DanDaggetShades2 In 1980  when I first moved to the West, to Flagstaff, Arizona, one of the first things I did was become involved as an environmentalist and join the Sierra Club and, shortly thereafter, Earth First!. I was excited about my new home, about the mountains, canyons, rivers, and wide open spaces, and wanted to keep those things as spectacular, healthy, open and free as possible.

At the time I arrived, one of the hottestenvironmental issues was grazing private livestock on public lands. Grazing livestock on land both public and private was claimed to be the most damaging activity humans had brought to the West. As one environmental group put it:

“The ecological costs of livestock grazing exceed that of any other western land use.”

Livestock grazing was blamed for endangering species, destroying vegetation, damaging wildlife habitats, disrupting natural processes, and wreaking ecological havoc on riparian areas, rivers, deserts, grasslands and forests alike. What most caught my attention about this campaign against public lands grazing were the photos of denuded, eroded, cowturd-littered landscapes. Those photos served as one of the most effective tools for communicating the damage described above to those, like me, who were most likely to be concerned and recruited.

Here are a couple:

Hudak best 1

11. Public Lands Grazing Damage Entrenched sharp


To make a long story short, I got involved in the campaign to protect public lands, wrote a couple of books about the topic in regards to rangelands (actually about environmentalists and ranchers working together), and ended up enjoying a fairly rewarding speaking career about the matter.

Over time, the furor over public lands grazing has lost much of its intensity. Although grazing continues on public lands, it is highly regulated and significantly reduced. In fact, it has been totally removed from many areas where it had been standard operating procedure for more than a century. Also, Global Warming/Climate Change has replaced it (as well as a number of other issues) at the top of the eco-issues hit parade.

Living in Arizona, and remaining just as concerned about the mountains, canyons, rivers, and wide open spaces that have been my home now for 34 years, I have continued to keep track of the areas I made such a big deal about as a wilderness advocate and crusader for “healthy ecosystems.” As a result, I have something to report that may surprise you. It certainly surprised me.

The surprise is, the problems purportedly caused by grazing haven’t gone away even where grazing has. In fact, they have become worse, so much worse that a significant portion of Western rangelands may be in worse shape today than they were when the campaign to protect them was at its hottest. What is different, however, is that the responsibility for the deteriorated condition of the western range has shifted — reversed, in fact. Now it is protection and regulation and the advocates of those policies that are wreaking havoc on our natural heritage.

This is something you have to see to understand — and to believe.

Having noticed the poor and deteriorating condition of the rangelands near my home in Sedona and on trips as far afield as Big Bend National Park in Texas and Jasper National Park in Canada, I started taking photographs to confirm my concern. First, I took photos of the most eye-catching (and mind-blowing) examples of degradation on lands that are now “protected” but were grazed in the past. That ignited my curiosity, and inspired me to start ferreting out old photographs of those exact same places while they were being grazed. These I located via local U.S. Forest Service offices, museums, books, and the internet. I even copied some from old movies (An old Elvis movie — “Stay Away Joe” was one of my sources).

One of the first “before and after” comparisons that caught my eye is illustrated by the following pair of photos from along a favorite hiking trail near Sedona. The first photo (courtesy of the Sedona Heritage Museum) was taken on 12/29/1957. Grazing was ended on this site shortly after this photo was taken. 1.Little Horse Park 1957 The next photo shows the exact same place in 2012 after 55 years of protection from grazing. The mountain on the upper right in the first photo (Courthouse Butte) doesn’t show above the trees in the second photo because the trees are bigger, and the point where I took the re-photo is lower than the original photo point, according to my rough calculations, due to 3 to 4 feet of soil erosion.

Little Horse Park 2013 Next, I located some old U. S. Forest Service photos of old rangeland monitoring sites used to evaluate the effects of management (in this case grazing) on Forest Service lands. Here’s an example — a photo taken in 1963, also near Sedona, of an area that had been grazed for more than 50 years. 3. Dry Creek Allotment C5T1.1963   In 1963 the grass was short (most likely it had recently been grazed), but you can see the plants were close together, the coverage was fairy complete, and there was little evidence of erosion.


