Rangeland forage availability and management in times of drought – A case study of pastoralists in Afar, Ethiopia

Poor Management of Livestock Grazing

Wild Horses and Weeds

Wild Horses on a Former Great Basin Shrubland Destroyed by Livestock Grazing, Invasive Plants, and Fire. Abusive practices allowed by U. S. land management agencies continue at this site even now that little is left.

GR:  The researchers that performed this study end their report with an urgent call for range science to make Ethiopian grazing sustainable. It is probably a futile call. Range scientists studied and developed sustainable grazing systems in the U. S. almost a century ago. U. S. government land-management agencies applied various “rest-rotation” systems to millions of acres of public lands beginning in the 1930’s. Nevertheless, U. S. ranges have steadily lost productivity. Vast areas have deteriorated beyond any hope of recovery. This happened because desires of an industry consisting of ranchers and corporate conglomerates opposed scientific management from the beginning. U. S. Government agencies under the control of politicians representing the grazing industry never properly applied the restrictions required for sustainable management. Along with lost cattle-raising possibilities, there has been a massive loss of wildlife and native plants. It is now clear that range science cannot prevent short-term human desires from trumping wise management and long-term sustainability.

Grazing Research Highlights

  • “Afar pastoralists mainly depend on natural rangeland resources for their livestock.
  • “Supplemental feeds (e.g., crop residues) were not frequently used.• Average herbaceous cover of rangelands was <25%.
  • “In times of severe drought, migrating with livestock was most common.
  • “Afar pastoralists applied little rangeland conservation and mitigation efforts.

Grazing Research Abstract

Many Eastern African rangelands comprise marginal land, where climatic conditions are poor, access rights are increasingly limited, and land degradation is progressing. We conducted participatory land use mapping and vegetation assessment to identify the most important rangeland locations and their condition in Afar, Ethiopia. Further, we conducted 79 interviews across six villages to assess pastoralist adaptation strategies during drought times. In the dry season, livestock feed resources represented rangelands far away from the village (in 76% of the cases) while 50% and 40% of pastoralists also used cake concentrates and crop residues, respectively. During the wet season, rangeland resources close to villages, albeit with rather low herbaceous cover (<25%), contributed 80% to livestock forage. In times of severe drought, migrating with livestock was the most common (70%) adaptation, in combination with purchasing feed (50%) while <40% of the pastoralists sold or slaughtered animals. Afar pastoralists applied little conservation and mitigation methods, most commonly they removed livestock pressure to allow the pasture to recover. Overall, pastoralists in Afar still strongly depended on natural rangelands and their resources. Hence, to manage these sustainably a monitoring scheme must urgently be established for investigating rangeland quality and resilience to drought and grazing pressure.” –Anna C. Treydte et al. (Continue reading:  Rangeland forage availability and management in times of drought – A case study of pastoralists in Afar, Ethiopia).

The noisy political attack on new national monuments. We have heard the same now for 130 years | The Wildlife News

GR:  This insightful blog post provides historical perspective for public lands protection.

Cattle in the Sonoran Desert.  Heavily trampled soil without soil microorganisms that can absorb and store moisture, convert solar energy to nutrients, increase plant root efficiency, and protect the soil surface from erosion and invasive plants. Photo by George Wuerthner.

Cattle in the Sonoran Desert. Heavily trampled soil without soil microorganisms that can absorb and store moisture, convert solar energy to nutrients, increase plant root efficiency, and protect the soil surface from erosion and invasive plants. Photo by George Wuerthner.

“The recent designation of Bears Ear National Monument in southern Utah by President Obama engendered a predictable storm of rhetorical protest from Utah’s politicians. Yet a review of their comments and those made historically by western politicians when earlier Presidents had unilaterally created public reserves shows surprisingly consistent responses.

