Livestock Grazing and Wilderness

Livestock grazing and Wilderness. Domestic livestock grazing in Wilderness is contraction to the Wilderness concept!

Livestock grazing degrade Wilderness landscapes,  threatens native species, reduces water quality and spreads invasive weeds. Grazing in Wilderness affects natural fire regimes, accelerates soil erosion, damaging riparian and upland ecosystems and forests. Further on any forage consumed by domestic livestock is not available for native wildlife. And last but not least   camping and picnicked among sheep or cattle — or more likely their droppings — detracts any kind of Wilderness experience.

Wilderness and Extractive Uses
Livestock grazing is an example of extractive use incompatible with European Wilderness Quality Standard:

”The core zone have any human extractive use or human intervention, not even fire control, disease control, wildlife management or invasive species control”.

Livestock Grazing is however traditional way of natural resources use, it provides livelihood for thousands of people depending is livestock profitability. For example National Sheep Association (NSA) is an organisation that represents the views and interests of sheep producers throughout the UK. It is funded by its membership of sheep farmers and its activities are involved in every aspect of the sheep industry. This Association has limited interest to identify for example more acceptable grazing level as a reaction on massive overgrazing in country and reduce unsustainable number of sheep roaming all over the country.

The statetmens from this report such as

“Sheep play an important part of maintaining the biodiversity of the current, perfectly functioning ecosystem, which would be disrupted by the introduction of an unnecessary predator. Reintroduction of lynx would be a costly, complex process, with little benefit to the woodlands or ecosystems as a whole… “

just indicate opinion which is in strong contraction with opinion of others group of people and  stakeholders such as European Wilderness Society or Rewinding Britain.

Good example of this contradiction is the Lynx  reintroduction by Lynx Trust UK with the aim of boosting rural economy, ecology and regenerating forests. The initial trial period of five years would see four to six wild adult lynx released at three sites in Aberdeenshire, Northumberland, Cumbria or Norfolk.

NSA expresed  number of concerns about this project, not just because of the anticipated predation on sheep. These concerns are discussed in the attached paper and for example claims that sheep increase biodiversity further on believes that grazing enhances biodiversity, etc.

The independent environmental consultancy isn’t so sure.

The number of independent environmental consultants are not sure about this conclusion! They believe that reintroducing of the Eurasian lynx as a keystone species is a critical important activity restoring Britain ecosystems. Reintroduction of lynx is similarly important as introduction of beavers and pine marten, both subject to separate reintroduction projects.

A keystone species is one that has a large impact on its community by controlling the dominance of other species or by changing habitat structure (beaver dams, for instance). It can therefore have a big impact on biodiversity and wildlife.

In its report, the NSA states that traditionally grazed woodlands should be introduced to enhance biodiversity. On the contrary many ecologists and habitat managers argue that  woodlands are reduced in biodiversity and structural quality as a result of intensive grazing, both from deer and sheep, and that efforts to minimise deer populations in woodlands are a priority.

The reintroduction of lynx could reduce deer numbers by introducing an ‘ecology of fear’ and therefore restore the health and biodiversity of our woodlands by allowing ground flora and associated species to regenerate. Indeed, ambush predators such as the Eurasian lynx may have a stronger affect than wolves. Sheep can also damage woodland edge habitats where intensive grazing can reduce floristic diversity of grassland (and therefore have impacts on other wildlife, including bats) and expose woodland to.

Read more about Rewilding Britain’s views on Lynx reintroduction here!


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2 thoughts on “Livestock Grazing and Wilderness

  1. Domestic livestock grazing in wilderness is not compatible with the European wilderness concept! Livestock grazing degrade wilderness landscapes, threatens native species, reduces water quality and spreads invasive weeds.

  2. In all natural systems there is a great need to protect the natural wildlife and the environment and this is placed under severe constraints when domesticated animals are allowed free reign. In a natural environment any herd animal would naturally migrate from one area to another as grazing conditions would indicate and this cannot exist with fences and farming practices as farmers require their sheep or cattle to be accessible and visible. The mono grazing habits of domestic stock can be damaging to natural areas as these habits are restrictive and do not allow variations in grazing habits and of certain fodder species to spread the load of grazing pressure as a wider variety of natural grazers would do. Norman Doak Johannesburg South Africa

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Join more 100+ forest experts demanding a radical change in German forestry management.

Sign the Open Letter to the German Federal Minister of Forestry and Agriculture

Open Letter to the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture

Federal Ministry of
Food and Agriculture
Minister Julia Klöckner
11055 Berlin

Dear Minister Klöckner,

The current situation of the forest in Germany is worrying. It is a forest crisis not only driven by climate change. The current crisis management of the forestry industry is backward-looking and harmful to the forest. The declaration announced at the meeting of ministers in Moritzburg can be described as a `Moritzburg declaration of bankruptcy´. We call on the state forestry industry to, instead of expensive rushed actions, finally carry out an expert analysis of its own work and to involve all stakeholders in this process. What is called for is a consistent departure from plantation forestry and a radical shift towards a management that treats the forest as an ecosystem and no longer as a wood factory.

