Grazing on Public Lands
In California 30% of public land is rangeland, covering over 32 million acres (Fire and Resource Assessment Program 2010). As populations and demand for resources increase on an otherwise finite land base, interactions and conflicts inevitably arise.
While the primary use of rangelands for well over a century has been livestock grazing to produce food and fiber, an elevated interest in and demand for recreational areas has increasingly brought livestock-recreation interactions to forefront. Competition for the services derived from our natural ecosystems will continue to increase (Forest Service 2012).
Perceived and real conflict between recreationist and grazing has led to the eliminating grazing from some public lands, reducing public land manager’s ability to manage vegetation and protect conservation values (Barry 2014).
However, while grazing and recreational uses of land may at times be at odds, these uses may also be compatible, and even mutually beneficial.
Understanding Working Rangelands:
Bay Area Ranching Heritage: A Continuing Legacy
Benefits of Grazing - Livestock Grazing: A Conservation Tool on California's Annual Grasslands
Cattle, Sheep, Goats, and Horses: What’s the Difference for Working Rangelands?
Cows Need Water, Too: Water Sources, Wetlands, and Riparian Areas
Ranching Infrastructure: Tools for Healthy Grasslands, Livestock, and Ranchers
Sharing Open Space: What to Expect from Grazing Livestock
Conflicts can be minimized and the benefits of these concurrent uses maximized with appropriate policies, management, and oftentimes, creativity and leniency (i.e., giving the benefit of the doubt) on the part of both livestock managers and recreationists. Novel approaches to public education and collaborative land management where livestock graze and recreationists roam are critical to reducing negative livestock-recreation encounters and enhancing the many benefits that these land uses and ecosystem services provide (Brunson and Steel 1996, Resnik et al. 2006, Brunson and Huntsinger 2008).
The UCCE advisors developed several educational publication and park signage to educate users and cattle producers on maintaining proper livestock grazing and rancher stewardship on California’s rangelands with public access and recreation through public education and outreach. These educational tools will:
1) Reduce negative interactions between livestock and park users.
2) Increase park users comfort while recreating with livestock grazing.
3) Provide a tool for ranchers to help explain livestock behavior to park users.
4) Maintain public support for grazing as a management tool on public lands with recreation.