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Western Land Managers Will Need All Available Tools For Adapting To Climate Change, Including Grazing: A Critique of Beschta et al

Tony Svejcar, Chad Boyd, Kirk Davies, Matthew Madsen, Jon Bates, Roger Sheley, Clayton Marlow, David Bohnert, Mike Borman, Ricardo Mata-Gonzalez, John Buckhouse, Tamzen Stringham, Barry Perryman, Sherman Swanson, Kenneth Tate, Mel George, George Ruyle, Bruce Roundy, Chris Call, Kevin Jensen, Karen Launchbaugh, Amanda Gearhart, Lance Vermeire, John Tanaka, Justin Derner, Gary Frasier, Kris Havstad
Environmental management 2014 v.53 no.6 pp. 1035-1038
carbon dioxide, climate, climate change, fuel loading, fuels, grazing, herbivores, indigenous species, land management, livestock, managers, plant communities, public lands, risk, soil, temperature, ungulates, vegetation, wildfires
In a previous article, Beschta et al. (2013) argue that grazing by large ungulates (both native and domestic) should be eliminated or greatly reduced on western public lands to reduce potential climate change impacts. The authors were selective in their use of the scientific literature, and their publication is more of an opinion article than a synthesis. Their conclusions do not reflect the complexities associated with herbivore grazing. Interactions of climate change and grazing will depend on the specific situation. For example, increasing atmospheric CO2 and temperatures may increase both accumulation of fine fuels (primarily grasses) and thus increase wildfire risk. Prescribed grazing by livestock is one of the few management tools available for reducing fine fuel accumulation. While there are certainly points on the landscape where herbivore impacts can be identified, there are also vast grazed areas where impacts are minimal. Broad scale reduction of domestic and wild herbivores to help native plant communities cope with climate change will be unnecessary because over the past 20 to 50 years land managers have actively sought to bring populations of native and domestic herbivores in balance with the potential of vegetation and soils. To cope with a changing climate, land managers will need access to all available vegetation management tools, including grazing.