I even located a photo of a 3 foot square frame by means of which the plants in a certain part of the transect were identified, recorded, and mapped to enable the USFS to accurately read and record any change that happened. Forty-nine years later (2012) I took a photo of that exact same site. I even relocated (and re-photoed) the frame. According to the best information I can find, grazing was removed from this area “before 1981,” so, at the time of the re-photo, the area had been protected for 30+ years.


6. JPG


Interestingly, a U. S Forest Service Range staffer, upon visiting this site with me in 2013, and comparing what she saw with the 1963 photographs said, “Well, The grass looks healthier now than it did back then, except where there isn’t any.” ”Where there isn’t any” is just about everywhere.

To shed a little more light on what is happening here, I included a photo of the land just to the left of the monitoring site. (That’s the same location stake.)

7. Left for Upload  To give an even bigger picture of what’s happening here I’ve included a photo from nearby on the same grazing allotment.

8. Big Erosion 1 upload

From the look of the exposed tree roots and freshly toppled trees it appears safe to say that erosion continues in this area in spite of the fact that it is being protected and has been for 30+ years. (I would also add it’s just as obvious that protection isn’t doing much to heal the area.)

Seeing devastation of this degree I couldn’t help but wonder: Were the effects of “overgrazing” anywhere near as bad as the effects of protection? To answer that question, I started searching the Web for those denuded, eroded, cowturd-littered images that were used to make the case against public lands grazing. I wanted to compare the effects of the activity whose “ecological costs exceed that of any other western land use” with the impacts of the remedy that was supposed to return the West to conditions the protectionists described as “pristine nature.”

This is where things really got surprising — the great majority of those “cows destroy the West” photos were mild, ho-hum, no big deal in comparison. Some even looked like positive impact photos. Here’s the collection of images that resulted from one of those Google searches. 

11. Public Lands Grazing Damage Upload11. Public Lands Grazing Damage

When that collection of photos showed up on my computer screen I couldn’t help but wonder: Is this what so outraged me and recruited me thirty years ago? Is this the best they’ve got? It must be, I concluded. These are the images that were published in books like Welfare Ranching, and Waste of the West, These are the photos that are on the websites of the groups still making the case to remove grazing from public lands. So, If environmental groups were so concerned about the effects of grazing on public lands in this photo, for instance:

12. Hudak 1

From Mike Hudak’s Photo Gallery of Ranching on Western Public Lands “This drainage in a heavily grazed field has eroded to a width of five feet.”

Why do we not hear a peep from them about the apparently much more damaging effects of protection on public lands in, for instance, this photo?

13. Looking up Through Roots Upload

This drainage, in an area that has been protected from grazing for more than 30 years, has eroded to a depth of more than ten feet.

Another comparison — same question: If environmental groups are concerned about the effects of grazing on public lands in this photo:

Entrenched sharp

From Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West — LIFEBLOOD OF THE WEST Riparian Zones, Biodiversity, and Degradation by Livestock, by J. Boone Kauffman, Ph.D “This stream in northern New Mexico has become “entrenched.” Over time, grazing and trampling of the soils and banks by livestock have caused the stream to widen and cut downward.”

What about this?

15. 2013Spring_WheatfieldExclosureUpload

Talk about entrenched!!! This is the Coconino National Forest White Hills Erosion Control Study Plot protected since 1935 (78 years and counting). (Photo courtesy of the Coconino National Forest)

What do these comparisons tell us? Well, one thing they seem to make clear is that, for those of us who are truly concerned about restoring and sustaining the ecological health of the rangelands of the American West, we’re spending our money and our energy in the wrong place. Instead of campaigning to protect the public lands of the West from grazing, we ought to be protecting them from, well, “protection,” which may qualify as the real “most damaging activity humans have brought to the West”

One thing that qualifies protection for this distinction is that the damage it causes is not only more severe, it is more permanent — more permanent because it is a one way street. Ask protectionist groups what they can or will do to heal the damage shown in the photo of me looking up through those protected tree roots or that fellow peering out from that huge eroded gully in the White Hills Study Plot, and the great majority of them will tell you, “Protect it longer.” One activist has told me, “It might take more than a lifetime.” The White Hills Study Plot has been protected for 78 years. That sounds like a lifetime to me.

