Andy Kerr

Conservationist, Writer, Analyst, Operative, Agitator, Strategist, Tactitian, Schmoozer, Raconteur

Livestock Grazing

As sheep advance, flowers, vegetation, grass, soil, plenty, and poetry vanish.

John Muir, John of the Mountains (1938)


See also my Sagebrush Sea page.

Voluntary Federal Grazing Permit Relinquishment

The voluntary relinquishment of federal grazing permits and leases from willing sellers in exchange for third-party compensation is ecologically imperative, economically rational, fiscally prudent, socially just and politically pragmatic. See "Some Thoughts on Voluntary Federal Grazing Permit Relinquishment on Federal Public Lands."

Livestock Grazing on Federal Public Lands Not a Right

• A very misused and inaccurate term to use when referring to the grazing of livestock on federal public lands is to refer to such as a "grazing right." Federal grazing permits/leases do not convey “grazing rights” on federal public lands.

The Problem is Grazing, Not Overgrazing

• One does not see the use of the term “overlogging” when describing harm done to forests by chainsaws and bulldozers. Nor does one see the term “overmining” or “overdrilling” to describe the activity of mineral extraction as a cause of degradation of land, water and wildlife. One does not read the term “overroading” in a discussion of landscape fragmentation. Using the correct word matters. Not only in the popular media, but often in government reports and scientific papers, the term “overgrazing” is used to describe a land use that affects the natural environment. Herbivory by domestic livestock in a natural environment is accurately called “grazing.”  Please see: Most Often, the Right Word is “Grazing,” Not “Overgrazing”.


• My statement for the record, on behalf of WildEarth Guardians on S.1129 (112th Congress), the "Grazing Improvement [sic] Act of 2011," given to the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee of the United States Senate on March 22, 2012.


I think my best rant against livestock can be found in Oregon Desert Guide: 70 Hikes.

"Removing Hooved Locusts From the Public Trough" is a Wallowa County Chieftain column that is is an abbreviated version of why livestock are inappropriate on the public lands.

Mark Salvo and I have penned a review in Wild Earth of the Western Range Revisited: Removing Livestock from Public Lands to Conserve Biological Diversity, by Deborah L. Donahue, which is a very fine scholarly analysis of the historical, legal, ecological implications of public land grazing.

"Pillaged Preserves: Livestock in National Parks and Wilderness Areas", coauthored with Mark Salvo, appeared in Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West.

"Congress Designates First Livestock-Free Wilderness (on Steens Mountain)" appeared in Wild Earth.

"Evolving Presidential Policy toward Livestock Grazing in National Monuments", co-authored with Mark Salvo, was initially published in and is copyrighted by the Penn State Environmental Law Review.

"The Voluntary Retirement Option for Federal Public Lands Grazing Permittees" was simultaneously and identically published in Rangelands and Wild Earth. An adapted version appeared in Cascade Cattleman. A different adaptation appeared in Different Drummer.

"Permits For Cash: A Fair and Equitable Resolution to the Public Land Range War" by Mark Salvo of American Lands) and myself has appeared in Rangelands. A more expansive version is also available which documents that federal compensation for grazing permits has been the policy for military takeovers of public lands since the middle of the 20th Century.

"Voluntary v. Mandatory Buyout" analyzes the pro's and con's of the voluntary versus mandatory approach to the retirement of public land grazing permits. Politics isn't geometry; the shortest distance between two points is never a straight line.

The National Public Lands Grazing Campaign appeared in Wild Earth and describes the camapign itself.

"Conservationists Conceive Cow Cops" suggests that volunteer monitors can scare the hell out of federal grazing permittees. It was conceived by folks at Oregon Natural Resources Council, but funding limitations have prevented its implementation.

"Don't Try to Improve Grazing; Abolish It!" appeared in High Country News.

"'Home on the Range' an Environmental Folk Song" is actually a song about the wilderness and has been misappropriated by cowboys. I took more shit for this column in the Wallowa County Chieftain than for any other. While this popular folk song is associated with cowboys, it does not contain a single reference to domestic livestock. Instead, it extols the natural richness of the Western range, mentioning a number of species now in decline. Perhaps conservationists will reclaim this folk song, sing it in camp and teach it to their children. It includes a new last verse penned by myself and have granted to the public domain. Hear "Home on the Range" xx (to be linked soon) performed by Eva-Marie Ascensio and Marc Viznick. Extra bonus! You can also get a rendition of "Don't Fence Me In" xx (to be linked soon) written by Cole Porter and performed by Eva-Marie Ascensio.

"Managing Western Juniper to Restore Sagebrush Steppe and Quaking Aspen Stands" was co-authored with Mark Salvo and published by the Sagebrush Sea Campaign.


The National Public Lands Grazing Campaign seeks to end abusive livestock grazing on public lands, primarily through enactment of a congressional program to acquire grazing permits from willing federal permittees and then retiring the allotment permanently from commercial livestock grazing. NPLGC has two websites: (the problems of public lands grazing); and (a solution to the problem of public lands grazing).

Advocates for the West is the most effective public interest law firm in getting livestock of public lands.

Great Old Broads for Wilderness is what it says and more.

Western Watersheds Project and Wild Earth Guardians are the lead organizations to end abusive public lands livestock grazing.

Center for Biological Diversity is very effective in both listing and protecting species under the Endangered Species Act.


Oh give me a home...
Where the deer and the antelope play.
Where seldom is seen the hamburger machine,
And the flies are not swarming all day.

Edward Abbey

On public lands in the great Western ecosystem, livestock will not have priority. The grazing of livestock will and must be subordinated to the natural order of the bison and the predator. The needs of the bison are first.

Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior, January 13, 2001 at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, Montana reported in Los Angeles Times January 15, 2001, "Babbitt's Legacy of Resource Protection Angers Some in West."

Livestock can be used as a management tool, like an AK-47 assault rifle can be used as a hunting tool. Perhaps theoretically possible, but only with very careful control of the tool. With either the cow or the assault rifle on fully automatic, bad things happen. At least the gun cannot walk around and do what a gun does by itself.

Andy Kerr

Africa: Different antelope and other game consume different mixes of food plants, so the whole assemblage is used, but cows eat only certain plants and displace the rest, hence much food is wasted.

Kenneth E.F. Watt, "Man's Efficient Rush Toward Deadly Dullness" in Ants, Indians and Little Dinosaurs, (ed. Alan Ternes, 1975, p. 363-4)

Although cattle-grazing in the West has polluted more water, eroded more topsoil, killed more fish, displaced more wildlife, and destroyed more vegetation than any other kind of land use, the American public pays ranchers to do it.

Ted Williams. 1991. "He's Going to Have an Accident," Audubon: 93(2): 30-39, p. 34 (March).

Resolved, that none of us know, or care to know, anything about grasses, native or otherwise, outside the fact that for the present there are lots of them, the best on record, and we are after getting the most out of them while they last.

A resolution by a West Texas cattleman's organization in 1898 quoted in Paul Shepard's book Nature and Madness.