Some 110,000 square miles of federal
land in the West should be closed to cattle and restocked
with wolves and beavers, according to a paper by Oregon
State University scientists and others.
Appearing Aug. 9 in the journal
BioScience, the paper identifies 11 blocks of federal land
spread over 11 states for a “Western rewilding network.”
The paper’s 20 signers include six OSU
scientists, professors from other schools, conservationists
and former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Daniel
They propose reducing the amount of
federal land grazed in the West by 29% — equal to the size
of Nevada — and also limiting logging, mining, oil and gas
drilling and off-road vehicles.
Once rid of “troublesome nonnative
species,” the network would advance President Biden’s
executive order to conserve 30% of the U.S. by 2030, the
“Although our proposal may at first
blush appear controversial or even quixotic, we believe that
ultra ambitious action is required,” they wrote.
R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard said the
proposal ignores the rights of ranchers and the importance
of widespread food production that can withstand regional
“The American West is vitally
important as a protein source, beef and lamb, and is ideally
suited for protein production,” he said.
“It is a shortsighted and unrealistic
proposal that does not consider the economic and social
impacts it would have, uprooting entire communities that are
valuable contributors to the economic welfare of this
nation,” Bullard said.
The proposal identifies blocks of
federally owned land in Oregon, Washington, Idaho,
California, Nevada, Montana, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico,
Wyoming and Utah for the rewilding network.
The network would include Olympic
National Park, and the North and South Cascades in
Other blocks in the network would
include the Blue, Klamath and Cascade mountains in Oregon;
the Sierra Nevada mountains in California and the Northern
Rockies in Idaho.
The proposal intertwines reducing
cattle on federal land and wolf recovery. The paper argues
that livestock grazing threatens endangered species and
contributes to climate change.
Grazing permits could be retired with
an “economically and socially just federal compensation
program,” according to the authors.
The paper’s lead co-author, OSU
ecology professor William Ripple, was unavailable. Co-author
George Wuerthner of Public Lands Media in Bend said removing
cattle from federal lands would have the most impact.
“If I were king, that would be the
first thing I would do,” he said.
“This is sort of a big-picture
proposal. I think all of us realize a final version will
have a lot of political compromises,” Wuerthner said. “You
throw it out there and it takes a while and provides a
target that you can have as a goal.”
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
natural resources director Kaitlynn Glover said rewilding
campaigns ignore ranchers’ contributions to keeping
“Removing livestock grazing — a
valuable tool to reduce fuels for wildfires and an important
protector of biodiversity — will lead to new and exacerbated
threats to vast areas of the West,” she said in an email.
The paper called for wolves to be
federally protected throughout the country. Currently,
wolves in the Rocky Mountains are not federally protected.
Restoring beavers would repair
riparian habitat and enrich fish habitat, according to the
Ashe was USFWS director from 2011 to
2017 during the Obama administration. He is now president
and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Other authors include five other OSU
scientists and Aaron Wirsing of the University of Washington
School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.
Other authors are from the Ohio State
University, Virginia Tech, the University of Victoria,
Michigan Technological University, National Park Service,
Earth Island Institute of Berkley, Calif.
Also, Turner Endangered Species Fund
of Bozeman, Mont.; Florida Institute for Conservation
Service, and RESOLVE, a conservation group based in
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