Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument - Header
Ellen Morris Bishop

Grand Staircase-Escalante - A first-ever grazing

Grand Staircase-Escalante - A first-ever grazing
Ellen Morris Bishop

A first-ever grazing plan for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

In many places on the Monument, soil is eroding, springs are fouled, plant diversity is depleted, and wildlife habitat is degraded. Our Sustainable Grazing Alternative would reduce grazing pressures and increase public involvement in land management problem-solving.

Grand Staircase-Escalante - Restoring the Monument’s living skin

Grand Staircase-Escalante - Restoring the Monument’s living skin
Ellen Morris Bishop

Restoring the Monument’s living skin: Biological soil crusts

The thin layer of cyanobacteria, lichens, and mosses called biological soil crust (“biocrust”), is easily damaged by cattle trampling, off-road vehicles, and even hikers’ boots. These biocrusts anchor soil between plants, allow water to soak into the ground and provide desert plants with nutrients.  When President Clinton established the Monument, his Proclamation explicitly called for biocrust protection. Our work with volunteers and scientists to measure biocrusts is reminding Monument managers of their responsibility to protect these keystone resources.

Grand Staircase-Escalante - Grand Staircase-Escalante lands for restoration

Grand Staircase-Escalante - Grand Staircase-Escalante lands for restoration
Ellen Morris Bishop

Grand Staircase-Escalante lands for restoration

Because the Monument lacks ungrazed areas in sagebrush, grasslands and other key communities, there is little knowledge of cattle impacts or recovery potential. We are collecting data to encourage the establishment and use of diverse kinds of ungrazed areas to gauge livestock impacts and restoration efforts throughout these lands.

Grand Staircase-Escalante - Common Problems with Monument Grazing Management

  • In a healthy, ungrazed area like this one: biological soil crust, grasses with seed heads, and plant diversity.

    Ellen Morris Bishop
  • A trampled slope, depleted plant community that has fallen victim to overgrazing by livestock.

    Mary O’Brien
  • These trampled and denuded creek banks show the extent of the damage overgrazing causes to riparian areas.

    David deRoulhac
  • Excessive grass utilization and trampled, bare soils, the tell-tale signs of the overgrazing in the monument.

    David deRoulhac
  • Deep headcuts, caused by overgrazing. Note the excessively bare, trampled soil in foreground.

    Ellen Morris Bishop
  • Bare, compacted soils and depleted sagebrush understory, and a loss of fragile biological soil crust.

    David deRoulhac
  • Monocultures of exotic crested wheatgrass seeded for cattle forage. 96% of the monument is open to grazing.

    David deRoulhac
  • Grasses and plants protected inside a cage. Most cages are moved each year, to disguise livestock grazing impacts.

    David deRoulhac

Common problems with Monument grazing management

Currently, more than 96% of the Monument's 1.8 million acres are in actively grazed allotments. Thus cattle grazing is occurring on top of important biological, scientific, and historical values for which the Monument was established, such as fragile biological soil crusts, uncommon and endemic plant species, and ancient cultural artifacts.

Grand Staircase-Escalante - Our Role

Our Role

We are working to improve Monument livestock grazing, increase the health of fragile deserts, grasslands, woodlands, and springs, and bolster the range of public stakeholders who come to the table to engage agency staff around management issues.

Our Solutions Title

Our Solutions

Grand Staircase-Escalante - Our Solutions

Reform cattle management

With our partners, we have developed a Sustainable Grazing Alternative for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument that provides for cattle grazing without sacrificing a host of other Monument values.

Measure biocrusts

We are evaluating the condition of biological soil crusts (fragile layers of vegetation made up of algae, lichens, cyanobacteria, and mosses). These complex communities hold desert soils in place, increase water infiltration, and provide nutrients to plants.

Survey un-grazed areas

Within the Monument it is important to compare healthy, non-grazed areas with grazed lands to understand how livestock impact ecosystems. We partner with private landowners and permittees on long-term surveys to learn what works and doesn’t work on these fragile desert lands. 

Copyright © 2014 Grand Canyon Trust