I’ve written books and articles about ranchers who have healed damage greater than anything shown among the “grazing destroys the West” photos by using their management practices and their animals as the means to perform that healing. In fact, I’ve done some of those restorations myself.  Those restorations took days instead of lifetimes. In fact, I have some dynamite photos. See the photo sequence below.

1. Road Eraser, Before

Before (This would make a good “Cows destroy the West” photo. Watch the skyline these photos were taken in the same place (within a couple of feet).

1.2. Road Eraser, Cattle restoring

During We added seeds, hay for mulch and to attract the cattle, and then the cows did the planting, mulching, and tilling for us

1.3. Road Eraser Lush

The results! Not bad, eh?

To their credit a few environmental groups and collaborative associations are using those grazing-to-heal techniques today. I suspect that, in some cases, they’re even using them to heal the effects of protection. But to heal damage, you have to be able to see it, be aware that it is there, and you have to want to heal it.

Environmentalists have trouble seeing the damage they cause because they suffer from a type of blindness of which they have accused ranchers for as long as I’ve been involved in this issue. Environmentalists accuse ranchers of being blind to the damage they cause to the land because they (ranchers) consider what they do (raise food for people by using resources they believe God gave us just for that purpose) so valuable and so righteous that they refuse to see, just plain ignore, or consider irrelevant the damage it causes.

This phenomenon — being rendered blind to the damage you cause by your own feelings of righteousness — is a more accurate description of an affliction that plagues the green side of the aisle. When environmentalists say, “We all want to protect the environment,” they use the word “protect” in its vague general sense: “to protect from hurt, injury, overuse, or whatever may cause or inflict harm.” The idea that “protecting” in this sense could cause harm to anything doesn’t make any sense. How could saving something from harm cause it harm? If you peel away this blindfold of righteous semantics, however, as the photographs in this article have done, it becomes evident that the ecological impacts of “protection” may actually “exceed that of any other western land use” including grazing.

The implications of this are clear… If environmental groups and government agencies truly want to achieve their stated mission — to protect the environment from whatever may cause or inflict harm — they’ll have to open their eyes to the damage caused by what they call “protection.” And hold this environmentalist panacea as accountable as any other land management method.

