A controversial grazing study has brought flack from predictable sources like ranchers, and others for its obvious point of view.
A study of federal rangeland by Oregon State University concluded grazing by cattle, sheep and wild horses and even deer and elk needs to be reduced because of climate change. It said global warming added stress to many rangelands still recovering from the heavy grazing in the past.The findings were reported in the journal Environmental Management.
But Boise State Political Science professor John Freemuth says the study appears to start with its recommendations and work backwards, undercutting its results. He quotes a colleague: “That’s not neutral science, it’s advocacy.”
But not every environmentalist wants to drive western ranchers out of business. Al Gore, in his journal Friday, in fact, suggests that climate change is already presenting challenges to the survival of ranchers, who by implication, he hopes survive.
The ranching community’s reaction has been that the study didn’t even address the potential benefits of grazing such as reducing fuel. But they are waiting for the far more influential work that will come from the Bureau of Land Management as it reviews grazing permits and its environmental impact statement on sage grouse.
The study, advocacy or not, come at a critical time for the review of grazing across the sagebrush steppe. Its impact will be determined by how well its data and analysis holds up for the BLM and before judges like B. Lynn Winmill, than its point of view.