California Native Plant Society

Conservation Program

Livestock Grazing

Livestock grazing impacts more acres of wild native plant communities in California than any other activity. Livestock affect all aspects of native ecosystems from plant and animal species composition to water quality. CNPS has long been a leader in the search for livestock management techniques that maintain the health native plant and animal communities. We focus our grazing advocacy work on Federal lands, particularly National Forests and BLM lands, where strong resource protection laws mandate that sustainability and good science must guide all land management.

Issues Statement

CNPS has been a leading voice for improved livestock management on Federal lands for almost two decades. In California, livestock graze almost every plant community that occurs on Federal lands, from the hot deserts on BLM lands in the south, to the high mountain meadows and lush stream corridors on Sierra Nevada National Forests, to coastal prairies on the Los Padres National Forest, Pt. Reyes National Seashore, and elsewhere.

Improperly managed livestock can wreak havoc in ecosystems, spreading invasive non-native weeds, destroying wetlands, accelerating erosion, and killing rare species. Many California plant communities are too fragile to support any use by livestock. High mountain meadows, for example, dormant much of the year under snow and freezing temperatures, must be protected as much as possible during their short growing season. However, some California ecosystems can withstand conservative, properly managed livestock grazing. The focus of CNPS grazing program is (1) to determine which ecosystems are incompatible with livestock use and to exclude livestock from these areas, and (2) to develop sustainable, scientifically sound livestock management systems for those ecosystems which can support livestock.

CNPS develops detailed management proposals for both the BLM and Forest Service and works with the media and Congress to influence grazing legislation. Our members and staff comment on agency management proposals and develop reviews and digests of scientific literature on grazing management issues. We also spend a great deal of time in the field, evaluating the health of grazed plant communities and reviewing grazing management schemes.

Additional Information

CNPS Comment Letter on DEIS analyzing range standards and guidelines for the Eldorado and Tahoe National Forests (PDF, 10/14/99, 125k)

CNPS Comment Letter on Grazing Allotments in the Big Sur Coast (PDF, 08/25/99, 76k)

CNPS Livestock Management Proposal for USFS Sierra Nevada Framework Project (PDF, 01/13/99, 80k)

(Literature Review on the ) Impacts of Livestock Grazing on Soils and Recommendations for Management (PDF, 11/20/96, 69k)


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