We detect a dangerously one-sided presentation of data and opinions on livestock grazing in a recent issue of Conservation Biology (Fleischner 1994; Noss 1994; Wuerthner 1994). Subsequent articles (Brussard et al. 1994; Curtin 1995) have restored some balance. Nevertheless, w e believe an additional response is needed to challenge some facts and interpretations in the original papers and to present alternative information and perspectives. Wuerthner's commentary, "Subdivisions versus Agriculture" is representative of many conservationists' views. Citing mostly articles in the popular and environmentalist press rather than scientific publications, Wuerthner lumps farming and pastoralism to suggest that "agriculture" is the most serious threat to biodiversity in m u c h of the western United States. In doing so he fails to distinguish b e t w e e n the impacts of intensive tillage agriculture and pastoralism. Tillage agriculture uses large inputs of fossil fuel energy, irrigation water, seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides to transform ecosystems to produce food for humans or domestic animals. Pastoralism uses small inputs of energy and materials to manage seminatural ecosystems so that their largely native vegetation will produce forage for domestic livestock. Wuerthner criticizes the g o v e r n m e n
Conservation Biology – Wiley
Published: Dec 1, 1995
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