Grazing improves the habitat


Dear readers,

I would like to share with you an article that appeared in the Yakima (Washington) Herald-Republic on Friday, November 8th. The article was written by W. Frank Hendrix of the Washington State University Cooperative Extension. The title of the article is, "Studies show grazing improves the habitat". I was a bit put out that an article of this sort would be published as scientific "fact" in an effort to "educate" the public. I encourage you to read the article and see if you don't agree Mr. Hendrix has rather seriously distorted the literature on grazing and fish habitat. Should you be so inclined, you can forward educational comments to him at:


The past month has been an arousing one on the subject area of range management. Oregon's ballot measure 38, which would have virtually eliminated all grazing in the state, was defeated. There have been letters to the editor about cattle in creeks. A tribal group and the forest service have been at odds about salmon habitat and grazing.

I hope that everybody involved and the public can take a little rest on the rhetoric and let me give you some facts to work woth. This may be an educational moment for the public that read [sic] this column.

1. GRAZING A PLANT DOES NOT "HURT" A PLANT (source; C.W. Cook; Winrock International; 1994). Managed grazing stimulated [sic] a plant into production of more root and leaf area and increases plant vitality.

At this time of year, no damage is done to the grass plant by grazing off the top vegetative portion of the plant. It aids in the re-growth in the spring, thus making the plant more valuable for wildlife and domestic animals alike.

If a grass plant is not grazed, it actually decreases in vitality and in some cases will kill the plant [sic]. An example of this would be to fence off a portion of an irrigated pasture. In a year you will have a bald spot or the plant species will have changed to weeds.

2. GRAZING DOES NOT INCREASE LAND EROSION OR INCREASE A SILTATION OF STREAMS [sic] (source; C.B. Marlow; Wildlife Management Institute, 1995). This may surprise many, but the scientific information on the subject is that even heavy overgrazing (much more than recommended) had little or no effect on erosion or siltation of surrounding streams.

A road for four-wheeler track [sic] does an unbelievable amount of damage, and most of the siltation blamed on grazing and logging is directly induced by these.

3. RIPARIAN AREAS SHOULD BE GRAZED (source: Buckhouse, 1994 & 1995). Riparian areas are defined as the land surrounding streams that tend to stay green longer in the spring and summer. They are different from other property for several reasons.

Riparian areas and the rights and control of them are some of the hottest political potatoes in the Western US. Riparian areas are some of the most productive grasslands in the world. They must be managed differently from the nonriparian areas to make sure overgrazing does not occur. Forage species growing in riparian areas tend to be invigorated by short-term grazing because they grow very fast.

4. SALMON PREFER TO SPAWN IN LOCATIONS WHERE RIPARIAN AREAS HAVE BEEN GRAZED (Source: Tibbs, etal., [sic] 1994 & 1995). The only long-term study on this subject was done in Oregon. It shows that salmon swam through study areas that have been nongrazed for many years. Salmon swam past riparian study areas that only allowed wildlife grazing too.

All of last year's salmon reds [sic] were located in study areas were [sic] riparian managed grazing has occurred for many years. This study has been repeated and has shown the same results since 1987.

5. GRAZING HELPS FOREST TREES GROW (source: Buckhouse and Tibbs, 1990-1955 [sic]). Scientific data is clear on this one. Grazing is a great aid in the growth of trees.

In one study, trees were an average of 8 feet larger in grazed areas, compared to nongrazed area [sic] in only 15 years. Currently, in Canada, sheep are being used to graze in newly planted areas.

Sheep do not eat or damage the baby trees, and the increased growth due to less water competition of the grass and weeds is huge.

6. LOWERING WATER TEMPERATURE AND TREE PLANTING IN RIPARIAN AREAS HAS LITTLE EFFECT ON SURVIVAL OF SALMON (Source: Moore, 1996; Kaczynski, 1996). Recent literature on this subject shows that a very small (1 percent to 2 percent) increase in salmon and steelhead is the only increase when the water temperature is lowereed to any level that is going to be achievable by planting trees and fencing riparian areas.

The literature goes on to state that removing fishing nets for 24 hours will have much more of an influence on the number of salmon than planting trees in riparian areas ever will. Using hundreds of thousands of dollars to stick a bunch of willow sticks in the ground and hoping that they become trees is in a [sic] large waste of sticks and money if you look at the actual facts.

The scientific data is solid on these subjects. The results and scientific facts may not be politically correct. Sometimes the facts can get in the way for a while but sooner or later they can't be ignored. The value of grazing in the Western U.S. is in the billions of dollars that taxpayers do not have ot pay unless grazing is stopped."

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