Act Now to Strengthen the America the Beautiful Initiative

Photo: George Wuerthner.

Public lands open to livestock grazing must not be included in the Conservation and Stewardship Atlas, speak up by March 7

Which lands in the U.S. are sufficiently conserved now and into the future that they help us as a nation “safeguard the drinking water, clean air, food supplies, and wildlife upon which we all depend; fight climate change with the natural solutions that forests and oceans provide; and give every child in America the chance to experience the wonders of nature?”

That is the question the Biden administration has asked us to answer as they develop the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas. This Atlas will identify the basis for what lands qualify for meeting the goal of having at least 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters conserved by 2030.

Part of the answer to the question posed is that public lands degraded and over-grazed by domestic livestock most certainly should NOT count as conserved lands.

Consider this fact: 40 million acres of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management fail the agency’s own rangeland health standards—mainly due to improper livestock grazing—and an additional 59 million acres have never even been assessed to see if they meet agency standards.

Meanwhile the U.S. Forest Service doesn’t even have established standards or regular monitoring for rangeland health across 102 million acres of national forests where livestock grazing is permitted. Without this minimum degree of rangeland health information on national forests, these lands cannot be considered for the Conservation and Stewardship Atlas either.

Furthermore, domestic livestock grazing negatively impacts biodiversity, which is in direct opposition to a major purpose of the 30×30 Initiative. Livestock grazing degrades habitat for imperiled native wildlife species like sage grouse, grey wolf, black-footed ferret, yellow-billed cuckoo, and bull trout. Domestic sheep often pass epizootic pneumonia to native bighorn sheep, wiping out entire populations.

Exacerbating the toll of livestock grazing, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services killed more than 1.6 million native wild animals in just the past two years, many of which were killed at the behest of ranchers.

Finally, most natural springs, seeps, streams, and ponds on grazed lands fail to meet water quality standards due to grazing. The National Park Service itself admits that livestock grazing as currently practiced within the national park system adversely impacts and impairs water quality and riparian areas.

For these reasons, federal public lands open to domestic livestock grazing must not qualify for inclusion in the Conservation and Stewardship Atlas. Conserved lands must actually be protected lands.

It’s time to make your voice on this matter heard!

Please use the information contained here—along with your personal knowledge and experience—to let the Biden administration know that these public lands and waters degraded by livestock grazing should NOT be included in the Conservation and Stewardship Atlas.


Andrew Rothman is the Wild Places Program Director for WildEarth Guardians.