Longer Term Rest from Grazing: A Response to Jones & Carter

  • Kirk Davies Rangeland Scientist, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center, Burns, OR
  • Amanda Gearhart Rangeland Scientist, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center, Burns, OR
  • Martin Vavra Emeritus Faculty, USDA-Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station and Eastern Oregon, Oregon State University, La Grande, OR
  • Brad Shultz Extension Educator, University of Nevada-Reno, Winnemucca, NV
  • Neil Rimbey Professor of Agricultural Economics, University of Idaho, Caldwell, ID
Keywords: grazing, fire, livestock, sagebrush, rest


Jones & Carter, in a response to Davies et al. (2014), misrepresent the original article and other articles, develop arguments not supported by scientific literature, and ignore literature counter to their opinions.  Most peculiarly, Jones & Carter incorrectly assert that Davies et al. concluded 1) livestock grazing is benign in sagebrush steppe and 2) long-term rest is not beneficial.   To the contrary, Davies et al. repeatedly stated that improperly managed grazing negatively impacts sagebrush communities and that long-term rest is clearly advantageous over improper grazing.  Jones & Carter ignore peer-reviewed scientific journal articles that demonstrated properly managed grazing can reduce fire behavior and severity, decrease native bunchgrass fire-induced mortality, reduce post-fire exotic annual grass invasion, and mediate the negative effects of fire on soil biological crusts in intact sagebrush communities.  They also make the common mistake of confusing legacy effects of past mismanagement with current management effects, and attempt to build an argument for large grazing-free areas in the sagebrush ecosystem based on this misperception.  However, grazing is one of only a few tools, and possibly the only one that can be applied at the scale needed, to mediate the effects of climate change and an increased risk of frequent fires in the sagebrush ecosystem.  Therefore, counter to Jones & Carter’s suggestion that we need large grazing-free areas, we instead need large areas representing different grazing management to improve our understanding of how grazing can be most effectively used to protect the sagebrush ecosystem from catastrophic frequent wildfires.  


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