Better Grazing Not a Solution

In some cases, mitigating or decreasing harmful livestock grazing are possible by changing season of use, reducing numbers and/or herding and other management techniques. However, the benefits are very marginal ecologically and the costs are far from marginal economically. Since livestock are water-loving relatives of the water buffalo, merely reducing the number or duration of livestock in an allotment does not result in comparable streamside improvement. Fencing livestock away from streams helps riparian areas, but increases the abuse on uplands. Fencing can cost up to $20,000 per stream mile. In almost every case, spending taxpayer funds to retire the allotment is the better payoff. In all cases, removing livestock from public lands results in maximum ecological benefit.

Some ranchers, range technicians and grazing theorists believe, based on studies from Africa, that North American deserts and grasslands must be grazed to be healthy. Known as Holistic Resource Management or the "Savory grazing method" (after its chief proponent, Allan Savory), this theory has been roundly criticized for presupposing that the vegetation, soils, and wildlife that live on western grasslands and deserts are fundamentally the same as the African Serengheti(!)

George Wuerthner, co-editor of Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West, wrote a comprehensive critique of Holistic Management for the book, The Donut Diet: The Too-Good-to-Be-True Claims of Holistic Management.


Jeff Burgess has posted a critique of Holisitic Resource Management on his website, Public Lands Grazing Activist, titled Holistic Resource Management (HRM): Panacea or Snake Oil? He combines photographs with text to describe the false assumptions supporting HRM.

Keith Raether has written in Headwater News that, rather than trying to force yet another grazing method onto battered western rangelands (akin to rubbing salt into an open wound), the environment, ranchers, and the federal treasury would be better served by grazing permit retirement.

See also Myth: Rangelands must be Grazed to Stay Healthy in Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West.