Sustainable Ungulate Grazing in Riparian Rangelands: Oxymoron or Reachable Goal?

Riparian areas and adjacent aquatic ecosystems are critical habitats in arid landscapes where they support high biodiversity including many threatened and endangered populations of salmon and trout.  Proper management of domestic and wild ungulates is therefore a key component in efforts to conserve and restore these riparian ecosystems.  When grazing is conducted in an ecologically sustainable manner, grazing interests not only maintain riparian systems but their large private land holdings can buffer these systems from more detrimental land uses.  Governmental management agencies and grazing stakeholders need to cooperate in order to improve the structure and function of western stream-riparian ecosystems.  From the 1970s to the 1990s many studies evaluated the effects of livestock grazing and provided guidance for improving degraded riparian sites.  Similar efforts conducted at that time also focused on understanding the effects of timber harvest and roads.  While it is clear many of the changes in timber practices suggested in the 1990s improved riparian conditions the results are more equivocal when evaluating changes in livestock management practices.  Reasons why improvements in livestock management practices may have had a slower response include: a lack of appropriate standards applied at appropriate scales, failure to implement existing best management practices, a changing climate, the difficulty of recovering rangelands, and/or not accounting for wild ungulate herbivory?    The goal of this symposium is to synthesize past and recent grazing research with discussions that place grazing impacts within the context of climate change and the socio-economics of ranching, and  to explore options that provide forage and water for livestock and wildlife while protecting water quality, riparian vegetation, and habitat for cold water fish.
Nathaniel Gillespie, Mary Rowland, Katherine Smith, Brett B. Roper and Peter Kiffney
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