Monday, February 20, 2017

Grazing should be critical piece of lands management

by Matthew Anderson

The cowboy is a quintessential part of American heritage. Today, this fixture of Western culture is under attack and, at the rate we’re going, it won’t be long until he becomes just another chapter in history.

But the disappearance of ranchers means much more than the loss of a cultural icon. The erosion of grazing across the American West has a profound and lasting impact on taxpayers, local economies, and perhaps most importantly, the environment.

In a new study released by the Coalition for Self-Government in the West, we found that from 1949 to 2014, the average number of grazing district Authorized Unit Months (AUMs) — a measurement that takes into account both the number of livestock and the amount of time they spend on public lands — approved by the BLM in the 11 contiguous Western states plunged from 14,572,272 to 7,160,432.

Some states, such as Utah, have seen a drop-off of more than 70 percent. During the same 65-year period, the number of operators and permittees/leases allowed to graze plummeted from 21,081 to 10,187.

But what does this decline mean for the health and vitality of our public lands? Like your lawn, which needs trimming and mowing, rangelands need attention or they die. Harvesting the annually renewing forage on our public lands maintains the health of these ecosystems by reducing fuel loads that could otherwise lead to catastrophic wildfires. Cattle, sheep and other grazing animals are constantly on the clock helping prevent the devastating effects of out-of-control wildfires.

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