Experts say ranching done right improves the environment and wildlife habitat
The Society for Range Management (SRM) and ranchers and range professionals who participate in SRM are doing wonderful things with grazing to improve rangeland and plant biodiversity. The problem is that the public does not know anything about it.
After spending two days at this informative meeting in Sacramento, Calif., I read a very negative article on cattle wrecking rangeland in a recent issue of Harper’smagazine. These types of articles lead the public to believe that cattle should be removed from public lands.
Yet, the SRM meeting featured many sessions that showed how well managed grazing can provide habitat for wildlife. The water sources that ranchers provide for their cattle also provide water for endangered species such as the California Condor. Both our industry and SRM need to better communicate with the public onenvironmental stewardship.
Several speakers explained that humans have influenced the ecology of the rangeland for centuries. Chuck Striplen, an environmental scientist with the San Francisco Estuary Institute and Aquatic Science Center and a member of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, explained how the historical use of rangeland needs to be studied. He says that western rangelands have never been a pristine wilderness untouched by humans. We have forgotten the original effects of Native Americans on the land and ecology, and learning about the long-term historical effects of humans on rangeland can aid in the development of best management practices, he says.
Lynn Huntsinger, a California rancher and UCB professor of environmental science, explains that maintenance of ranches will prevent loss of valuable ecosystems. When ranches are maintained, the land will not be sold for development. In her talk, she explained how stock ponds have served as habitat for endangered Tiger Salamanders.