Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Goatwalking: A Guide to Wildland Living

I bought Jim Corbett's book, Goatwalking when it was first published in 1992.  What fascinated me about it was Corbett's contention that you can survive in the desert by walking around with two female goats and drinking their milk.  I have never tried that myself.  It seemed both too easy and at the same time too difficult.  Maybe if I had taken a goatwalking course with him when he was still alive, I could have learned enough about goatwalking to try it on my own.  But I never did.  Still, the possibility exists.

Goatwalking is a form of pastoral nomadism or could be. Who knows.  Corbett did it.  He goatwalked. So it must be possible, perhaps even legal in certain places.  The difficulty with any kind of nomadic existence these days are finding places where you can legally live off the land.
You can generally stay in one place in a national forest for up to ten days before you have to move on.  That would not be difficult with two goats. One person with two goats in the desert could probably roam around BLM (Bureau of Land Management) or National Forest land without applying for permits and paying rent to the government.  But a group of people with two goats per person would probably be a little harder to keep invisible.
In any case, you can legally graze goats on government land for the meager fee of $2.11 per AUM in 2016.  An  AUM is the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month. So a family of two adults and maybe a child could pay the government $2.11 per month rent to roam around the desert with 5 goats.  
The only catch is that in order to get a grazing permit, you need to have a base property which the BLM explains as follows:

Any U.S. citizen or validly licensed business can apply for a BLM grazing permit or lease. To do so, one must either:
  • buy or control private property (known as “base property”) that has been legally recognized by the Bureau as having preference for the use of public land grazing privileges,
  • or acquire property that has the capability to serve as base property and then apply to the BLM to transfer the preference for grazing privileges from an existing base property to the acquired property (which would become the new “base property”).
The first alternative happens when base property (a private ranch) is sold or leased to a new individual or business; the buyer or lessee then applies to the BLM for the use of grazing privileges associated with that property.  The second alternative would happen when a rancher wants to transfer existing public land grazing privileges to another party while keeping the private ranch property. 

The catch, it appears is that to be a nomad, you first have to acquire private property. Or you walk your goats without a permit in violation of the law.  More details here: 

Back to the Corbett book.  Besides writing about the practical aspects of living with goats, Corbett also spends a good deal of time, I would say two thirds of the book musing on biblical precedents for pastoral nomadism and the refuge movement that he was involved in. While these topics don't seem particularly relevant to goat walking, they do touch on general issues of the ability of people to move about the world freely.  
The book is available from Amazon. Used copies sell for as little as $0.88 plus $3.99 shipping.
Highly recommended.

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