What Ranchers Think Of The ESA

Read the original article by National Public Radio at npr.org here.

NPR’s Scott Simon asks South Dakota rancher Bill Kluck what cattle and sheep producers would like to see in legislation to allow more local say in Endangered Species Act protections.


The Endangered Species Act has saved animals and plants, including the bald eagle, the grizzly bear and the black-footed ferret, since Congress passed that legislation in 1973. But some of those conservation efforts have come at a cost to ranchers and farmers. Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming has introduced a bill to include state involvement in the process, which some ranchers say has made it difficult for them to protect their herds of sheep and cattle. Bill Kluck joins us now. He’s the sheep committee chairman of R-CALF USA. And he’s been ranching for 35 years in South Dakota. Mr. Kluck, thanks for being with us.

BILL KLUCK: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: How in your judgment has this act infringed on your ranching?

KLUCK: One of the main things that the sheep people face is the predators. And coyotes, wolves will impact your herd and kill lambs and so forth. It’s kind of hard to imagine. But, at one point, I was trapping as many coyotes in a year as when I had sheep running on the land. And this is one of the things that this Barrasso bill seemed to address is the threshold level and not letting that level be like a mirage that you never really get there.

SIMON: I apologize in advance for my city kid naivete, but isn’t there something you can do to prevent the coyotes from getting to your – do I say flock or herd?

KLUCK: It’s difficult. You got to remember, you know, it takes 30 acres to run a cow on my place. And you just can’t be every place at once. So consequently, the cows have to kind of take care of themselves. And predators are very hard to offset in that instance.

SIMON: How would increased state involvement, which is called for in the Barrasso bill, improve things as far as you’re concerned?

KLUCK: As far as the endangered species, the state involvement – and I would go a little further to include the counties because every area is so much different. It takes different things and different plans to show a recovery and so forth. The other thing that we are encouraged about is the fact that once you establish a recovery number that the lawsuits can’t be filed if you shoot a wolf or whatever…

SIMON: You mean, if you set a number to consider, let’s say, wolves, for example, who are around, and they don’t need protection, you can’t prosecute somebody if they happen to shoot one.

KLUCK: Exactly. It’s just something that’s very hard for a rancher to fight. So…

SIMON: Hasn’t the Endangered Species Act done a lot of good?

KLUCK: You know, in some instances, it has. And, you know, most ranchers don’t want to see everything destroyed. You’ve got to understand also that a rancher is basically an endangered species. We’re not as numerous as we used to be. And I think that ought to concern everybody involved because everybody seems to like to eat pretty well. So I think that’s something that people want to remember.

SIMON: Bill Kluck, sheep committee chairman of our R-Calf USA – and he’s a rancher in South Dakota. Thanks so much for being with us, sir.

KLUCK: Thank you.

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