About Dan Dagget

I’m an environmentalist, and I’m a conservative. I didn’t start out that way, in fact I started out as an environmental activist, a fairly radical one. I was involved in some of the earliest actions of Earth First, was designated one of the top 100 grass roots activists by the Sierra Club, and helped put together ad hoc groups in Ohio and Arizona directed at specific issues—controlling coal surface mining in Ohio and protecting mountain lions in Arizona. I changed my “environmental politics” because I came to believe that mainstream environmentalists—the great majority of whom are liberals—are more interested in expanding the role of government than in fixing what’s wrong with the environment. Or in sustaining or enhancing what’s right. And because liberals operate by, within, and through the government to control an ever greater portion of our lives—where we get our health care, what kind of cars and food we can buy, how we dispose of our trash, raise our children, etc.—any increase in government power is an increase in their power. Liberals, in other words, measure success, environmental and otherwise, in terms of their ability to control more of the environment (and therefore of us) via government regulation. Conservatism is the home of the free market, of rewarding people for producing outcomes, not applying policies. What does that have to do with the environment? I know a rancher who has managed the habitat on his ranch to such a state of health that it hosts one of the largest known populations of an endangered bird (a flycatcher). An adjacent preserve of similar habitat hosts none. Leftist environmentalists have lobbied to remove the flycatcher habitat from the rancher’s management and increase the size of the preserve. A conservative environmentalism would reward the rancher for his success and empower him to increase the number of flycatchers even more. Does the conservative approach bring problems? Of course it does, but so does the liberal approach—just ask those flycatchers. If you’re interested in producing results rather than regulations, you’ve come to the right place.
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  1. I witnessed similar transition in a forested area in Montana. BEFORE the new rules….cattle would be relaxing on green sod solid meadows, relaxing and chewing their cuds….near the little, clear mountain stream.
    Then it became a new rule that all cattle had to be fenced away from the steam with only a small portion for watering.
    When I witnessed the result; The old area that had been lawn-like ‘solid sod with short grass was now covered with tall useless Canadian Thistle. Around their roots were channeled eroded soil, constantly being washed away by any water that fell on it. Gone…was the former meadow….and the cattle.
    This made me wonder if some ‘do-gooder’ Environmentalists had encountered the area in its’ former condition and thought if the cattle were removed it would no longer be decorated with the splattered cow poo and be a pretty ‘fairyland space’.

  2. Tom Pifer says:

    Why is it that the men and women who work there lands can see how harmful this is but our government can not?
    These people take care of these lands because it’s their lively hood, they know when it’s over grazed and when it’s not..
    Keep the government out of things they know nothing about!

  3. Lee Fayter says:

    I am not a cattle person, just common sense.
    Grazing adds to the land. The cattle eat the forage (like keeping your lawn mowed), the process the forage and pass thru the seeds and fertilizer, which is much needed for the land. The birds and wild critters obtain food from the fertilizer also. Since the forage is kept trimmed and low it speads and seeds making a better pasture to stop errosion. The cattle pack the land to help stop errosion. Plant the seeds which will stop errosion. It also keeps down the heavy brush and weeds which grow, die and become fire hazzards. Mother nature made the land to be used not set fallow.

  4. Randy Lowe says:

    My grandfather and my father were passionate about conserving their farm land as I was growing up because it fed their children and grand children. Their motives for protecting the habitat for wildlife was selfish too. Wildlife fed their families when crops were scares. By planting crops for themselves, they also fed wildlife and birds where nothing had been before. They also knew the soils that eroded away also carried their livelihood away so they practiced conservative method to control erosion. They looked at everything long term. Common sense tells us that cattle distribute organic fertilizer where they graze while controlling noxious weeds, many of which are invasive. What better way to improve ground cover than increase the roots systems of native grasses and scrubs much the way the prairie bison did. Cattle leave their tracks and trails that provide miniature catch basins for rainfall and snow melt with fertilizer and seed strategically placed. Scientifically it is difficult to capture data to validate what happens but the evidence has been there for a hundred years of family ranching. I have lived in west my entire life and have observed that the majority of problems discussed in this article do not occur on well managed family ranches. Most private farms and ranches are just as good or better now as there were before government protection or environmentalism came along.

  5. Mitchell Batesel says:

    I don’t think anyone looks to the past on this issue. The millions of buffalo that roamed the vast expanses were the natural tillers and fertilizers of the soil. You would think that statement alone might open some minds! Grazing cattle enhance the environment in the same way. Thank you for your honesty!

  6. Pepper White says:

    `Mr Dagget I was raised in arid lands You now call home. My Grandfather homesteaded a piece of land in Arizona in the early 1920s my Father was born on that piece of land, and his ashes will be scattered on the same land.

    These photos and the revelation you have come up with from the 1980s to present had been going on long before you, Earth First, or the Sierra Club were ever thought of, and it just corroborates the feeling that was instilled in me a long time ago, even though you own this land don’t abuse but use it because next year you will need it again.

    Probably the biggest problem with our “Environment” today is groups like the Sierra Club that have huge numbers of members some with very deep pockets that have no idea of how to take care of an acre not to mention sections of land that comprise a livestock ranch.

