Message From the Flying M

Message From the Flying M

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Recreation on the Ranches

Recreation: exploring the “Great Outdoors;” connecting to the earth; hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, Sunday drives, and much more . . . all of these activities happen on the Diablo Trust.

I am a believer in recreation on public land, but I think we may have reached the point that we need to look at a better way to manage it and keep it from becoming a destructive activity.

More than just a map, signs, and an ad campaign, we need boots on the ground. It may seem like a person’s journey into the woods is not a big disturbance after being in the hustle and bustle of the urban areas, but if you live in the country, a large weekend, like Memorial Day, is unbelievable.

The Good

I feel that humans need that connection to the dirt, earth, and nature. Family time, alone time, even quality dog time, can bring your spirits up!

We see those types of activities all the time out here.

Big family camps with baseball, football, kids playing, families reconnecting, food cooking on an open fire and everybody going home smelling like wood smoke. It’s a good time had by all, a huge camp that leaves behind nothing but memories and trampled grass.

The lone hiker out looking for sheds, birds, or just solace. All you see is a car parked somewhere, and then it’s gone.

Big hunting camps where folks come in, spend their time hunting, and then again all you see is a patch of mashed grass.

We all enjoy sharing those experiences with these folks when we visit with them. All this is good and something essential – we need to use our resources.

The Bad

Some of the bad is just from people not knowing their impact on the country side. Some of the things that get to me are if the ground is bare, folks think that driving there is OK, or when they camp or park right next to a gate because there’s no livestock nearby when they arrive.

This might be a hanging offense in the “New West!” Some cattle, particularly little calves, will not go close to a vehicle, and it can be really hard to get them through the gate with the herd when there’s a car nearby.

Another offense is, “we can leave the gate open because I don’t see any cattle and we will be right back.”

Or camping somewhere and instead of backing up to the camp, there is a tendency to create a “circle drive” at their camp. This leads to a lot of torn up ground at the campsites.

Most of this we could remedy with better education. We try to talk to most of the people that we interact with. (Instead of just going screaming at them . . . unless it’s been one of those days!) The livestock industry could do a better job in just helping people understand our concerns out on the land.


Most everyone is familiar with ugly campsites, litter on the roads, and generally rude people, but some of these things are particularly bad as far as a livestock operation is concerned.

There are the people who drive on dirt roads at 50 mph and don’t care what or who else might be on the road. Not giving way to the “burdened vessel” (in seafaring terms), like a loaded stock trailer, water truck, or even cattle walking up the road.

If you came out to enjoy nature, slow down or you are going to miss it!

I was once told by USFS that the speed limit on our roads is 25mph. Now I admit I don’t always go 25mph on the good roads, but if there is a curve, a person, or animals up ahead, I slow down.

I know that opening and closing gates on ranch roads is no fun, for visitors or cowboys. We try to have as many gates open as we can, but there are times that we can’t have the cattle mix because of an open gate.

One big time is after vaccinations. Some of the vaccines we give our young calves to prevent diseases can cause abortion in their mothers if they nurse afterwards. At 7 months the calves are weaned and are separated from their mother (you know, like college). If the calves are allowed to mix back in with their mothers’ herds, which has happened, it can be a big loss to the ranch.

They also now need to go back to a corral and be separated all over again - costing us time and energy. We leave more gates closed during busy times than we might need, just as a precaution so maybe there are two gates between cattle herds. Our form of insurance.

I know that some people would like to come out and enjoy the outdoors without seeing livestock, and I understand the whole argument. I, too, would like to go into town and have everybody stay home so the stores I have to go to are empty but . . .

We do pay for our use of the land and do other beneficial things out in the countryside, like supply most of the water for both livestock and wildlife, in the form of stock tanks, wells, and pipelines. This is our home. We live out here and would like people to see the beauty that we see every day.

We need to find a way we can all play in the sandbox together and enjoy our open spaces.