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Range Watch is a project of Tulare County Audubon Society, operated by dedicated citizen advocates who represent concerned taxpayers and public land users. Surrounded by the grazed public lands of Sequoia National Forest, Range Watch is headquartered on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada in California. The group works to reduce the ecological and economic costs to the American public from commercial grazing in the country's national forests, national parks, national wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas, as well as the lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management. The group works nationally, regionally and locally. Range Watch is the only organization in this country that focuses solely on this issue. Since its formation in l992, Range Watch has developed into an effective, energetic, rural-based, grass roots organization.
The Range Watch Goals For l996
Common Sense Solutions: Range Watch seeks common sense solutions to the problems associated with the environmentally damaging, deficit spending program of commercial grazing on public lands. This controversial program costs the American taxpayer four dollars for every one dollar a rancher pays to the federal government. Good solutions require an understanding of the issues involved. Range Watch clarifies that the grazing of over 270 million acres of public lands is not the economic foundation of America's livestock industry, but benefits only about 4% of the country's livestock producers. Likewise, Range Watch believes that the American public needs to know that its not just desert sage brush habitat that is grazed but their high elevation wilderness areas, Giant Sequoia groves, mountain meadows, bird and game refuges, National Seashores, banks of favorite trout streams, campgrounds, and habitats for threatened species.
Through public education and direct action, Range Watch works to stop overgrazing of public lands, to allow livestock damaged land to rest so it can heal, and to eliminate livestock use on unsuitable public lands and habitats that are not capable of supporting commercial grazing. Range Watch is also a citizen watchdog group documenting the condition of our grazed public lands with broadcast quality video. The group shares its findings with the American public and media.
The Relationship Of Public Land Range Reform To Private Ranch Land: Range Watch recognizes the important open space, wildlife, biodiversity, and rural ambiance values that private livestock operators' lands provide throughout the West. Range Watch realizes its goals and strong advocacy role may cause financial hardships for some livestock operators leasing public lands. Therefore, Range Watch supports incentives for sustainable ranching, economic stability and diversification for livestock operators, as well as programs that preserve private agricultural lands and rural open space.
Working Together: Range Watch values a dialogue with livestock operators throughout the west, identifying areas of common interest and working together to meet common goals. Range Watch supports constructive, "community building" processes that move toward Range Watch objectives of eliminating grazing related degradation of public lands and reducing the costs to the public for this program. Range Watch also seeks out new approaches that can counteract past consensus processes that compromised the principles of participants, compromised the health of public lands or result in "watered down solutions" and safe political decisions which lead to "lowest common denominator" management of the public's commercially grazed natural resources.
Range Watch seeks management of grazed public lands that is more ecosystem based, where man and his livelihood are just one of many equal factors in making management decisions for our grazed public land. Range Watch is working to have our elected officials and federal land managers make the tough grazing decisions facing them based on the latest peer reviewed science that addresses what is best for the public's natural resources in the long run, not based as they are now on politics. The government must also begin to consider what is fiscally fair to the American taxpayer. Range Watch also seeks to have federal agencies consider local issues, but remember they are managing these lands in trust for the benefit of future generations of all Americans.
During 1996, Range Watch ...
Worked on projects with governmental agencies: US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Environmental Protection Agency, State of California Water Resources Board, State of California Trust For Historic Preservation, California Department of Fish and Game, and the University of California.
Worked on projects with national environmental organizations: The Wilderness Society, The National Wildlife Federation, National Parks and Conservation Association, Defenders of Wildlife and their Grassroots Effectiveness Network, Friends of the Earth, and the Sierra Club.
Worked on projects with state, regional and local grassroots organizations: California Ancient Forest Alliance, California Trout, California Native Plant Society, California Mule Deer Association, Pacific Rivers Council, High Sierra Hikers, Save Our Streams, Golden Trout Fund, Tule River Conservancy, Sequoia Alliance, Tulare County Audubon Society, Ridgecrest Audubon Society, Kern Keweah and Lompoc Chapter of the Sierra Club, and the Environmental Defense Center.
