Skip to Main Content

The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: Ecological Costs of Livestock Grazing in Western North America
Year: 1994
Author(s): Fleischner, T. L.
Source Title: Conservation Biology
Source Type: Journal
pages: 629-644
Original Publication: http://  
Abstract: Livestock grazing is the most widespread land management practice in western North America. Seventy percent of the western United States is grazed, including wilderness areas, wildlife refuges, national forests, and even some national parks. The ecological costs of this nearly ubiquitous form of land use can be dramatic. Examples of such costs include loss of biodiversity; lowering of population densities for a wide variety of taxa; disruption of ecosystem functions, including nutrient cycling and succession; change in community organization; and change in the physical characteristics of both terrestrial and aquatic habitats. Because livestock congregate in riparian ecosystems which are among the biologically richest habitats in arid and semiarid regions, the ecological costs of grazing are magnified in these sites. Range science has traditionally been laden with economic assumptions favoring resource use. Conservation biologists are encouraged to contribute to the ongoing social and scientific dialogue on grazing issues.