Great Basin rangeland facing challenges with climate change

“Fighting the effects of climate change in Great Basin rangeland is drawing together federal, state and private interests to deal with what scientists say is greater weather variability causing big swings in forage available for cattle and wildlife.” More at

(The photograph shows an impoverished cheatgrass landscape that native shrub vegetation occupied a century ago.)

GR:  Since people introduced cheatgrass to the region in the late 1800’s, the little weedy Asian grass has replaced native vegetation across millions of acres. A tremendous loss of natural productivity occurred as native plant and animal species declined.
Cheatgrass carries fire better than native plants. Fire frequency has increased, and native plants don’t have time to establish and mature before the next fire. Cheatgrass seeds survive the fires, and without competitors, the plant continues to increase.
For almost a century, range scientists have tried everything they can think of to control cheatgrass. They have failed, and it appears that the plant has become a permanent resident. There are only two reasonable management approaches now. First, remove domestic livestock so that the remaining native wildlife can survive on the impoverished cheatgrass ranges. And second, try to protect and preserve the few remaining areas with no cheatgrass.

7 thoughts on “Great Basin rangeland facing challenges with climate change

  1. As if the grazing/fire cycle wasn’t bad enough, in some places in the Great Basin (eastern NV, for example), land managers are ripping out p-j and sage and planting cheatgrass to increase forage for cattle.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Gary, your comments are well taken. Cheatgrass is ubiquitous in many areas here in NM. We have had some horrendous fires, in the recent past years, with the Los Conchas fire devastating whole canyons, now barren. Scientists now report that “Ponderosa will not return”. Much of the soil in this inferno was sterilized. The Jemez Mtns. have been decimated by livestock grazing, causing hotter, bigger fires, in conjunction with climatic changes. Domestic livestock must removed from this area, and I believe, all other public lands in the west, if native wild animals are to have a chance of survival.
    Thank you.

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  3. The new inter-agency program BLM is funding might be a place to start. We will have to monitor their efforts. Livestock grazing practices are so entrenched in the Bureau of Land Management and other management agencies worldwide; it’s definitely going to take a battle to fix.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks so much for your reply. Yes, let us work on this agency funding–sounds like a good place to begin, as you said. Something has to be done, particularly with climate changes upon us, and increasing. Your site is wonderful.
    My partner, Marc, and I live on a semi-rural, development,comprised of 1&1/2 acre lots, which was heavily grazed, until about 40 yrs. ago. Much of the soil is so denuded, sterile, some of it will take eons to come back–if ever. But, where we have amended the soil organically, in the back, walled area, it is now healthy soil.
    The old “cows vs. condos excuse” does not work well here, as the coyotes, bobcats (3) and other native flora and fauna, are better protected than ever before, with our covenants. Yet, 5 miles down the road on NM State Lands, animals are trapped, because there is grazing on that land.

    Liked by 2 people


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