Conducted Nationwide Public Education Efforts: Range Watch reached hundreds of people on the World Wide Web by joining forces with Friends of The Earth to create a full color web page. It addresses the devastating impact of commercial grazing on public lands, focusing on areas surrounding the Range Watch headquarters in Sequoia National Forest. You can find it at at http://www.foe.org/rangewatch/rwindex.html.
Range Watch collaborated with Defenders of Wildlife to provide an educational video to their Eastern, Southern, and Mid-Western Defenders of Wildlife volunteers working to defeat bad grazing legislation proposed by the 104th Congress. Range Watch developed a documentary video, "Backward Progress", that addressed the flaws with the last proposed legislation, showing graphic examples of the type of livestock impacts it would perpetuate. The video helped to educate these volunteers, who had no first hand experience with livestock damage, giving them a better understanding of grazing related problems. This video was simultaneously made available to these activists' legislators in Washington DC through The Wilderness Society. The video provided volunteers with a final incentive to contact their legislators prior to the legislation being dropped in the closing moments of the 104th Congress.
Provided Comments On Public Processes: Range Watch submitted comments on BLM Grazing Standards and Guidelines for California. Comments were also provided to the BLM and the Forest Service on the Southern Sierra Wilderness Plan, and a documentary was begun on Short Canyon, an area of special ecological concern found within the wilderness study area. A major Range Watch effort culminated in early l996, with the submission of extensive comments on the grazing management section of the Sequoia National Forest's White River Analysis Area DEIS document. A 50-minute documentary depicting Range Watch's White River Area concerns was produced and submitted with written comments. To encourage others to comment on the project, twenty copies of this video were sent to scientists and environmental advocates as well as agency staff. Comments were also written on the Salvage Rider Appeal and the Sequoia National Forest Trail Plan.
Early spring of l996 was busy with preparation of detailed and comprehensive comments on Sequoia National Forest's Land Management Plan Amendment For Grazing. Range Watch also spent considerable effort in encouraging others to comment on the plan as well, working with the California Wilderness Coalition on an article for their publication, sending out dozens of information packets to possible commentators, and in preparing seven in-depth information packages for selected hydrologists, so that they might provide needed comment on this weak area of the plan.
Highlighted Grazing Problems In Channel Island National Park: Range Watch found the livestock grazing damage on Santa Rosa Island to be some of the worst it has documented. In Santa Barbara, Range Watch was involved in numerous public hearings, collaborative planning meetings for influencing the Management Plan for the island, and in researching the issue. A "Video Memo" about Range Watch's concerns was hand delivered to Bruce Babbitt's office in Washington DC. A twenty minute documentary film for the National Parks Conservation Association was used in association with their lawsuit against the National Park and used by the Environmental Defense Center and circulated among environmental advocates and federal agency staff involved with this issue.
Continued Education Of Elected Officials And Their Staffs: Range Watch produced a fast-paced, seven- minute overview of ecosystem damage caused by commercial grazing on public lands, entitled "Livestock Liabilities". With transportation funded by Defenders of Wildlife, Director Baxter traveled to Washington DC with her video production, VCR, and television, to participate in The Wilderness Society's "Range Reform" lobby week activities. Later in that visit she met with additional legislators, staffers, and key committee staff to discuss management of commercial grazing on public lands. Viewers of the video said that this was the first time they could put images with this issue and that Range Watch's presentation painted a very different picture of the issue than that presented by western Congressional staff ,that are pro-livestock industry.
During October, Range Watch's video entitled "Backwards Progress", described as the video Newt Gingrich does not want you to see, was shown in Washington, DC to congressional staff.
Worked With The National Media: While in Washington DC, Range Watch Director Baxter obtained interviews with both The New York Times and USA Today, showing them the video she was circulating in Congress. Twice during the year, Range Watch provided unnarrated "B Roll" footage to major television stations for their use. The video "Backwards Progress" was sent to Good Morning America, The Today Show, Night Line, 20/20, and other major network programs.
