Range management is an established scientific discipline founded on ecological principles. Range science studies, quantifies, and anticipates the impacts of both wildlife and domesticated livestock on natural landscapes. Range scientists correlate a large number of environmental factors that influence the distribution of plant and animal species. These factors include the quantity and quality of available forage, the condition of watersheds, fire ecology, climate, topography, soils, and landscape aesthetics.
Degradation of range land is most often the result of changes in climactic conditions such as prolonged drought, or when plant species are exposed to intensive grazing without sufficient recovery periods. Overgrazing can be caused by either poorly managed livestock or by an over-abundance of wildlife. Overgrazing reduces the productivity of the land, which is something most ranchers work very hard to avoid because it would be counter-productive and economically damaging to their long term business interest. Practicing responsible land stewardship insures that livestock growers can continue to produce a quality product to meet the long term food needs of an expanding human population without degrading the resource.
The health of over 300 million acres of public range land falls under the responsibility of multiple State and Federal agencies working to insure that the resource is protected and being used responsibly. Livestock production, timber and mineral extraction, recreation, wildlife and watershed protection have all historically been factored in to create a multiple use public land philosophy. But that philosophy is now losing out to a single use agenda.
REWILDING proponents claim that livestock grazing on public lands (and increasingly, on private lands) across the western United States should come to an end because domesticated animals are damaging the environment and displacing wildlife. They claim that cattle and sheep operations are consuming water and forage that should be reserved for “native” species. They claim that domesticated animals raised for human consumption are incompatible with preserving natural ecosystems. They claim that wildlife, and wildlife conservation, should be elevated above any other public land use consideration, including the needs of human beings.
There are some cases where overgrazing by livestock has caused stream-side erosion, sedimentation, and other short term environmental damage. The reality is that livestock producers do need to be monitored and held responsible to make sure they are adhering to sustainable grazing practices. However, REWILDING advocates don’t actually care if livestock producers are using the resource responsibly. They do not care that livestock grazing can be conducted in a way that is perfectly compatible with, and beneficial to, the natural environment.
Radical environmentalists cite the worst out-dated examples of poor grazing practices they can find in order to win public support for the REWILDING agenda. Their goal is to see cattle and sheep completely removed from the western landscape in order to provide additional habitat for wildlife species such as elk, bison, pronghorn antelope, and large predators such as wolves, grizzly bears, and jaguars. The REWILDING agenda calls for the wholesale dismantling of our agricultural base while working to erase man’s impact on the earth.
REWILDING advocates promote “Cores, Corridors, and Large Predators” not just to protect wildlife, but to change human social structure. They are not just trying to influence how our public lands are utilized, but are actively engaged in destroying the right of an individual to own or manage private property.
Livestock producers need to come to grips with the reality that the REWILDING agenda requires the extinction of the American cowboy. The following is just a sample of the propaganda being used to wage this war…
Excerpts from Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West – c. 2002- George Wuerthner and Mollie Matteson:
“Livestock production, by its very nature, is a domestication of the landscape. It requires using the bulk of water, forage, and space for the benefit of one or two domestic animals-at the expense of native creatures. Although this is characteristic of agriculture everywhere, the expropriation of resources for the raising of livestock is particularly egregious in the arid West because natural productivity is limited and highly variable.”
“…by raising domestic animals that demand large quantities of water and forage in a place that is dry, and by favoring slow-moving, heavy, and relatively defenseless livestock in terrain that is rugged, vast, and inhabited by native predators, ranchers have put themselves in a position of constant warfare with the land.”
“The choice is really between using the public lands to subsidize a private industry or devoting them to ecological protection and preserving the natural heritage of all Americans.”
“What can be done to address the problems associated with public lands livestock grazing? There is a simple answer: end it. Get the cows and sheep off, let the wild creatures reclaim their native habitat, and send the ranchers a bill for the cost of restoration.”
“Although it is our desire to make the end of commercial production of livestock on public lands as painless as possible for the affected ranchers, we recognize that it won’t be pain-free. Change, even positive change, can be stressful and disconcerting.”
Here is a list of resources essential in helping livestock producers understand what they are up against:
Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West – c. 2002- George Wuerthner and Mollie Matteson]
The Western Range Revisited: Removing Livestock from Public Lands to Conserve Native Biodiversity-c. 2000 by Debra Donahue
Fatal Harvest: The Tragedy Of Industrial Agriculture -c. 2002 Andrew Kimbrell
Rewilding North America: A Vision For Conservation In The 21St Century -c. 2004 Dave Foreman
All of this anti-livestock grazing propaganda goes against sound range management science. Numerous peer reviewed studies have repeatedly demonstrated the benefits of well managed livestock grazing on a given habitat. Livestock grazing improves soils, reduces fire danger, disperses seeds, and should be considered a natural part of any ecosystem. May God bless the endangered American Cowboy. He’s going to need all the help he can get.