    I am sorry if I have stepped on some toes and possibly some heads but if the government entities that control our Public Lands do not open their eyes soon our forests, waterways and other public lands will not be productive and die and will mot be worth passing down to the generations to come.

  7. Dana says:

    good article. It’s well written with all the before and after photos. I like the fact that he really wants to heal our land and is willing to ‘think out of the box’. Unlike so many of us. We are set in our ways I guess. I would like to see him write an article on the whole management of our forests. With before and after pictures too. What’s the real story there?

  8. Marci Ramsey says:

    Thank you for your honesty, and for bringing to light some of the problems that radical environmentalism has caused. My grandfather, father, and now husband raise cattle and have always been very interested in protecting the land. Ranchers that love the life and want thier children to have the same opportunities are the true stewards of the land.

  9. Natalie Bartlett says:

    Thank you for sharing this very important message.

  10. John S. Hill says:

    This article only serves to prove what I, as a rural Nevada native and longtime advocate of ranching have known since my formative teenage years: Ranchers are indeed the finest stewards and protectors of the open range!!

  11. Patrick Ericksen says:

    Even considering cattle ranching in Arizona in this time when finding enough water for the drastic increase in people since the 50s is the height of stupidity.

  12. David Small says:

    I’ve seen your articles in “Range” magazine. They don’t fit with what self-styled environmentalists want to hear.
    Carry on!

  13. Gail Hammack says:

    Outstanding article. I hope it will help to create awareness in the environmental and government communities to what it really means to manage land sustainability instead of protecting it to death.

  14. Donald J. McDonald says:

    Grass is a plant that needs to be grazed. It was eaten by the millions of Bison that used roam the country. With the Great herds of Bison gone, cattle and or sheep would step in and keep the grass renewed, by grazing it. Many grasses can spread from rhizomes, but many also need to be spread by seed. Livestock will eat the grass that is headed out, and the seed would end up in their manure. The seed will sprout in the manure, which will supply the new sprout with nutrients and the cycle continues.

    I tend to be more conservative, but many ranchers and farmers are good stewards of the land, but many environmentalist cannot see that due to their hatred of agriculture.

    Farmers and Ranchers were some of the earliest conservationists. Now we are not perfect and some do abuse the land, but as time goes, agriculture has gotten better about caring for the land. We have to take care of the land, because it cares for us.

  15. Gail and Floyd Kampen says:

    Very good article, DD. Thank you so much! I am now a dairyfarmer in California with my husband of 31 years, a Conservative, Environmentalists and Christian, but I started out, after doing a freshman college project on The Silent Spring, as really fighting for a lot of environmental causes. Your story is a lot like my story so I appreciate you bringing forth the evidence to the public. I’ve witnessed first hand that regeneration with manure, and grazing, and cultivating by the cow herds. It is an amazing cycle. We had a beautiful section grazed in naturally grasses and oats. The 640 acres went into a preserve and by the next year you could see weeds taking over and after 3 years the whole section looked like your depleted soil photos. You are SO right how they, the liberal environmentalists, are blinded, but how you explained it is spot on. Anyway, I just wanted to thank you. Kindly, Gail Kampen, Visalia, CA

  16. Judith Boyce says:

    Great article.Nevada raised have seen same. Ranching family members,ex long time BLM employee family members, hunter and fisherman and lover of the outdoors can only attest to the fact that environmentalists and the government have done more damage than any person or group I know in my 73 years. Thank you for your post which I intend to share.

  17. Keel Price says:

    I often say to those on the left, “none are so blind as those who will not see” Thank you for keeping both eyes open.

  18. Kent Reeves says:

    Hey Dan! Good to see you are still out and about! Be well!