Participated in large scale planning processes: The Sierra Nevada Campaign, a new effort to protect the natural resources of the Sierra Nevada, involved over 20 organizations. In the fall of l996, Range Watch culminated two years of effort with this project, representing range reform perspectives in the planning of the campaign. Range Watch reviewed numerous draft documents, attended planning meetings throughout the state, participated in the Spring l996 weekend workshop, and then commented on the final campaign document and the grant to the PEW Foundation.
Range Watch also participated in a unique regional planning effort, "The Sierra Summit" sponsored by the Conservation Circuit Riders, held at Lake Tahoe. This three day process, involving a variety of stake holders, used interest based negotiation skills to identify problems facing the area and methods to address them.
Worked With The Sierra Nevada Alliance: Range Watch, a founding member of this coalition of grass roots organizations, was again represented on the Alliance's Board of Directors. Director Baxter was one of the speakers at their Annual Conference, held at June Lake and attended by over 100 activists throughout California and Nevada. Range Watch also provided sound systems and an audio and video record of all the conference speakers and training programs. Baxter proposed the development of an Alliance effort (now underway), to address the important issue of preservation of private ranch lands and their open space, wildlife, biodiversity and rural ambiance values.
Attended Training Sessions And Made Training Videos: Range Watch attended Patagonia's l996 Activist Training Workshop, which provided sessions in marketing a non-profit, getting the message out, creative fundraising, grant writing and strategy building. Range Watch participated in an Interest Based Negotiations Skill Workshop sponsored by Conservation Circuit Riders. Range Watch helped publicize and document the l996 California Grazing Reform Alliance Spring Training Program which provided background in grazing and plant interaction, amphibian interaction with cattle, and creative range management approaches. The Sierra Nevada Alliance l996 Conference provided a training session on Consensus Processes which was videoed. In l996, Range Watch edited a training tape and in-field interview on braided meadow ecosystems with hydrologist Tom Hagberg. Range Watch also provided videos for training of Forest Service wilderness rangers. For a small donation which covers Range Watch's tape duplication and mailing costs video tapes were also made available, to environmental groups and interested individuals.
Showed Livestock Impacts To The US Forest Service Regional Director: Working with other national and regional environmental groups, Range Watch helped coordinate a two-day visit to Sequoia National Forest by Lynn Sprague, Region 5 Regional Forester. Range Watch led an afternoon tour of grazing impacts to low elevation ecosystems and took the Regional Forester to areas that the Forest Service would never show him. A follow up letter, by the "wise use" group "People For The West", printed in the local press, said there had been a meeting "of elitists who are going to lock up the eastern one-half of Tulare County to where none of us will be allowed off the paved roads. This is a serious plot to subvert our rights....."
Coordinated University Of California Extension Service Meeting: Range Watch organized a meeting of groups working for range reform and dean level UC officials, to discuss perceived UC Extension Service livestock industry bias, use of one-sided science, lack of ecosystem management, and taxpayer subsidy of a strong influence on public planning process in favor of the livestock industry.
Began Work On Improving Forest Service Clean Water Act Enforcement Efforts: Range Watch wrote and circulated an analysis of the Forest Service agreement with the State of California for enforcement of the federal Clean Water Act, identifying enforcement loopholes related to commercial grazing and the use of inadequate "Best Management Practices" as its only monitoring and compliance vehicle. This listing of concerns has been submitted to the EPA, for their analysis and possible action.
Assisted In Scientific Research: Range Watch wrapped up two years of involvement with the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project as an appointed "key contact", providing range related public input to this major $7,000,000 scientific study project. Range Watch also was asked to participate in a University of California study of "Grazing Management In Meadows" providing written comments and attending field trips. Director Baxter also had contact with the Forest Service Regional Ecology Team, as they surveyed the area surrounding Range Watch's headquarters, and later provided video documentation of an unidentified riparian plant in its seed stage to aid the team in identifying this plant that has exceptionally good stream bank holding capabilities. The team was also provided footage showing the December flood waters where the plant was located. and how effective specific plant species were at holding newly formed stream banks. Range Watch was also asked to comment on a scientific paper in draft stage.
