Wednesday, November 14, 2012

They Kill Ranches & Rural Nevada, Don't They?

Believe it or not, there is still plenty of wide open space here in Nevada. This is how ranchers continue to survive. But while Rural Nevada is still wide open, it may not be as hospitable to ranchers and their livestock going forward.

Why? Once again, look to climate change.

A large decrease in the amount of grazing allowed on public land managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service could help offset stress on rangeland in Nevada and across the West that is being worsened by climate change, scientists said in a report released today.

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 said. “If we don’t get recovery under way soon, we may lose that opportunity. The clock is running and it’s running pretty fast.” [...]

Tina Nappe, a Reno conservationist and member of the Sierra Club, said she’s not ready to support widespread elimination of grazing on public land but agreed not near enough attention has been paid to impacts of a warming climate on many traditional land uses, grazing among them.

“There’s no doubt in my mind our current system does not take into account increased warming,” Nappe said. “We’ve know for some time a lot of these uses have to be re-evaluated in view of the fact we are experiencing warmer temperatures.”

These lands across Rural Nevada are now experiencing additonal soil erosion, vegetation loss, drainage problems, decline in water quality, and even disruption in entire wildlife communities thanks to climate change. So obviously, these lands are having more difficulty handling roaming livestock on top of all these other problems. Local ranchers may be furious over this proposed change from the Forest Service and BLM, but what else can be done?

Well, now that we're thinking about it some more, there is something else that can be done. But while it can't stop "land rationing" now, it can prevent this problem from becoming a horrifying crisis that will forbid any more ranching in Nevada altogether. And this is something we can all do now to help.

Right now, a huge swath of America spanning from the outskirts of Chicago to Southern Montana to the Mexican Border to Big Sur (on the California Coast) is mired in an ongoing and increasingly severe drought. And if we do nothing, the climate crisis will worsen, we will experience even more severe drought, and there may not be any land left for ranching in years to come.

This is what scientists have been warning us for several years. And this is what Harry Reid warned us about back in August. Simply put, climate change is no longer some far-away, intangible issue to ignore. Rather, it's threatening all of us here and now.

Global CO2 emissions grew a record setting 2.5% just last year. If we continue at this frightening pace, expect more disaster and even more destruction. However, it still doesn't have to be this way.

So what can we do? We can start by investing in our renewable energy future. And we can start by keeping fossil fuels where they belong (in the ground). And we can start by putting into place the proper regulatory framework to keep CO2 emissions in check moving forward. At this point, we no longer have a choice. If we don't want Nevada to turn barren, we have to take action on climate change.

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