Lost or Spoiled Hunting and Fishing Opportunities
Grazing Impacts on Hunting
Domestic livestock grazing reduces wildlife populations by competing for food, water, and space, and degrading wildlife habitat. Habitat degradation caused by grazing also exposes prey species to increased predation (due to lost vegetative cover for concealment and escape), resulting in further declines in wildlife populations. The vast majority of forage and water resources in the West are devoted to domestic livestock grazing, depriving hunters and fishers of what could be incredible sporting opportunities. Ironically, despite the preference it receives, livestock grazing provides less economic benefit to local, regional and national economies than does the presence of wildlife. Every economic study done comparing grazing to hunting/fishing/watching/photographing elk, deer, trout, waterfowl, wolves and even songbirds (which attract birdwatchers) demonstrates that native wildlife has a higher economic value than producing livestock with the same natural resources (Duffield, et al.1994, Campbell 1970, Loomis, et al. 1989, Duffield 1989).
Range resources in the arid West are finite and the past and present practice of allocating the majority of forage, water, and space to horses, cattle and sheep on public lands has seriously affected the carrying capacity for native species. (Wuerthner 1992). Every blade of grass consumed by domestic livestock is unavailable to wild herbivores. For example, a study of antelope and domestic livestock in New Mexico showed that pronghorn diets over-lapped 39 percent with domestic sheep and 16 percent with cattle (Howard, et al. 1990). And Mackie (1970) reported forage competition between deer, elk and livestock in Montana's Missouri Breaks. Similar findings of dietary overlap of deer and elk with domestic livestock were reported in Oregon (Miller and Vavra 1982) and Alberta (Teller 1994).
The mere presence of domestic livestock also causes a shift in habitat use by native species, often relegating native ungulates to less suitable habitats with a resulting decline in vigor and survival. For example, mule deer have been discovered to shift their habitat use in response to livestock grazing (Lott, et al. 1991). Elk in Montana have also moved away from pastures that were actively grazed by cattle (Frisina 1992), and elk and mule deer in Arizona have declined after cattle were introduced to pastures (Wallace and Krausman 1987). Both deer and elk vacated preferred habitats after livestock were introduced into areas in Alberta (Teller 1994).
Disease transmission from domestic livestock to wildlife is yet another problem. Many bighorn sheep herds in the West are decimated by disease transmitted from domestic livestock (Goodson 1982, Berger 1990, Krausman, et al. 1996). Indeed, the presence of domestic sheep in bighorn range is the major factor that precludes the restoration of wild sheep to many former and otherwise suitable habitats throughout the West.
Many gamebirds are also negatively affected by livestock grazing. Sage grouse populations are declining throughout the West due to a host of problems created by livestock production (Connelly, et. al. 2000). The loss of hiding cover in heavily grazed rangelands exposes nesting grouse and other species like quail and sandhill crane to higher predation rates (Gregg et. al 1994, Brown 1982, Littlefield and Paullin 1990). Grazing on wet meadows used by sage grouse chicks reduces food availability and increases losses to predators. Fences used to contain livestock become perching sites for avian raptors that prey on grouse. And haying operations, along with grazing negatively impacts many ground nesting bird species (Kirsh, et al. 1978). Waterfowl production also suffers as a result of grazing and haying operations that reduce hiding cover, resulting in higher nest failures (Greenwood, et. al. 1988, Gilbert, et al. 1992).
Grazing Impacts on Fishing
Livestock grazing is also responsible for major declines in fish populations throughout the West, including species prized by anglers like trout and salmon (Li, et al. 1994, Dudley and Emburgy 1995, Duff 1977, Marcuson 1997, Platts 1981, Shepard 1992). Livestock trampling and grazing in riparian areas has greatly altered aquatic habitats (Chaney, et al. 1990, Kauffman and Krueger 1984), reducing their carrying capacity for native fish. Proposed solutions such as fencing riparian zones are exceedingly costly and have other ecological consequences as well (Platts and Wagstaff 1984).
In addition to direct impacts to fisheries from trampling and grazing, livestock production accounts for the greatest withdrawal of water in the West (Reisner and Bates 1990). Streams are often totally dewatered for irrigation, especially for hay and alfalfa for livestock feed. Dewatering is a major factor in the decline of native fish (Minckley and Deacon 1990, Moyle and Williams 1990), causing declines in water quality with higher temperatures and greater concentration of pollutants, and eliminating spawning and feeding habitat for fish. Loss of fish in irrigation ditches is also a significant problem (Good and Kronberg 1986).