Produced Numerous Video Documentaries: Range Watch distributed over 200 copies of free or at cost video tapes to a wide variety of agencies, organizations and individuals. "Santa Rosa Island: Island In Conflict" "Livestock Liabilities", "Backward Progress", and "The White River Analysis Area" were all major video productions completed and distributed in 1996. In addition, over 15 hours of training sessions were videoed and various short "Video Memo" productions were also developed. One thank you video memo, sent to the Irvine Foundation after attending one of their sponsored training workshops, hit such a note that they planned to show it to their Board of Directors.
Added Video Footage To The Range Watch "Video Library": Unique, year-long time lapse studies were done on both grazed and ungrazed stream stretches, showing seasonal vegetation changes and winter high water events. Range Watch also captured difficult-to-obtain footage of livestock damage actually taking place to high elevation riparian systems. The first Range Watch aerial footage was shot in l996, clearly showing livestock related erosion from 1,000 feet in the air. New examples of ungrazed steep canyon refugia, or natural exclosures, were discovered and documented on heavily impacted grazed streams.
Managed Technical Improvements Of Video Work: Range Watch volunteers continued to research new video technology and equipment. After considerable thought in 1996, Range Watch purchased and started to shoot with a new Sony 700 Digital Camera, paid for by funds from the Turner Foundation. The learning curve was worthwhile, as the new camera and tape format immediately added to the quality of Range Watch video products. Range Watch also started a study of new non-linear (computer) editing systems, which will dramatically cut Range Watch video editing time. This equipment will allow Range Watch to do post-edit corrections to improve production quality. l996 saw Range Watch purchase and use a 5 inch color monitor in the field to accurately check the lighting and video quality being shot as well as review footage in the field. A dedicated office electrical line for video equipment was installed.
Kept Range Watch On The Road. Even though in l996 Range Watch traveled by boat and plane to document public lands, its 19 year old 4-wheel drive traveling headquarters and video production facility was indispensable.
Participated In Collaborative Community Building Processes: Range Watch met with ranchers, Inyo National Forest staff and environmental groups with the common goal of preventing further decline of the Volcano Creek Golden Trout. Ranchers were interested in keeping the fish from being listed as an endangered species thus avoiding grazing restrictions. Cal Trout, convened this effort at a two day Monanche Meadow meeting of more than twenty participants filmed by Range Watch. Range Watch was also included in a planning process for a l997 livestock producer-environmentalists collaborative effort centered around the Sequoia National Forest's Grazing Management Plan Amendment.
Worked With Native American Groups: After consultation with the California Basket Weavers Association and , Honor Our Neighbors Origins and Religions, a national organization of Native American groups. Range Watch commented on the Forest Service agreement with the State of California for the enforcement of the Historic Preservation Act. Range Watch asked for listing of traditional Native American gathering sites as Historical Significant areas. These sources of basketry materials, herbs and medicines are frequently found in riparian areas which can be heavily impacted by livestock grazing on public lands.
Range Watch filmed cultural sites in Channel Island National Park on Santa Rosa Island impacted by commercial livestock grazing and is working to raise public awareness about the need to protect these nearly 1,000 Chumash Cultural Sites from further livestock impacts.
Received Recognition and Awards: California's Planning and Conservation League (when Bruce Babbitt and Senator Feinstein were unavailable to speak) asked Director Baxter to be their Annual Conference Dinner speaker. The Sacramento conference topic was "You Can Make A Difference". In December, Baxter was interviewed for an article in California Flyfisher on the same topic. Range Watch was also featured in an in-depth article in Heron Dance, an East Coast publication that "celebrates the good in this world and unselfish work done in pursuit of high ideals". In addition, Range Watch received the Chairman's Award from the Kern-Kaweah Chapter of the Sierra Club. Both Heron Dance and a charitable foundation honored director Baxter's literary efforts by asking to include some of her "Cow Pie Poetry" haiku verses in their publication. These poems, submitted to congressional leaders in late l995, told the story of the need for range reform in a personal and compelling way.
