Anti-grazing fallacies

  Dear HCN,

In his rush to support environmental activists and ignorance of ecological processes, Tony Davis unwittingly reveals two major fallacies of the anti-grazing movement (HCN, 10/22/01: Healing the Gila). The first involves ecological site potential and the misconception that all you have to do is take the cows off and stand back. "It will rival the rain forest." What a joke and what a misleading piece of reporting. Because of relatively good soils and available water, riparian areas respond well when constant grazing pressure is lightened. But a rain forest the San Francisco (or the Gila) will never be.

The second myth perpetrated on your readers is the incorrect implication that since flycatcher populations improved when uncontrolled overgrazing was changed to well-managed grazing, if all the cows were removed, there would be even more flycatchers. This direct and linear response to changes in the level of ecosystem perturbation has no support in the scientific literature and is, in fact, an unlikely scenario.

These two misconceptions are fundamental to the diametric split between anti-grazing advocates and those who would dare to leave cows on the landscape. The differences are personal perceptions, purely ideological, the result of widely disparate social and cultural backgrounds. The article does a disservice to the thousands of Westerners working in collaborative efforts to bridge these differences and provide a future for communities dependent upon public land that is inclusive rather than divisive.

Dusty Snow
Tucson, Arizona