Arid Environment

More livestock will only make things worse

This opinion column was submitted by Adam Bronstein, the Nevada and Oregon director for Western Watersheds Project.

As wildfires rage in the Sierra Nevada and all across the West with greater frequency and intensity, the loss of property, upended lives and toxic smoke is becoming too much to bear. Naturally, we humans want to take action and fix the problem. But instead of addressing the root cause of the problem — too many livestock overgrazing the range and spreading the flammable weed cheatgrass — the livestock industry is predictably peddling even more livestock grazing as a “solution” to the problem they caused in the first place.

The solution, or so it has been sold to us, is to release sheep, goats and cows across the landscape in greater numbers to mow down invasive flammable cheatgrass with the goal of lessening fire intensity if and when fire visits. Recent stories on intensive sheep and goat grazing efforts have made headlines across Nevada, celebrating “fuels reduction” programs and partnerships underway around Carson City, Reno and other communities. The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are also experimenting with intensive grazing programs with the stated purpose of reducing cheatgrass and mitigating wildfire in more remote areas far away from the wildlands-urban interface.

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