  19. Robert L Koraly says:

    Thank you sir for your service to patriotic journalism.Mainstream media is so prostituting the events in Barnes awareness of the truth of your message is getting lost along with the historical truth of the conflicts of the locals and the BLM overlords/protectors and as a contemporary, conservative,retired coastal developer, and environmentalist the best service I can do for my local friends is to commit to using the social media network to show and tell the truth.

  20. Charles And Beckie Haglund says:

    Finally someone says the truth thank you. We are angus ranchers. And our land and environment are of the most important to us. We do have friends in the dfw. We change fields irrigate dike take out noxious weeds. Never have I seen any damage from our cattle. Humans that come here leave garbage and disrupt

  21. Gina McGirr says:

    Thank you for your insightful write up. As a ranchers daughter as ND niw one myself I csn attest that the majority are excellent stewards. The environment provides for the rancher. Why would they want to destroy the land that feeds the csttle? Environmentalists could learn slot from the rancher.

  22. Clay Ensley says:

    Great words, thank you. No use can be abuse also.

  23. Ed Plasse says:

    Excellent article Dan. I for one can only hope the “radicals” in charge can see clearly on this subject; but I presume one doesn’t become a radical and see clearly on any subject? Good luck in your endeavour, and God speed!

  24. Rhonda Boyd says:

    True cattlemen are the best environmentalists. There life depends on it.

  25. William Fields says:

    very informative and thank you Now tell this to the Sierra Club if they will listen. (I doubt it)

  26. Kenneth L. Stillwell says:

    Thank you for your time and efforts. We as Americans need to stand and work together, ranchers truly do care about the land. All of our future is at stake in this country and abroad, Facts as you pointed out needs to be taught in schools and publicly to everyone. As a cattle rancher for 30 years that is blessed to hold and operate a USFS grazing lease for the past 20 years and currently still do, look forward to all agencies to continue to build and sustain our lands.

  27. Larry Hannon says:

    Very well documented and presented. It is good that DD finally came to his ‘Common Senses’. From an ‘Old Ranch Cowboy’! It ain’t nice to mess with Mother Nature!

  28. judy Cumberworth says:

    If the environmentalists and the government really want to protect the land, they would put back the cows and limit the use of dirt bikes and four wheelers on the land. The distraction of the land is unbelievable. The cows don’t make trenches or scar up hills. They also don’t remove the pebblely scree that protects the plants and keeps the soil anchored so it doesn’t erode. The vehicles tear the land apart decades faster in a couple of years faster than any cow actitvities in fifty years. Yet there is no help from Washington to protect our desert forest and BIM land.

  29. Scott Amos says:

    I grew up in the forests of Idaho. Around 1993 via the Northwest Forest Management Act most public uses of forests in Idaho to include grazing, mining, logging and just about any uses other than recreational use of the forest came to an abrupt halt.
    Since 1993, fires have been allowed to rage out of control. Some have grown as large as 850,000 acres. The money logging companies once provided for replanting trees is no longer there.
    In 1993 via timber sales and permit sales the US FOREST SERVICE added a net $88 million to the US Treasury. The FOREST SERVICE now begs billions of dollars from Congress each year, has cut its services and increased its fees at parks in an effort to carry out its mandated mission.

    Burned and destroyed timber is left to rot and eventually clog up river ways and reservoirs because salvage logging is forbidden. Entire hillsides then give way under their own weight and come down in massive mudslides because there is no money to replant green living things where wildfires raged through what used to be thick overgrown forests at more than 40 miles per hour.
    Even native Americans managed the forest as a reusable crop for thousands of years before bureaucrats in Washington outlawed it. Now even they are forbidden from doing anything more than camping for a night or two on lands humans once actively managed for tens of thousands of years.

  30. Gary L. Parker says:

    Thank you for your insight and ability to use that insight and also your physical. Too many people see what they want to see not what actually see! I would hope that the government agencies would open their minds and work with Mother Nature not against. Unfortunately politics, job saving and myopia seem to be more important. Thanks again for the photos, information and your love for the land.

