A study of federal rangeland by Oregon State University concludes grazing by cattle, sheep and wild horses and even deer and elk needs to be reduced.
The researchers say climate change is causing added stress to many rangelands still recovering from the heavy grazing in the past. It’s the kind of study that the Idaho-based Western Watersheds Project has long dreamed.Their findings were reported Thursday in the journal Environmental Management.
“Combined with the impacts of grazing livestock and other animals, this raises serious concerns about soil erosion, loss of vegetation, changes in hydrology, and disrupted plant and animal communities. said Robert Beschta, a professor emeritus in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University, and lead author. “Entire rangeland ecosystems in the American West are getting lost in the shuffle.”
Expect this study to get a lot of blow back. Livestock grazing affects a larger part of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service than roads, timber harvest and wildfires combined. But the most recent research about the sagebrush steppe, universally accepted, says wildfire is a bigger threat and grazing only a secondary threat.
Only ranchers have seriously pushed the grazing impacts of wild horses. And when was the last time you heard anyone say we have too many deer and elk?
Even the researchers acknowledged their recommendation would have major social and economic impacts.
“Some operations would see reduced incomes and ranch values, some rural communities would experience negative economic impacts, and the social fabric of those communities could be altered,” they wrote.