On 1stAugust 2019, five forestry ministers of CDU and CSU-led states adopted a so-called “master plan” for the forest in Germany, which was affected by heat, bark beetles, fire and drought. As of 2020, the federal government is to make 800 million euros available as a reaction to climate change. This money is to be used to repair the damage caused, reforest the damaged areas and carry out `climate-adapted´ forest conversion – including the use of non-native tree species that have not yet been cultivated in the forest. Research should therefore focus on on tree species suitability and forest plant breeding in the future – keyword: `Climate-adapted forest of the future 2100´.

Remarkably, the damage caused primarily by the extreme drought of 2018 is attributed solely to climate change. Climate change is meeting a forest that is systemically ill due to the planting of non-native tree species, species poverty, monocultures, uniform structure, average low age, mechanical soil compaction, drainage etc. A healthy, resistant forest would look differently! The master plan emphasizes: sustainable, multifunctional and `active´ forest management remains indispensable – and thereby means that its unnatural state cannot be changed. Reference is made to the `carbon storage and substitution effects´ of wood products. The use of wood, e.g. in the construction industry, should be increased and thus the demand for wood should be further fueled – while knowing that the forest in Germany already cannot meet this demand. In fact, forest owners are suffering from poor timber prices due to an oversupply of trunk wood on the world market.

All these demands make clear: the current forestry strategy, which has been practiced for decades, should not change in principle. The concept is simple: cut down trees – plant trees. At best, the `design´ of the future artificial forests consisting of perfectly calculated tree species mixtures, that are believed to survive climate change without damages, can be changed. In all seriousness, the intention is to continue selling the public a so-called `future strategy´ to save the forest. This strategy seamlessly follows the model of a wood factory, that is met with general rejection and must be regarded as a failure in view of the coniferous plantations that are currently collapsing on a large scale. An essential part of the forests that have currently died is exactly the part that was reestablished in 1947 as coniferous monocultures on a much larger area than today. There is only one difference to the situation at the time: considerable amounts of money are to be made available from taxes for forest owners this time.

Climate change is progressing, and this, without a doubt, has massive impacts on all terrestrial ecosystems, including forests. To pretend that the last two years of drought alone caused the disaster is too cheap. On closer inspection, the disaster is also the result of decades of a forestry focused on conifers – in a country that was once naturally dominated by mixed deciduous forests. People do not like to admit that for more than 200 years they have relied on the wrong species of commercial tree (spruce) and have also created artificial, ecologically highly unstable and thus high-risk forest ecosystems. A whole branch of business has become dependent on coniferous wood. And now the German coniferous timber industry is on the verge of bankruptcy.

It would only have been honest and also a sign of political greatness if you and the forestry ministers in Moritzburg had declared: Yes, our forestry industry has made mistakes in the past, and yes, we are ready for a relentless analysis that takes into account not only purely silvicultural, but also forest-ecological aspects. Instead, you have confined yourselves to pre-stamped excuses that are already familiar to everyone and that lack any self-critical reflection.

Clear is: We finally need resting periods for the forest in Germany, which has been exploited for centuries. We need a new, ecologically oriented concept for future forest – not a hectic `forest conversion´, but simply forest development closer towards nature. This gives the forest as an ecosystem the necessary leeway to self-regulate and react to the emerging environmental changes. We need a systemic forest management that is no less profitable than the present one, but must be substantially more stable and resistant to foreseeable environmental changes. The aid for forest owners that all citizens are now required to pay through their taxes is only politically justified in the interest of common good, if the forests of the future that are being promoted by it, do not end up in the next disaster, some of which is produced by the forest management itself.

That is why the signatories request from the the Federal Government, and in particular you, Mrs Klöckner, a master plan worthy of the name:

On disaster areas (mainly in public forests!) reestablishment through natural forest development (ecological succession), among other things with pioneer tree species, is to be brought about. In private forests, ecological succession for reestablishment must be purposefully promoted. Larger bare areas should be planted with a maximum of 400 to 600 large plants of native species per hectare in order to permit ecological succession parallelly.
To promote ecological succession, the areas should no longer be completely and mechanically cleared; as much wood as possible should be left in the stand (to promote optimum soil and germ bed formation, soil moisture storage and natural protection against browsing). In private forests, the abandonment of use in disaster areas should be specifically promoted for ecological reasons and in order to relieve the burden on the timber market.

Regarding the promotion of reestablishment plantings in private forests: priority for native tree species (of regional origin); choose wide planting distances in order to leave enough space for the development of pioneer species. For the forests of the future: Minimize thinning (low-input principle), build up stocks through targeted development towards old thick trees, protect the inner forest climate / promote self-cooling function (should have highest priority due to rapidly progressing climate change!), prohibit heavy machinery, refrain from further road construction and expansion, permit and promote natural self-regulatory development processes in the cultivated forest and on (larger) separate areas in the sense of an compound system; drastically reduce the density of ungulate game (reform of hunting laws).

Like in the field of organic agriculture, which has been established since the 1980s, the crisis of our forests should be the reason today to transform at least two existing forestry-related universities. They should be turned into universities for interdisciplinary forest ecosystem management. This is a contribution not only to the further development of forestry science and silviculture in Germany, but also of global importance! The goal must be to produce wood through largely natural forest production and to start with it here in Germany, the birthplace of forestry.


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