  31. PB says:

    The west was grazed by millions of bison before the white man came. This is no surprise that grazing is good for the land.

  32. Pat Kimmick says:

    Land is like the human body. If you don’t use it, you lose it! The most environmentally conscious and best stewards of most land are ranchers and farmers.

  33. Nancy Lorieau says:

    Amazing article. Thank you.

  34. William Rucker says:

    That has got to be the absolute best article I have ever read. Does this guy have any books he has written (post radical environmentalist)?

  35. Brad Aggen says:

    This is something ranchers have known and practiced for generations. What would one or two million bison do to the land, or a crop of wheat?

  36. Barry Daigle says:

    What effect has drought had in these areas? I’m a member of the conservative caucus of Citizens Climate Lobby. My concern is the extremism from both sides of the political aisle. I believe free-market solutions AND some regulation have a place in conserving our arable land and I cringe when I hear my own party call for defunding the EPA.

  37. Barry Daigle says:

    Our climate has changed considerably in the last 50 years and the US Forest Service will have little control over the “new normal” of frequent droughts and floods for many parts of the US.

  38. Katie Black says:

    This is a great article, and reminds me of the studies on getting the right balance of deer, elk moose, and other wild grazers versus predators and hunters , so that the stream beds are clean enough, but not stripped.

    And, with managed grazing the cattle will eat invasive species which crown out and destroy native species. Invasive species are not evolved to live in our western landscape.

    I read also a great book from Australia which addresses controlled heavy grazing as a method of reversing the bad effects of prolonged drought – Back from the Brink – by Peter Andrews. The premise is similar.

    Over-grazing exists, but no grazing is also very harmful. As you have seen. I am curious, do you have rainfall records for the years you studied?

    thanks for this.

  39. Ron Culbertson says:

    From one conservative environmentalist to another, I agree wholeheartedly. In general, private property is better cared for than public property. Government policy is usually at the root of the problem. Here in Ohio, farmers are tearing out every fence row and tearing out trees in areas not fit to farm e.g., erodible land right up to the river and up the steep hills so they can grow a little more corn. Why? Government working hand in hand with Monsanto, Cargill and others to “save” the climate have encouraged corn production for ethanol. So now they spend more than a gallon of gas to produce a gallon of ethanol and actually release more carbon into the environment. The habitat is being destroyed to meet the demand of government subsidies and favors to big business.

  40. Lydia says:

    It makes sense when you consider that these ecosystems evolved under the presence of large herds of grazing animals. From the ice age on until the white man settled the West, it was populated by a variety of large, grazing creatures that would move into an area, graze it down, leave their fertilizer, and then move on to the next patch while the first had a chance to regrow. Replicating that environment seems the most logical way to restore and preserve these ecosystems.

  41. Jonpaul says:

    Allan Savoury blamed elephants for the destruction of grasslands in Africa. He had 40,000 elephants shot to stop the rot. Only it turned out that without the elephants it got worse.
    He gives an explanation of what happens and why.

    I’m not connected to this in any way, just thought it might interest you.

  42. Alona (Toni) Brown says:

    If we put into practice what the Native Americans did we would have a beautiful echo system. Remember Buffalo , deer elk and wild shero grazef these lands and accomplished what the cattle and sheep do today. We need to put back loggimg practices, and control of our Forrest’s to bring them into a healthy state again. We need to talk to Native Elders to be educated on true and tried ways if taking care of mother earth.