Hunters, fishers, and simple lovers of wildlife have good reason to support the removal of domestic livestock from public lands. As livestock numbers are reduced, hunting, fishing, and wildlife watching opportunities will increase, as well as the quality of the experience.
Berger, J. 1990. Persistence of different-sized populations: an empirical assessment of rapid extinctions in bighorn sheep. Conservation Biology 4: 91-98.
Brown, R. L. 1982. Effects of livestock grazing on Means Quail in southeastern Arizona. J. Range Management 35(6): 727-732.
Campbell, H. J. 1970. Economic and social significant of upstream
aquatic resources on the West Coast in Symp. Forest Land Uses and Stream Environments.
Oregon State University. Corvallis, OR.
Chaney, E., W. Elmore and W. S. Platts. 1990. Livestock grazing on Western riparian areas. Environmental Protection Agency. Washington, DC.
Connelly, J. W., M. A. Shroeder, A. R. Sands, C. E. Braun. 2000. Guidelines to manage sage grouse populations and their habitats. Wildlife Society Bulletin 28(4): 967-985.
Dudley, T. and M. Embury. 1995. Non-indigenous species in wilderness areas: the status and impacts of livestock and game species in designated wilderness in California. Pacific Institute for SIDES. Oakland, CA.
Duff, D. A. 1977. Livestock grazing impacts on aquatic habitat in Big Creek, Utah in Proc. Workshoop on Livestock and Wildlife-Fisheries Relationships in the Great Basin. Sci. Spec. Publ. 3301. University of California Agric. Station. Berkeley, CA.
Duffield, J. 1989. Nelson property acquisition: social and economic impact assessment. Report to Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Duffield, J. W., T. C. Brown, S. D. Allen. 1994. Economic value of instream flow in Montana's Big Hole and Bitterroot Rivers. Res. Paper RM-137. USDA-Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Exp. Stn. Fort Collins, CO.
Frisima, M. R. 1992. Elk habitat use within a rest-rotation grazing system. Rangelands 14: 93-96.
Gilbert, D. W., D. R. Anderson, J. K. Ringelman, M. R. Szymczak. 1992. Response of nesting ducks to habitat and management on the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge, Colorado. Wildlife Monographs 131: 1-44.
Good, W. and C. Kronberg. 1986. Salmonids entering the Hedge Ditch from the Bitterroot River, summer 1984. Inland Fisheries Resources and Irrigation Diversions. Bitterroot Trout Study. Hamilton, MT.
Goodson, N. J. 1982. Effects of domestic sheep grazing on bighorn sheep: a review. Biennial Symp. North American Wild Sheep and Goat Council 3: 287-313.
Greenwood, R. J., A. B. Sargeant, D. H. Johnson, L. M. Cowardin, T. L. Shaffer. Mallard nest success and recruitment in prairie Canada. North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference 52: 298-309.
Gregg, M. A., J. A. Crawford, M. S. Drut, A. K. Delong. 1994. Vegetational cover and predation of sage grouse nests in Oregon. Journal of Wildlife Management 58(1).
Howard, V. W., J. L. Holechek, R. D. Pieper, K. Green-Hammond, M. Cardenas, S. L. Beasom. 1990. Habitat requirements for pronghorn on rangelands impacted by livestock and net wire in east-central New Mexico. Agric. Ext. Bulletin 750. New Mexico State University. Las Cruces, NM.
Kauffman, J. B. and W. C. Krueger. 1984. Livestock impacts on riparian ecosystems and streamside management implications: a review. Journal of Range Management 37: 430-437.
Kirsh, L. M., H. F. Duebbert, A. D. Kruse. 1978. Grazing and haying effects on habitats of upland nesting birds. North American Wildlife and Natural Res. Conf. 43: 486-497.
Krausman, P. R., R. Valdez, and J. A. Bissonette. 1996. Bighorn sheep and livestock in RANGELAND WILDLIFE. Society for Range Management. Denver, CO.
