A recent study has concluded that cattle grazing and clean water can coexist on national forest lands. Funded by US Forest Service Region 5, the study is the most comprehensive examination of water quality on National Forest public grazing lands to date.

Roughly 1.8 million livestock graze on national forest lands in the western U.S. each year, the study says. In California, 500 active grazing allotments support 97,000 livestock across 8 million acres on 17 national forests.

The study was conducted in 2011, during the grazing and recreation season of June through November. University of California Davis researchers, ranchers, USDA Forest Service staff and environmental stakeholders went out by foot and on horseback, hiking across meadows, along campsites, and down ravines to collect 743 water samples from 155 sites across five national forests in northern California which were analyzed the water samples for microbial and nutrient pollution, including fecal indicator bacteria, fecal coliform, E. coli, nitrogen and phosphorous.

These areas stretched from Klamath National Forest to Plumas, Tahoe, Stanislaus, and Shasta-Trinity national forests. They included key cattle grazing areas, recreational lands and places where neither cattle nor humans tend to wander.
The scientists found that recreation sites were the cleanest, with the lowest levels of fecal indicator bacteria. They found no significant differences in fecal indicator bacteria between grazing lands and areas without recreation or grazing. Overall, 83% of all sample sites and 95% of all water samples collected were below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) benchmarks for human health.

The study found that all nutrient concentrations were at or below background levels, and no samples exceeded concentrations of ecological or human health concern.

A copy of the study is attached...

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Cattle-Grazing-Clean-Water-Can-Coexist.pdf (671.26 KB, 241 downloads)

John Stewart
Editor, OutdoorWire.com
Vice President, BlueRibbon Coalition