CORVALLIS, Ore. Eight researchers in a new report have suggested that climate change is causing additional stress to many western rangelands, and as a result land managers should consider a significant reduction, or in some places elimination of livestock and other large animals from public lands.
A growing degradation of grazing lands could be mitigated if large areas of Bureau of Land Management and USDA Forest Service lands became free of use by livestock and "feral ungulates" such as wild horses and burros, and high populations of deer and elk were reduced, the group of scientists said.
This would help arrest the decline and speed the recovery of affected ecosystems, they said, and provide a basis for comparative study of grazing impacts under a changing climate. The direct economic and social impacts might also be offset by a higher return on other ecosystem services and land uses, they said, although the report focused on ecology, not economics.
Their findings were reported today in Environmental Management, a professional journal published by Springer.
"People have discussed the impacts of climate change for some time with such topics as forest health or increased fire," said Robert Beschta, a professor emeritus in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University, and lead author on this study.
"However, the climate effects on rangelands and other grazing lands have received much less interest," he said. "Combined with the impacts of grazing livestock and other animals, this raises serious concerns about soil erosion, loss of vegetation, changes in hydrology and disrupted plant and animal communities. Entire rangeland ecosystems in the American West are getting lost in the shuffle."
Livestock use affects a far greater proportion of BLM and Forest Service lands than do roads, timber harvest and wildfires combined, the researchers said in their study. But effort to mitigate the pervasive effec
|Contact: Robert Beschta|
Oregon State University