Significant reductions in grazing on public land — in some places outright elimination of the activity — is justified because of the impacts of a warming climate, scientists say in a new report…
While much attention is focused on a warming climate’s effects on forest health and wildfires, climate impacts on range used for grazing has received much less scrutiny, said Robert Beschta, a professor emeritus at Oregon State University and lead author of the study. “Entire rangeland ecosystems in the American West are getting lost in the shuffle,” Beschta told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “If we don’t get recovery under way soon, we may lose that opportunity. The clock is running and it’s running pretty fast.”…
The study, also authored by researchers from the University of Wyoming, Prescott College and the nonprofit Geos Institute, was published in the journal Environmental Management…. Beschta said he expects a negative response from ranchers likely to view the study as threatening but that because warming is adding to existing problems associated with grazing on the range, changes are needed now.
While this news article gave the study the credibility of a research paper and reported it as local investigative news, like media across the country — from Oregon Public Radio to Albany Tribune — the news story was actually taken verbatim from the press release issued by Oregon State University.
Had reporters had gone to the actual paper, Adapting to Climate Change on Western Public Lands: Addressing the Ecological Effects of Domestic, Wild, and Feral Ungulates, they would have found 58 pages of doom and gloom predictions based on the premise:
During the 20tth century, the average global surface temperature increased at a rate greater than in any of the previous nine centuries; future increases in the United States are likely to exceed the global average. In the western US, where most public lands are found, climate change is predicted to intensify even if greenhouse gas emissions are reduced dramatically. Climate-related changes can not only affect public-land ecosystems directly, but may exacerbate the aggregate effects of non-climatic stressors, such as habitat modification and pollution caused by logging, mining, grazing, roads, water diversions, and recreation.
In this paper, we explore the likely ecological consequences of climate change and ungulate use, individually and in combination, on public lands in the American West….
- Anticipated changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide, temperature, and precipitation are likely to have major repercussions for upland plant communities in western ecosystems, eventually affecting the distribution of major vegetation types….
- Future decreases in soil moisture and vegetative cover due to elevated temperatures will reduce soil stability…
- Air temperature increases and altered precipitation regimes will affect wildfire behavior and interact with insect outbreaks….
- By the mid-21st century, …. warming in western mountains is very likely to cause large decreases in snowpack, earlier snowmelt, more winter rain events, increased peak winter flows and flooding, and reduced summer flows….
- High water temperatures, acknowledged as one of the most prevalent water quality problems in the West, will likely be further elevated and may render one-third of the current coldwater fish habitat in the Pacific Northwest unsuitable by this century’s end….
- Livestock use effects, exacerbated by climate change, often have severe impacts on upland plant communities…. If livestock use on public lands continues at current levels, its interaction with anticipated changes in climate will likely worsen soil erosion, dust generation, and stream pollution…
And on and on it went. Notably missing: science.