Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2001


Published in Great Plains Research 11 (Fall 2001): 361-74. Copyright © 2001 Center for Great Plains Studies.


We examined the sustainability of the livestock grazing industry in the Great Plains of North America relative to ecological processes, economic viability, and social acceptance. We conclude from the review that livestock grazing is an appropriate use of Great Plains grasslands and, when properly managed, ecologically sustainable. However, we also present evidence that the Great Plains grazing industry is not always economically sustainable or socially acceptable. We attribute this anomaly in large part to the consuming public's general lack of understanding and appreciation for the ecological linkages between current livestock grazing tactics and the evolutionary history of the Great Plains. A contributing factor to this problem is the scientific community's interjection of personal biases and value systems when interpreting ecological response patterns to varying forms of land use. We present evidence in support of this hypothesis by comparing statements and supporting literature citations from three recently published literature reviews addressing the ecological impacts of livestock grazing on North American rangelands.