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The drunk who said it was right. Denial is not a river in Egypt. But it may be a river in New Mexico. Or Arizona. Or Nevada or Utah. Maybe Montana. The river is 20 feet wider than it was, say, in 1840. The only cottonwood on its banks is just about that old, magnificent but half-dead. Trout don’t swim in the water. Cowbirds, not flycatchers, nest on the banks.


Belsky and a number of her colleagues, including Robert Ohmart of Arizona State University, now predict that if livestock grazing in the West isn’t severely cut back, restoration will become impossible. They estimate that this will happen within 30 to 50 years.

Consider the facts: Already, 80 percent of the streams and riparian ecosystems in arid regions of the western United States have been damaged by livestock grazing. That’s from the U.S. Department of Interior, circa 1994. This damage isn’t just from way back in frontier days. A 1990 EPA report on grazing based on extensive field observations in the late 1980s revealed that riparian areas throughout much of the West were in “their worst condition in history.”

Although Belsky works for a conservati... Read more

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