Experienced living in a damaged watershed: l996 went out, not with a bang, but a flood. Just before Thanksgiving, on one very wet, hair-raising afternoon of sand bagging, the first high water passed by Range Watch's streamside headquarters. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas a "hundred year storm event" took place and six cords of very wet wood in the form of large logs, plus debris, had been delivered to the Range Watch doorstep, courtesy of Mother Nature. By the next storm, it had been cut, split and stacked to dry for next year's fires. During this unplanned hiatus in Range Watch activity, considerable thought was again given to the value of not continuing the overgrazing this watershed and implement better grazing practices upstream. Exhausted on New Year's Eve, the Range Watch crew quietly rang in 1997, unaware that the worst flood waters of the season were just two days away.
Developed New Strategies: In l996 Range Watch began to develop unique concepts on: economics of grazing on public lands, grazing impacts on wilderness values, grazing impacts on the oaks of California, and enforcement of the Clean Water Act by California's National Forests. Draft "White Papers" on these topics were written, providing a basis for further developments in l997.
It's the group effort that
Jane Baxter, Posey, California: full time efforts as Range Watch director.
Rick Vinnedge, Posey, California: camera work, video editing, equipment maintenance, truck mechanical work, and truck electrical systems installation.
Dan Heinz, Reno Nevada, Rose Strickland, Reno Nevada, Dano MgGinn; Lincoln, California, Fran Hunt, Washington, DC, Cathy Carlson, Boulder Colorado, Jim Jonz, Washington DC, Johanna Wald, San Francisco, California, and Brett Matzke, Camp Nelson, California : for help with strategic range reform planning and collaboration.
Katherine Evatt, Volcano, California: midnight computer trouble shooting.
Anonymous, Bakersfield, California: fundraising and non-profit management advice.
Dr. Elizabeth Painter, Santa Barbara, California: provided a comprehensive range science bibliography, much technical advice, proof reading and editing.
Gawain Kripke, Washington, DC: coordinated Range Watch presentation on Friend Of The Earth web page.
Anonymous, Posey, California: proof reading and accounting advice.
Laurel Ames, South Lake Tahoe, California, Laura Radford, San Diego, California, Robin Woollomes, Bakersfield, California: editing and proof reading.
Rod MacIver, Burlington Vermont: fundraising linkages, and highlighted Range Watch in Heron Dance publication.
Tom Martens, Sacramento. California: provided valuable publicity for Range Watch.
Barbara Wilson, Posey, California: watched the Range Watch headquarters when Range Watch was on the road.
Scott Kruz, Fresno, California: setting up the hard drive on the Mac Intosh notebook.
Dr. Lee Neuenschwander Santa Barbara, California: provided a hair raising boat trip to film on Channel Islands National Park.
Dr. Walley Marsh Lompoc, California: provided a plane trip to do aerial video work of Channel Islands National Park.
Janet Cobb, Oakland, California: Provided valuable fundraising advise and networking resources.
Juan Espinosa, of Guadalajara Mexico, Todd Dwyer of Fairbanks, Alaska, and Marty Epstine of Posey California: helped sand-bag Range Watch headquarters on a very wet afternoon and evening.
Al Fritz, Long Beach, California: legal advice
Greg and Dobbie Heimer, Los Angeles, California: critique of video production, narration, and camera work.
Lynn Sherman and Bill Paxton, Santa Barbara, California: provided housing in Santa Barbara for work on the Channel Island National Park project.
Joan Booth, San Francisco, California: provided housing for Bay Area meetings.
Craig Thomas and Maggie Gunn, Georgetown, California: provided housing in Sacramento .
Red Gentry at Jim Burke Ford, Bakersfield, California: advice on truck repair
Rip Martin, Denver, Colorado and Dan Farris, Bakersfield California and Anonymous, Posey, California, for consulting on truck repairs.
Larry Medearis, Bakersfield, California: truck electrical systems advice.
Robin Heilbron, Bakersfield, California: camper repair advice
Anonymous, Posey, California: engineering advice on truck and camper modifications and welding.
Jack Bender, Brentwood, California: invited Range Watch video editor Rick Vinnedge to sit in on professional, studio editing session.
