Book says cows don't belong on most BLM lands

  • Book cover of "The Western Range Revisited"

  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.

She 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 range.

The Western Range Revisited can be ordered from University of Oklahoma Press in Norman, Okla., at 800/627-7377, or on the Web at The hardcover is available for $47.95.

*Katharine Collins
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