  43. Hank Albertson says:

    Wowwwwwwwwwwwww ! ! ! ! About time the terrorists started figuring things out. We recently had a ‘whacko’ enviro-terrorist group bring an action against the USFS regarding our range (which is a lush paradise) where they entered photos of private stressed features several miles away and attempted to pass it off as part of our range. Increasingly, we have learned to write our own cases and respond without high-priced BAR attorneys

  44. I am impressed. I am a 67 year old cowboy and agriculture nut. I have so much respect for people that bring agricultural science to a hungry world while caring deeply about the environment. I am so offended by people that don’t understand agriculture anxious to bring government power to stop what they see as greed.
    Your open mind has been pretty amazing in allowing you to look at both sides. I just want to thank you for actively pursuing what you feel is right instead of defending your original conclusions. Sincerely, Del

  45. Tom Butler says:

    I was raised in Eastern Oregon, I spent a lot of time
    On my Uncles and Grandfathers ranches.
    I worked on many ranches in my early years.
    I can not remember of any place where we grazed
    Our cattle that wasn’t better after using and working
    The land than it was when we first went in.

  46. Rod Hoibakk Cornville Az says:

    This is kind of an all or nothing approach. If total protection is unwise so is unregulated grazing. I’ve seen marvelous examples of manned grazing in Oregon that excluded castle from riparian areas where they year up and erode stream banks and placed them in areas where they were grazed on a rotational basis that produced great results. The key is intensive management rather than seeing cows out and leaving them for the summer.
    Location plays a huge role as well. Go up on the rim in the summer and you’ll see cows belly deep in grass. The same isn’t true in the grazed area west and south of Sedona. One size doesn’t fit all.
    Finally, cows are a change agent. It doesn’t make them good or bad .
    When I worked in Eastern Oregon, we did a lot of prescribed fire,another change agent. The land had changed much there in the last hundred years.
    Before grazing, the area was covered with grass and forbs. Not much in the way of brush. Fired were common according to the tree ring studies which favored the grass and prevented things like juniper and bitterbrush from establishing themselves.
    When the castle came in the 1880s they changed the fuel profile so that fire didn’t spread so readily and predictably, gave the juniper a chance to establish itself. Juniper will remove more grass than a cow ever thought of and is far more effective at keeping it from returning. This is the source of your 20 foot deep erosion channels.
    So I would suggest that there is at least one more leg to your equation. Cows aren’t bad if managed. Protection isn’t bad if it’s focused on the right results. Fire is the missing agent that allows grazing and protection to work together so everybody wins.
    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

  47. Pat Hansen says:

    I so admire you for being such an honest person and writing the facts YOU have found. I rode a lot for the Wells on the Verde Water shed, Hat Ranch and Bellmont. we watched them set the Cones, square , .. they even put them in the center of a cow trail,,I was in my 40’s then and knew those test plots would not grow grass in my lifetime and I’m 73 now. Range mag has published your findings so stay up with you thru them! Thanks for your efforts!

  48. Clint says:

    In Montana we are seeing an increase in the frequency and magnitude of flood events. As a result we’re seeing a lot of stream channel instability and erosion on and off of grazing allotments. As a result of our runoff coming earlier and all at once we’re having less groundwater recharge which is driving lower base flows earlier in the year and increasing stream temps. This decreases riparian extent and vigor. I’m not a range expert but expect that these and other Climactic factors could be causing a decrease in range productivity. I’ve witnessed amazing recovery of riparian areas after a decrease in grazing pressure. However, I’ve also seen areas where productivity in uplands has been reduced through overgrazing and vegetative recovery is extremely slow. I wonder if your observations might be related to climactic changes, increasing noxious weeds, and increasing grazing pressure from elk? I wonder if in your examples whether there are confounding factors contributing to erosion in the absence of grazing?

  49. Well thought out.
    Thank you for sharing your life experience…I too am a conservative environmentalist. I often think I am the only one…. so read your article through with great interest. I am deeply involved in soil health, learning all the time. Dr. Allen Savory of ?Zimbabwe? in his Ted Talk recounts his greatest regret is an early-life conclusion that elephants were the “greatest force of destruction” He authorized the killing of 40K elephants, until he found the same result as you found, It was the elephant herd grazing that was restoring the grasslands to health.

  50. DD says:

    Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you. (I’ve been working on my other website — I hope you still want to share this. Please do. And check the other site too. Maybe there’s something for you there.


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