Is Grazing on Public Land Good for the Environment? Ranch Photographer

The American rancher does more than raise cattle

He is: a steward of the land, a conservationist at heart, and a manager of the range; for under his careful supervision, the cattle benefit from the land and the land benefits from the cattle, and man benefits from both. I photographed this cattle rancher as he tended to the grazing pastures while I hiked to the iconic Maroon Bells.

He is: a steward of the land, a conservationist at heart, and a manager of the range; for under his careful supervision, the cattle benefit from the land and the land benefits from the cattle, and man benefits from both. I photographed this cattle rancher as he tended to the grazing pastures while I hiked to the iconic Maroon Bells.

Grazing on public lands has been in the news recently for reasons unrelated to the environment. However, the sustainability of cattle operations is always a hot topic. Is grazing on public lands good for the environment?

According to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), cattle grazing on public lands can positively impact the ecosystem by

  • Increasing the viability and number of native perennial grasses
  • Decreasing the amount of invasive plant species
  • Reducing the severity of wildfires
  • Supporting healthy watersheds and wildlife habitats
  • Supporting carbon sequestration

Livestock grazing on public lands helps maintain the private ranches that, in turn, preserve the open spaces that have helped write the West’s history and will continue to shape this region’s character in the years to come (http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/grazing.html)

Cattle (and sheep) grazing on public and private lands is a good thing. Bison, elk, and numerous deer once roamed the countryside and naturally grazed perennial grasses and fertilized the soil along the way. The bison are gone, but thoughtful and responsible grazing mimics this natural process all while creating a nutritious and environmentally-conscious product. 

Most ranchers now practice rotational grazing where they divide their pasture into several "cells" and closely monitor the foraging habits of their cattle. Once the perennial grasses have been eaten down once, the cattle move on to the next pasture thereby allowing the old cell to rest and be restored. 

Scott Stebner is an agricultural photographer and videographer based out of the mid-west. To contact Scott, click HERE