Researchers at the University of California – Santa Barbara revealed a clear link between the economic health of ranches and maintaining habitat for the greater sage grouse, a bird that has been the focus of public land policy debates for years. The study, led by UC Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), shows that policies that restrict grazing on public lands may increase sage grouse habitat loss. The reason – such restrictions reduce ranch profitability and encourage ranchers to sell their private lands for other uses, such as cropping or housing developments, that would destroy critical grouse habitat, reports onpasture.com.
“When it comes to a choice between ranching, farming or housing in the West, sustainable ranching is the most compatible with wildlife,” said lead author Claire Runge, who was a postdoctoral researcher at NCEAS when the research was conducted and is now a research scientist at the University of Tromsø — The Arctic University of Norway. “Implementing policy that makes it harder for ranchers to keep going could result in land conversions that are bad news for sage grouse and other sagebrush species.”
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