|Michael John Hudak, PhD|
December 4, 1952 |
Johnson City, NY, USA
|Residence||Binghamton, New York, USA|
|Fields||mathematics, computer science, environmental activism, public lands ranching|
|Known for||Persuading the Sierra Club to shift its policy on the grazing of cattle on public lands toward a science-based policy on the impacts of commercial livestock grazing on public lands|
|Notable awards||Who’s Who in America (2003–2004)|
Michael John Hudak is an environmental researcher and author, Sierra Club activist, radio broadcaster, and public speaker  concerned with the environmental damage (and harm to free-living animals, or wildlife) that ranching inflicts on US public land (mostly in the Western states). He is an author of Western Turf Wars: The Politics of Public Lands Ranching (which focuses on grazing issues) and its companion series of web-based videos. In 1999, he founded the nonprofit Public Lands Without Livestock.
Formal higher education
Before he focused entirely upon environmental activism and advocacy, he was a computer industry researcher. His doctorate (1986) in Advanced Technology (Computer Science) and bachelor's degree (Mathematics) (1975) are from Binghamton University, and his master's degree (Computer Science) is from Northwestern University (1977). His doctoral and industrial research within the field of artificial neural systems included modeling associative memory and investigating properties of Restrictive Coulomb Energy Classifiers.
Sierra Club work
Ed Dobson, former secretary, Sierra Club Board of Directors, noted publicly that "Dr. Michael Hudak is a Sierra Club activist who has done more than anyone else to move the Sierra Club toward a science-based policy on the impacts of commercial livestock grazing on public lands. He is a tireless educator, fastidious researcher, and clear-minded political analyst. These three traits make him an invaluable asset to the cause of protecting natural resources from further destruction and to the cause of restoring lands already damaged."
Hudak's grassroots educational outreach on "public lands grazing” addressed thousands of Sierrans (Sierra Club members) and others. His photos and written explanations clearly picture the ecological problems of continuing livestock production on public lands.
From 1993–1994, he served as the Binghamton (NY) regional coordinator for the short-lived Beyond Beef Campaign (headed by Jeremy Rifkin and Howard Lyman), which mobilized grassroots support in favor of McDonald’s offering a meatless (vegetarian) eco-burger at all its North American outlets.
In 1997, after several years of hiking on western public lands during which he noted livestock impacts while, he began a more intensive study of livestock production by researching publications and traveling across the West for more than twenty months.
Between February 1998 and May 2000, Hudak presented forty-five photographic talks to Sierra Club groups, chapters, and committees in 20 US states to encourage a Sierra Club policy shift to oppose public lands ranching. He authored several articles for Internet display and for publication in Sierra Club newsletters. Fifteen Sierra Club chapters and twenty-two groups (37% of Sierra Club membership) by summer 2000 had signed resolutions calling for the Sierra Club to oppose commercial livestock grazing on federal public lands.
As a resource person to the Sierra Club's Grazing Task Force from June 1999 to May 2000, where he was privy to actions of the club as they pertained to its grazing policy, he learned in December 1999 that the club's National Board planned to consider revising that policy at its May 2000 meeting. When the board in early May decided to postpone that discussion until its September meeting, he began qualifying a member ballot initiative as an alternative to board action. Had the Sierra Club Board approve a weaker policy at its September meeting or further postponed action, it would have been too late to qualify such a ballot initiative for the next year’s club election. He called for the qualification of a ballot initiative in support of ending commercial livestock grazing on federal public lands, personally gathering nearly half (600 of 1,307) the signatures supporting the initiative (enough to qualify), with the rest gathered by dozens of other Club activists.
While gathering signatures on the ballot petition, he chaired a Sierra Club subcommittee advocating adoption of conservation policy to end commercial livestock grazing on federal public lands. These negotiations at the September 2000 board meeting led to the grazing policy adopted by the Club’s Board of Directors at that time. He gave the agreement tentative support despite policy weaknesses and called for withdrawing the ballot initiative for the following year. Some club members who had worked with him on the petition drive disagreed with his views and completed qualifying the initiative, which was subsequently defeated in the 2001 election by more than a 2-to-1 margin.
Despite the new policy’s potential weaknesses, one of its provisions, unavailable under the previous policy, has been used by some of the club’s groups (e.g., Glen Canyon Group, Utah Chapter). The policy also opened the way for club endorsement of the National Public Lands Grazing Campaign’s federal legislation that would provide compensation to ranchers who voluntarily relinquish their federal grazing permits.
In the years since the Sierra Club adopted its current grazing policy, Hudak continued investigating western grazing allotments and authoring articles, developing Internet photo essays, producing videos, and speaking to numerous organizations throughout the US about unsustainable ranching practices on America’s public lands.
Chrononology of Sierra Club involvement
- 1997 - Began intensive study of livestock's impact on western public lands
- February 1998 to May 2000–presented 45 photographic talks to Sierra Club groups
- 1999 to present - Founder and director of Public Lands Without Livestock, a project of International Humanities Center
- June 1999 to May 2000 - resource person to Sierra Club’s Grazing Task Force
- December 1999 - learned that Sierra Club’s National Board had planned to consider revising its grazing policy at May 2000 meeting
- September 2000 - negotiations at Sierra Club board meeting led to Club’s Board of Directors adopting new grazing policy
- 2001 - Despite qualification, initiative defeated in 2001 election by >2-to-1 margin
- Since 2001 - researching, writing, and public speaking about unsustainable US ranching practices on America’s public lands
- 2002 - Several photographs appear in Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West (George Wuerthner & Mollie Matteson, eds., Island Press, 2002)
- 2003–2004 - Included in Who’s Who in America
- October 2005–August 2007 - Corresponding member, Sierra Club National Grazing Committee
- 2006 - Several photographs appear in Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy (George Wuerthner, editor, Island Press, 2006)
- August 2007–present - Member, Sierra Club National Grazing Committee
- October 2007–July 2008 - Vice chair, Sierra Club National Grazing Committee
- July 2008–present - Chair, Sierra Club National Grazing Committee
Notability of research
Relatively few books have been written about the federal grazing program from a conservationist perspective for a general audience. Prior to Western Turf Wars: The Politics of Public Lands Ranching, there were:
- Sacred Cows at the Public Trough (1983), Ferguson & Ferguson
- Waste of the West (1991), Lynn Jacobs
- Kill the Cowboy (1993), Sharman Apt Russell
- Welfare Ranching (2003), Wuerthner & Matteson (eds.)
A few works were directed at academics or professional environmentalists/bureaucrats.
- Politics and Grass (1960), Phillip O. Foss
- The Western Range Revisited (1999), Debra L. Donahue
A published doctoral dissertation at Princeton published around 2005 (title should be located) was reported to have addressed this issue.
Affiliations, awards, achievements
- Founder and director of Public Lands Without Livestock, a project of International Humanities Center (1999–present)
- Chair, Sierra Club National Grazing Committee (July 2008–present)
- Vice chair, Sierra Club National Grazing Committee (October 2007–July 2008)
- Member, Sierra Club National Grazing Committee (August 2007–present)
- Corresponding member, Sierra Club National Grazing Committee (October 2005–August 2007)
- Several photographs appear in Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West (George Wuerthner & Mollie Matteson, eds., Island Press, 2002)
- Several photographs appear in Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy (George Wuerthner, editor, Island Press, 2006)
- Several photographs appear in the Sierra Club’s slide show: “Western Public Lands Grazing: The True Costs”
- Included in Who’s Who in America (2003–2004)