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Cattle Grazing

KS Wild works to change grazing practices to protect meadows, lakes, rare plants and creeks from unsuitable grazing.

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Decades of grazing cattle on public lands in the Klamath-Siskiyou have taken a serious toll on native plant communities, streams, lakes and meadows.  Especially impaired are sensitive high-elevation meadows home to many rare plants. Cattle also congregate in streamside areas and in other water sources, often churning the soil, causing erosion and impairing aquatic habitats, including habitat for at-risk salmon species.

The mosaic of habitats found in this region, where expansive forests are broken up with natural openings, forces droves of opportunistic cattle to find grassy forage in the occasional open meadow. Often the result of unique soils, these high meadows are home to rare plants, and chronic grazing for years has altered these plant communities and put already rare plants at risk of extinction.

The ecological impacts of grazing are as familiar to visitors of the KS as are the recreational impacts. Visitors to some of the wildest areas in the KS are shocked to reach a remote backcounty lake that they are then forced to share with a herd of cows. The risk of drinking water contaminated by cows in many of these otherwise pristine streams, lakes and springs is well known to hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail. Even swimming in high mountain lakes can pose a risk of contracting E. Coli or other harmful bacteria.

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Irresponsible and even illegal grazing is not uncommon. Cows frequently trespass outside their allotted areas in several places in the Klamath-Siskiyous. Too often, designated Botanical Areas, Research Natural Area and other rare habitats are over-grazed before corrective action takes place.

KS Wild works to enforce grazing laws and rules that are in place, and seek to strengthen these rules where they are not adequately protecting natural systems. We track grazing impacts to salmon, rare plants and recreation and use this information to call for better practices. KS Wild has sought an equitable transition for ranchers that depend on forage from the sensitive habitats on public lands in our region. Working with willing ranchers we seek a voluntary buyout and permanent retirement of their public lands grazing permits.