Grazing a major threat to wildlife on Western public lands?

Last week the WildEarth Guardians, a group that “protects and restores the wildlife, wild places and wild rivers of the American West” sent out a press release detailing the results of its recent report “Western Wildlife Under Hoof.” The report claims that “incessant, ubiquitous public lands livestock grazing has contributed to the decline of native wildlife” and “public lands grazing continues within the much reduced current ranges of these species, complicating their recovery and in some cases, threatening them with extinction.” The report also claims that “There is a greater economic value in non-consumptive uses of public land — hunting, fishing, birdwatching, hiking, camping — than livestock grazing.” Check out the press release below and click on the link at the end to view the entire report. Post a comment here if you would like to chime in on this report.

New Report Finds Western Public Lands Grazing as a Major Threat to Wildlife Geographical Analysis Depicts Extensive Grazing in Wildlife Habitat

Date: 4/30/2009
Press Release Author: WildEarth Guardians
Contact: WildEarth Guardians (505) 988-9126
Email: msalvo@wildearthguardians.org
Additional Contact: Mark Salvo, WildEarth Guardians, (503) 757-4221

SANTA FE, N.M. – Dozens of species of wildlife, ranging from wolves to the Sonoran Desert tortoise, are threatened by public lands livestock grazing in the West, according to a report released today by WildEarth Guardians. The report, Western Wildlife Under Hoof, documents, for the first time, the expansive overlap between federal grazing allotments and distribution of iconic species in the region.

Livestock grazing is permitted on approximately 80 percent of public land in the historic range of numerous native trout, more than 75 percent of the historic range for four prairie dog species, 84 percent of the current range of the Gunnison sage-grouse and 91 percent of the current range of greater sage-grouse, according the geographical analysis. The direct and indirect effects of livestock grazing, amplified by its ubiquitousness, are a threat to each of these species.

“It’s confirmed: public lands grazing is permitted all over the West, and it’s nearly impossible for displaced wildlife to escape the impacts of domestic livestock production,” said Mark Salvo, WildEarth Guardians’ grazing program specialist and author of the report.

WildEarth Guardians conducted the analysis by overlaying its comprehensive Geographic Information System data of active grazing allotments with current and historic range of selected focal species. The report confirms that millions of cattle, sheep, goats and horses are permitted to graze approximately 260 million acres of public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, significantly degrading wildlife habitat—even for far-ranging species.

The analysis found a high potential for conflict between livestock grazing and large carnivores such as wolves, given that ranchers often call for wolves to be killed where conflicts with livestock grazing occur. Almost 2,600 grazing allotments covering more than 19 million acres of public land are located in estimated gray wolf current range in the northern Rocky Mountains, while 82 percent of the Mexican gray wolf recovery area in the Southwest is on public land permitted for livestock grazing.

The report also analyzed the overlap between active grazing allotments and current, historic and/or potential range of northern aplomado falcon and lesser prairie chicken in New Mexico; Columbian sharp-tailed grouse; Mexican spotted owl; Chiricahua leopard frog and jaguar.

“The species included in our report are representative of the hundreds of wildlife species that are threatened by public lands grazing on our forests, grasslands, and deserts in the West,” said Salvo.

To counter the effects of public lands livestock grazing, WildEarth Guardians and partners are working to protect imperiled species under the Endangered Species Act and institute voluntary grazing permit retirement programs to reduce grazing conflicts on public land. Conservationists hope that listing wildlife and encouraging voluntary grazing permit retirement will help recover declining species and restore ecosystems.

“Voluntary grazing permit retirement will become an increasingly important tool for managing grazing conflicts on western public lands,” Salvo commented.

View the Western Wildlife Under Hoof report here or contact Mark Salvo at msalvo@wildearthguardians.org.

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