The West is on fire and the rest of the nation doesn’t seem to care. The outspoken environmental activists who have stopped logging, grazing and any other reasonable land management practice they can think of in the name of saving the environment have caused irreparable harm to hundreds of thousands of acres of land – thousands of animals dead (both wild and domestic), people killed, homes lost and family businesses financially devastated. PETA is of course a no-show when it comes to actually saving animals from a catastrophic death due to fire or flood, depending on where in the nation you live.

Whitehurst billy
PAS / Makale Livestock LLC

Groups such as the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Western Watersheds and the like seem to think the burning is better for the environment than our management, or at least until it’s their kids that can’t run cross country or play football, or even go out of the house on days when the smoke is bad enough to choke out the sun.

Personally, I think it’s high time the legislators, governors and residents of the American West stand up and hold judges, environmental groups and land agencies accountable for violations to the Clean Air Act, manslaughter for the firefighters killed and the people that didn’t make it out of harm’s way, and cruelty to animals for those burned up in the fires, as well as destruction of private and governmental property. In all reality, they should be held accountable for what they have done to our Western states.

Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a politician left that actually has the backbone to stand up and fight these groups, at least we haven’t seen one yet. So what do we do? What we have always done, take care of each other. We don’t expect to be rescued, unlike some who get hit with disasters. We take it head on and stand with each other.

For anyone who doesn’t realize what a remarkable brotherhood we have in the cattle industry, take a look at how folks from all over the nation shipped hay and supplies to Kansas and Oklahoma when they were on fire; now I see trucks coming to Montana from those same areas bringing hay into the folks who have suffered from the 800,000 (and climbing) estimated acres burned in my state. Ranchers from within Montana have sent hay and supplies back and forth to each other all summer trying to lend a hand wherever needed. We’ve got folks in the South risking life and limb to get cattle out of the water in Texas.


When trouble comes to cow country, we band together like no other industry in the world does. We feed each other, take in livestock, help each other rebuild fences and rise out of the ashes stronger than before. Sure, it hurts when it happens, but we survive and go on to thrive. It’s who we are. We don’t quit and we don’t let our friends and neighbors fall even if it means giving up some of our own needs. We know they’d do it for us if the tables were turned.

Like all things, this too shall pass. This will be a summer that we will all remember. We are in pain right now from the heat, the burning, the flooding and the loss, but we’re gonna get up in the morning, sweep the ashes off the front doorstep, say a prayer for rain (well maybe not in Texas) and carry on. That’s who we are and it’s what we do. I am proud to be a part of this great industry. It’s easy to forget how very fortunate we are in tough times, but it’s the tough times that make us stronger if we choose to let them.

Our perspective determines if we bloom or perish in adversity. So keep moving forward; we’ll be breast-collar deep in snowdrifts before we know it, and this long, hot, fiery summer will be just another notch on our belt.  end mark

Billy Whitehurst

PHOTO: The sun trying to poke through the smoke at Makale Livestock, Whitehall, Montana. Photo by Billy Whitehurst.