The last week…

We’re on the road again, this time towards the Colorado, where we’ll embark on a rafting trip on Wednesday morning. Everybody’s working on our second epiphanies, which we’ll read on the river. We’ll also be learning about the dam proposed at Echo Park in the 1950s, which would have flooded Dinosaur National Monument (so named because there are a lot of dinosaur bones in the area). Conservationists and the Sierra Club were successful in opposing the dam, but in exchange, they agreed to let the Glen Canyon Dam go through without trying to fight it. So now, we’re free to float down the Colorado and see the unspoiled beauty of Dinosaur, and Glen Canyon remains buried under Lake Mead.

We’ve spent the last week in northern Nevada and Idaho looking at grazing on public lands. Most of the public lands in the West are grazed by cattle or sheep. Ranchers generally have a base property where cattle spend the winter, and one or more allotments of BLM or Forest Service land where cattle spend some portion of the spring, summer and fall. Calves are born in the spring or early summer—the time varies depending on the ranch. They’re turned out to graze, brought back in for the winter and generally sold to a feedlot shortly after. At the feedlot, they’ll be fattened for about three months, then slaughtered. Cows heading to a feedlot weigh between 800 and 1000 pounds, and will weight up to 1300 when they leave the feedlot.

Our guests this week included Jon Marvel, the Executive Director of Western Watersheds (an organization which wants to end all grazing on public lands), Mike Stevens, who runs Lava Lake Lamb (a sheep grazing operation near Craters of the Moon, Idaho which sells all-natural and organic lamb to a largely urban market) and Robin and Steve Boies, ranchers who run the Hubbard Vineyard Ranch. I ate my first lamb steak, which was delicious, and learned a lot about the various sides of the grazing issue. I’m still having some trouble figuring out where I stand when you draw the lines in black and white, which some people like to do. But I have some ideas, which I’ll blog about later when I’m not so tired. Eleven hours in a car will do that to you.

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