Li, H. W. G. A. Lamberri, T. N. Persons, C. K. Tait, J. L. Li., and J. C. Buckhouse. 1994. Cumulative effects of riparian disturbances along high desert trout streams of the John Day Basin, Oregon. Trans. Amer. Fish Soc. 123: 627-640.
Littlefield, C. D. and D. G. Paullin. 1990. Effects of land management on nesting success of sandhill cranes in Oregon. Wildlife Soc. Bulletin 18: 63-65.
Loomis, J., D. Donnelly, and C.Sorg-Swanson. 1989. Comparing the economic value of forage on public lands for wildlife and livestock. Journal Range Management 42(2): 134-138.
Lott, R. E., J. W. Menke, and J. G. Kie. 1991. Habitat shifts by mule deer: the influence of cattle grazing. Journal of Wildlife Management. 55:16-26.
Mackie, R. J. 1970. Range ecology and relations of mule deer, elk, and cattle in the Missouri Breaks, Montana. Wildlife Monographs 20. 79 pages.
Marcuson, P. E. 1977. Overgrazed streambanks depress fishery production in Rock Creek, Montana. Pages 143-156 in Proc. Workshop on Livestock and Wildlife-Fisheries Relationships in the Great Basin. Agric. Station Sci. Spec. Publ. 3301. University of California. Berkeley, CA.
McIntosh, B. J. and P. R. Krausman. 1982. Elk and mule deer distribution after a cattle introduction in northern Arizona. Pages 545-552 in J. M. Peek and P. D. Dalke (eds.). Symp. Wildlife-Livestock Relationships. Forest, Wildlife and Range Exp. Station Bull. Univ. Idaho. Moscow, ID.
Miller, R. F. and M. Vavra. 1982. Deer, elk, and cattle on northeastern Oregon rangelands in J. M. Peek and P. D. Dalke (eds.). Symp. Wildlife-Livestock Relationships. Forest, Wildlife and Range Exp. Station Bull. Univ. Idaho. Moscow, ID.
Minckley, W. L. and J. E. Deacon (eds.). 1990. Battle against extinction: native fish management in the American West. Univ. Arizona Press. Tucson, AZ.
Moyle, P. B. and J. E. Williams. 1990. Biodiversity loss in the temperature zone: decline of the native fish fauna of California. Cons. Biol. 4(3): 275-284.
Platts, W. S. 1981. Influence of forest and rangeland management on anadromous fish habitat in western North America: effects of livestock grazing. Gen Tech. Rep. PNW-124. USDA-Forest Service, Pacific Northwest For. and Range Exp. Stn. Portland, OR.
Platts, W. S. and F. J. Wagstaff. 1984. Fencing to control livestock grazing on riparian habitats along streams: is it a viable alternative? N. Amer. J. Fisheries Manage. 4: 266-272.
Reisner, M. and S. Bates. 1990. OVERTAPPED OASIS: REFORM OR REVOLUTION FOR WESTERN WATER. Island Press. Covelo, CA.
Shepard, B. B. 1992. Grazing allotment administration along streams supporting cutthroat trout in Montana. Rangelands 14(4): 1992.
Stuber, R. J. 1985. Trout habitat, abundance, and fishing opportunities in fenced vs. unfenced riparian habitat along Sheep Creek, Colorado. Pages 310-314 IN R. Johnson, C. D. Ziebell, D. R. Patton, [et al.], (tech. coords.). RIPARIAN ECOSYSTEMS AND THEIR MANAGEMENT: RECONCILING CONFLICTING USES. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-102. USDA-Forest Service.
Teller, E. 1994. Cattle and cervid interactions in Alberta. Canadian Field Naturalist 108(2): 186-194.
Wagner, F. 1978. Livestock grazing and the livestock industry in WILDLIFE IN AMERICA. Council on Environmental Quality. Washington DC.
Wallace, M. C. and P. R. Krausman. 1987. Elk, mule deer, and cattle habitats in central Arizona. J. Range Management 40: 80-83.
Wuerthner, G. 1992. Wall Creek Game Range-A Dissenting View. Rangelands 14(1): 8-11.
Yeo, J. F., J. M. Peek, W. T. Wittinger, C. T. Kvale. 1993. Influence of rest-rotation cattle grazing on mule deer and elk habitat use in east-central Idaho. J. Range Management 46: 245-250.
Text by George Wuerthner; edited by Mark Salvo.