|Source: The Wildlife News|
In a March 26th Times News article, Karen Launchbaugh, a University of Idaho range professor, propagandized misleading ideas about livestock grazing. Like nearly all range professor, Ms. Launchbaugh, sees her job as promoting livestock grazing. I know because I studied range management both as an undergraduate and in grad school, so familiar with the emphasis that one gets in such programs.
As is typical of the range “profession”, a term I use loosely, proponents of range management see ranchers as their constituency, not the general public.
So it’s not surprising that Ms. Launchbaugh only tells half of the story about the negative impacts of livestock grazing. Now for the rest of the story.
First, Launchbaugh asserts that “grazing has always been part of sagebrush ecosystems”. This is a half-truth. Yes, ground squirrels, grasshoppers, jackrabbits and other smaller animals, along with modest herds of deer and pronghorn have always grazed sagebrush ecosystems, but throughout most of the Great Basin including southern Idaho, large herds of grazing bison were rare or absent. As a consequence, native grasses and soils are intolerant of grazing pressure.
Another example of a half-truth is Launchbaugh assertion that livestock can reduce cheatgrass through grazing. It is misleading because of the short time window when livestock will consume cheatgrass.
Livestock will eat cheatgrass early in the season while it is green. This is usually no more than 2-4 weeks. Most ranchers are unwilling to go through the collecting and transport of their cattle out to a site to graze it for such a short time.
Furthermore, since cattle will tend to graze the more desirable native grasses first, if there are any of these plants left on a site, they suffer from overgrazing.
Third, cheatgrass is favored by soil trampling and destruction of soil crusts—something that cannot be avoided, especially if cattle are bunched up to target grazing of cheatgrass.
Then she compounds all her previous flawed assertions by suggesting that grazing can prevent large range fires. Sure, if you graze a pasture down to a golf course with inch-high stubble, fires are less likely to spread.
However, rangelands that are depleted to stubble provide no hiding cover for wildlife and reduce forage that might support native wildlife. Native plant species suffer and soil is compacted. And any grazing that is that so severe so as to reduce grasses to stubble will invariably trample biocrusts, wetlands and riparian areas.
READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE HERE.