewing, deficit-widening subsidy to a handful of ranchers who plea for socialism. Why don't John Thune and Kristi Noem get that?