Debra Donahue, a law professor at the University of Wyoming with an M.S. degree in wildlife biology, has gathered biology, economics and history in her The Western Range Revisited: Removing Livestock from Public Lands to Conserve Native Biodiversity.
Her proposal to evict livestock
from arid rangelands receiving less than 12 inches of precipitation
annually is not new, but her massing in one place the legal,
historical, scientific and economic arguments to justify the
eviction is a first.
Rebuttals to her arguments
are flying thick and fast in Wyoming. A few of her critics have
even read her book. Chief among those is Tom Thurow, who teaches
natural resources at the University of Wyoming. He argues that
Western grazing lands "developed with large grazing animals
present" and that the solution to deteriorated rangeland is "proper
stocking rates and use patterns."
On the legal
and historical landscape, Donahue argues that the commonly quoted
phrase in the 1934 Taylor Grazing Act - -chiefly valuable for
grazing' - does not mean that the crafters of the nation's first
grazing legislation had determined that the lands were chiefly
valuable for grazing. Instead, she says, they were delineating the
responsibility of the Interior Secretary to weigh the value of
public lands for grazing along with wildlife and biodiversity,
protecting watersheds and other functions.
also argues that the "larger social context" of changing
environmental values needs to be part of BLM decision-making, and
that the influence of public lands on the national livestock
industry is negligible: Only 2 percent of cattle forage and 5
percent of sheep forage comes from the public
The Western Range Revisited can be ordered
from University of Oklahoma Press in Norman, Okla., at
800/627-7377, or on the Web at www.ou.edu/oupress. The hardcover is
available for $47.95.