by Bob Conrad
THE WEST COAST’S preeminent rangeland scientists joined forces recently to confront anti-livestock grazing perspectives. Being that the western U.S. is fertile public ground for livestock grazing, among many other uses, there’s ongoing debate about the assumed proper uses for the land.
When it comes to climate change, some scientists last year advanced a perspective that grazing “should be eliminated or greatly reduced on western public lands to reduce potential climate change impacts.”
It’s not so simple, according to scientists from UNR, Montana State, Oregon State, the USDA Agricultural Research Service, UC Davis, Utah State, University of Idaho, BYU and the University of Arizona.
“We dispute the notion that eliminating grazing will provide a solution to problems created by climate change, and focus on three primary points: (1) grazing is a complex ecological process and a single recommendation (e.g., eliminate grazing) is unlikely to be universally correct, (2) there are legacy effects of livestock grazing from the homestead period that are separate from current day impacts, and (3) climate change is likely to increase the risk of large wildfires and grazing is one of the few available tools for landscape-level fuel reduction.”
“Grazing is one tool in a land manager’s tool box,” echoes Tamzen Stringham, University of Nevada professor of range ecology, restoration and management, one of three of the paper’s co-authors from UNR. “All tools should be available to the professional manager to make appropriate decisions in the face of changing climates.”
Though it seems obvious, livestock grazing is widely considered an effective vegetation management tool because grazing can reduce flammable vegetation. Consider: Much of the Great Basin is blanketed by a cheatgrass invasion, which fuels devastating wildfires. A forum of scientists was convened in 2008 to specifically look at the Great Basin’s wildfire problem.
Recommendations were clear: In order to address the severity of wildfires in Nevada and other Great Basin states, all range management tools must be considered.
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Source: This Is Reno