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WWRC 92-02
Determining Methods to Evaluate Relations Between Livestock and Wildlife Grazing and Water Quality


The national concern about water quality due to non-point sources of pollution caused by various land uses has encouraged widespread research on the efficacy of current land management practices. In the West, and specifically in Wyoming, both livestock grazing and wildlife foraging are widespread land uses, and the interactions of these two uses of land on water quality is the focus of heated controversy among interest groups (Phinney et al. 1989, Platts 1979). The controversy is amplified by concerns over the degradation of riparian zones and fisheries habitat (Crouse 1989, and Behnke 1977, Armour et al. 1990).

A major requirement of each state's Non-point Source Management Plan is the inclusion of best management practices (BMP) for each category of land use (Wilkinson and Anderson 1989). A consideration in drafting grazing BMP's relative to non-point source pollution is properly factoring the influences of native ungulate grazing when calculating the impact of livestock density on water quality. This consideration involves evaluation of the use of seasonal ranges by native ungulate species both in competitive and non-competitive situations. Determination of the influence of native wildlife on water quality over a several year period can provide much needed data for establishment of BMP's associated with grazing and for the control of non-point source pollution.

The types of data available to correlate grazing practices with different land use practices are difficult to assess because wild ungulate grazing and livestock grazing usually occur in the same area (Thomas et al. 1978). Thus, the individual impact of one or the other cannot be separated. Coupled with this problem is the fact that livestock grazing may influence the behavior of wild ungulates, thereby altering the impact of wild ungulates on water quality (Crumpacker 1981). Seasonal concentrations of wildlife associated with changing weather patterns may also alter the impact of wildlife grazing on water quality.


The goal of this project was to assimilate information that may be used to design research that will evaluate relations between wildlife and livestock grazing on water quality in Wyoming. We have summarized available literature and information on the impact of both livestock and wild ungulate grazing on water quality for the purpose of providing technical assistance to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality and the National Environmental Protection Agency. This information will be used to define quantitative relationships between ungulate and livestock grazing and water quality.

    Specific objectives include:

  1. Collect data currently available in both published and unpublished form on the impact of both livestock and wildlife grazing on water quality and riparian habitat.

  2. Determine if data are sufficient to develop a decision model that considers livestock AUM's and wildlife herd levels on a seasonal basis for the purpose of assessing non-point pollution when considering livestock and wildlife densities and their management.

  3. Summarize data on wildlife foraging behavior, seasonal movement, diurnal movement, winter feeding programs and both natural and man-induced winter concentration of wildlife that might affect water quality.

  4. Compare foraging behavior of various wildlife species in different riparian habitat types from available data in order to determine their relative influence on water quality.

  5. Design field experiments based on data from objectives 1-4 that could assess the impact of wildlife grazing on water considering,
    (a) seasonal and diurnal movements,
    (b) presence and absence of livestock grazing, and
    (c) various riparian habitat types present in Wyoming.

  6. Recommend potential study sites in different riparian habitats that could be used to carry out field experiments.

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