“In 1887, two weeks before leaving office, Democratic President Grover Cleveland after losing his bid for re-election to Republican candidate Benjamin Harrison, set aside 20 million acres of western lands as “forest reserves.” Republicans were offended that a “discredited leader” of a party that had suffered defeat in national elections two months before could unilaterally create new reserves on public lands.

“Reaction to President Grover Cleveland’s 1887 decision to create forest reserves (precursors to our national forests) in western states resulted in similar local outrage and calls to repeal the new reserves. In one historic account of events, the author claims that “in every case…these political spokesmen claimed they spoke for the people of the West. Their solicitude for the settler was in party hypocritical, insofar as they sought to use individual entry and claim to public lands for the enlargement of their own special interests.”

“For instance, Senator Wilson of Washington characterized the proclamation as a “ghastly mistake” and “dasterdly blunder”. He called it a “violation of all rights without notice to anyone.”

“Senator Petticrew of South Dakota denounced the order as contrary to law and called for the entire revocation of it.” –George Wuerthner (Continue learning:  The noisy political attack on new national monuments. We have heard the same now for 130 years.)

Managing the BLM: Please Help

GR:  The policy of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), “multiple use and sustained yield,” sounds great until you look at the results. Mining and mineral prospecting, cattle grazing, recreation, and energy transmission have led to invasions by alien plants and animals, soil erosion, increasing wildfires, and declining biodiversity. The BLM avoids conflicts with the profit goals of the companies that control our politicians. Thus, the agency responsible for more public land in the U. S. than any other does not hesitate to sacrifice the health and beauty of the land to avoid criticism from the resource harvesters that wish to use, and often abuse, the land. In fact, the BLM has a long history of anticipating the needs of private companies and adjusting polices to help them harvest the land.

As you will see in the item below taken from the Arizona section of the BLM website, BLM encourages public participation in formulating land-use plans. However, the agency often ignores public concerns when company profits are at stake. This might change if public participation grew as large as it has in North Dakota. So, follow the continue reading link at the end of the article and look for BLM public meetings in your area. And go.  Remember, “sustainable use” is meaningless if the use adds roads and depletes the habitat, soil, and wildlife. And remember, we don’t need no more stinking fossil fuels.

“The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) Land Use Plans, called Resource Management Plans (RMPs), evaluate and guide the management of resources and uses on public lands over a fifteen to twenty year period. Using the principles of multiple use and sustained yield, BLM Arizona seeks to maximize resource values on public land for current and future generations, ensuring the health, diversity, and productivity of the public land.

“BLM Arizona manages approximately 12.2 million surface acres of public land, and realizes that public involvement is critical in the development and implementation of its RMPs. Throughout the planning process, the BLM uses a collaborative approach involving tribal, State and local governments, other federal agencies, and interested publics in addressing management goals for public land. When RMPs are ready for review and public comment, BLM Arizona makes copies available to field offices and on the Internet. New and revised RMPs are now being developed in the ePlanning database. We encourage you to get involved in the planning process to help determine how the public lands will be managed. Involvement by everyone, who is interested in the public lands, will help ensure that the best overall plan is developed.” –BLM (Continue reading:  Programs: Planning and NEPA: Plans in Development: Arizona | BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT)

Demonstrate for an End to Global Warming

Climate-change demonstrations show our leaders that we want them to take steps to stop global warming. We must also ask our leaders to change the human activities that are causing climate change.

  1. We want them to block corporate control over our government and the decisions it makes.
  2. We want them to end international sales of weapons and begin to encourage peace and a focus on life style and resource use.
  3. We want them to discourage unsustainable resource harvests.
  4. We want them to encourage human rights and equality.
  5. We want them to speak out for wild animals and natural ecosystems.
  6. We want them to call for restoring the damaged lands and seas.
  7. And finally, we want them to oppose gender inequality and overpopulation.

Even if we stopped burning fossil fuels today, activities causing climate change would continue. Farming, deforestation, industrial fishing, desertification, construction, and growth of the human population would continue to waste the Earth and release CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

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