Busch Ranch in Owens Valley

I would like to take issue with your March 3 story about Anheuser-Busch ranching practices in the Owens Valley. The article focuses on size, and gives short shrift to the quality of our operations. We have cooperated over the years with the U.S. Forest Service and California Department of Fish and Game to protect the land. Here are some examples that could have been included in the story, but were not:

* We've developed a rotating grazing plan that reduces the impact on the land. This was achieved by significantly increasing the grazing area--meaning fewer cows per acre.

* We carefully monitor the conditions in the meadows and move the cattle at the appropriate time to allow recovery. For example, our cattle were in Ramshaw Meadow only five days last year. Last summer we hired a range conservationist to watch our cattle movements and make recommendations. We followed those recommendations immediately.

* We maintain more than 20 miles of fencing--some of it installed at our expense in cooperation with the Forest Service--to protect streams in sensitive areas and plants, including the Abronia alpina. The total population of the Abronia is fenced.

* A soon-to-be-published study by the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory at the University of California estimates the golden trout population at the Ramshaw Meadow--on our grazing land--as more than 7,700 fish per mile. That is the same density as the article cited for 20 years ago, suggesting there is no decline.

* Because bass and other fish in nearby streams fed on the endangered tui chub, we cooperated with the California Department of Fish and Game to protect the fish. We provided ponds on our ranch for the department to move the endangered fish, which are thriving in these ponds.

Before last year's grazing season, we took a Forest Service official onto the Ramshaw Meadow, which had a fence to control cattle movement. He was unable to tell on which side of the fence the cattle had grazed the previous season.

We will continue to work with the U.S. Forest Service and other appropriate parties to best manage the lands on which our cattle graze. We are always striving to improve our operations.

JOHN C. MARTZ JR.

Vice Pres., Corporate Real Estate

Busch Properties

St. Louis

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