Dasie Palmer, Visalia, California: for the extra Audubon Society bookkeeping for Range Watch.
Note: Some volunteers, although enthusiastic supporters of Range Watch, live in "cattle country" and, to be comfortable, preferred to remain anonymous.
Range Watch Finances
Its the thought that counts too! Generous support from individuals, foundations, organizations and businesses included cash donations of a few dollars, major grants, and in-kind donations of a professional tripod from Velbon Corporation and backpack system from Eagle Creek. They all kept Range Watch moving toward its goals of range reform. In l996 charitable foundations provided the financial backbone for Range Watch's economic stability. Range Watch received its second grant from The Ben And Jerry's Foundation. This contribution was for $7,000. Perhaps this foundation, funded by a company who's early success depended on if their old delivery truck ran or not has great kinship for Range Watch's struggle to keep its twenty year old truck on the road! Patagonia also continued its support of Range Watch, with a grant of $5,000. New in l996 as a funder, was the Turner Foundation with a gift of $10,000. The $22,000 total foundation grant income, was greatly appreciated
Contributions not only paid the bills, but provided a sense of support that goes way beyond their dollar value. When both the bank account and Range Watch volunteers were at a low point, after an exhausting push on a project, an envelope arrived with a familiar address in Juneau Alaska.. It contained a $200 check. l996 was the second year a gift had come from an anonymous Alaska couple who had just read about Range Watch in Outside Magazine.
Range Watch can also count on at least one lift in morale a month, as a $10 check comes from Concord New Hampshire like clockwork. The first check came with a note that said the donor had read about Range Watch in Heron Dance and would like to help, but could only make a modest contribution each month. This donor has no idea how big a contribution he is making through his commitment to help Range Watch do its work. Throughout the year our spirits soared, with the bank account, to realize that people across this great country really do care about healthier grazed public lands.
Donation of goods and services were important for this group with a shoestring budget. One of many such donation was from Center Glass Company in Bakersfield, whose owner refused payment when he stayed after closing, in 100 degree temperatures, hand cutting round glass "lenses" for a camera "raincoat".
Range Watch met with much success in l996. Among their accomplishments are: increased national exposure of commercial grazing on public lands; broadened the network of groups it collaborates with; continued its public education program; pushed land managers to better manage commercially grazed public lands; effectively used video resources; helped train and recruit new range activists across the country; was part of a successful effort to stop bad federal legislation; worked to preserve private ranch land from development.
1997 will see Range Watch completing its many works in progress and tackling exciting new projects, as Range Watch "rides the western range" pursuing its mission.
What's Being Said By Those We Serve...
Concerned taxpayers: "Range Watch really opened my eyes to the public costs of this grazing program. I see that big costs of this program are hidden in the cost of watershed restoration, endangered species programs, and losses from diminished hunting and fishing." Bob Brown, San Clemente, CA
Public Land Users: "Hurrah for Range Watch! Finally someone is working to reduce the conflicts with commercial grazing and public lands recreation. My family had a most frustrating vacation camping with cows in a Forest Service campground." Robin Heilbron, Bakersfield, California
Environmental Groups: "Range Watch's video efforts helped stop bad legislation in the l04th Congress and train activists outside the west. Their nation-wide voice for change is important." Fran Hunt of The Wilderness Society
Hunters: "Range Watch is doing important work in habitat preservation for game species." Dano MgGinn Director, The California Mule Deer Association.
Anglers: "They have been a real ally in our collaborative efforts with ranchers and environmental groups." Brett Matzke, California Trout
Elected Officials: "It's essential for decision makers to have ample information on an issue, provided from all sides. At last Range Watch is providing a welcome and appreciated balance of information for elected officials on commercial grazing on public lands. I find their accurate and informative input, on a very serious issue, effectively combined with Director Baxter's use of humor and her passion." Andrea Lawrence, Mono County Supervisor, CA and President of the Sierra Nevada Alliance
Please consider "riding the range" with Range Watch during l997. Tax deductible contributions to Range Watch can be made to: Tulare County Audubon Society: Range Watch project, and mailed to: RR1, Box 450, Posey, CA. 93260.