Abstract Livestock can be managed to help heal riparian areas and rangelands damaged by excessive use from livestock, wildlife, recreation, mining, natural elements such as drought or flood, or weed and pest infestations. Livestock activity can also be used to enhance the productivity of naturally less-productive rangelands for the benefit of both wildlife and livestock.
Properly-managed grazing on riparian areas can facilitate re-establishment ofstreamside vegetation, while inhibiting noxious weeds or undesirable woody species that discourage use by wildlife and/or recreationists. Time-intensive rangeland grazing can help break up matted sods and reduce undesirable vegetation types, allowing more productive forage species to revegetate. Hoof action breaks up capped soils to create water-permeable seed beds, so native grasses can flourish and out-compete undesirable or less-productive vegetation. Livestock grazing is also important in maintaining open mountain meadows for elk and/or deer critical habitat by preventing or impeding encroachment of woody species.
The improvement and preservation of riparian/rangeland health and biodiversity through proper livestock management on public and private lands is not a new concept to the western livestock industry. Many of these livestock management techniques have been researched and reported in agricultural and natural resources journals during the last 20 years. In the past, however, such strategies were rarely implemented on public lands because of widespread public misunderstanding and misperceptions about livestock grazing, and increased pressure from anti-livestock groups to curtail livestock grazing altogether.
Wyoming's Coordinated Resource Management (WyCRM) process has been an effective agent for disseminating understanding and use of livestock grazing management strategies to producers and the public. WyCRM teams are collaborative problem-solving, stakeholder / consensus groups comprised of federal and state land management personnel, agricultural producers, recreationists, planners, and other environmentally concerned citizens. Social change occurs as participants become more knowledgeable of total resource relationships and interactions, voluntarily amending their initial viewpoints. The result is often a comprehensive resource management plan for an area, based on multiple use and ecosystem management goals, rather than on the goals for a single resource or interest group. WyCRM teams provide the relief of shared responsibility for decision-making and risk, as well as group support for trying innovative strategies and techniques such as using livestock to heal or enhance the environment for wildlife, recreation, and livestock.
Accompanying photographs show damaged and healthy resources, including trend photos (before and after) of a riparian zone healed with livestock grazing; rare plant species preserved by livestock grazing; domestic goats controlling leafy spurge at Devil's Tower National Monument; and wildlife habitat enhanced by livestock grazing. Thought-provoking quotes from WyCRM team members highlight the text.
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