Rangeland Ecology & Management

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Public Lands Grazing

Trends in Public Land Management

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In recent decades, important social, legal, and ecological changes have caused private and public land managers to develop new approaches for land management.

Photo by: Amber Dalke


As the population of major western U.S. cities has grown and surrounding rural areas have become more suburban, the users of public lands have changed. Ranchers are still important, but more than ever urban residents look to public lands for recreation, retreat, and solitude. Sometimes, these users see livestock production as harmful or incompatible with their enjoyment of public lands. In the 1980s, these changes resulted in increasing conflicts between ranchers, environmentalists, and the agencies responsible for the management of public lands. By the 1990s, some people, tired of unproductive conflict, began looking for other ways to improve conservation outcomes on public lands. As a result of this change, three major trends emerged in management of public lands in the West: adaptive management, collaborative conservation, and co-production of management science. The links below provide more information on the importance of each of these trends and how they influence public lands management today.