Native Plants - header
Lisa Winters

Volunteer - What We Do Section Title

What We Do

Grazing - what we do (text)

Plant identification

Research and restoration

With the help of volunteers, we study grazed and non-grazed lands, restore springs, weed fenced reference areas, and study the spread of invasive species. Join us in the field to help us gather data ›

Johnson Lakes Canyon

Work with partners

We team up ranchers, agencies, researchers, and others to address grazing issues across the plateau. Learn about our work as a grazing permitee on the North Rim Ranches and how we’re managing aspen trees in Utah.


Advocate for the land

Nearly all of our public lands are open to grazing. We plug into every management process we can and advocate for less grazing across the plateau on behalf of the plants and critters negatively impacted by livestock.

Native plants - what and why

Native plants - what and why
Andry Zharkikh

What are native plants, and why do they matter?

Native plants occur naturally and have evolved to the specific locales in which they grow. They attract colorful arrays of butterflies and bees, provide food and cover for voles, harrier chicks, fawns, and other animals, and help cool the water in streams. Native plants are important components of healthy and balanced natural areas.

Native plants - grazing

Native plants - grazing
Morgan Heim

Native plants and grazing

On the Colorado Plateau, where rocks outnumber plants, the ground is dry, and water sources scarce, livestock leave big impacts on the land. Native plants wither under the pressure of too many mouths and hooves. We work with ranchers, land managers, and others to study grazing impacts, address problems, and advocate for better grazing policies and management of our public lands.

In the field

Shots from the field

Native plants - field shots

Plant transects

Collecting data on grazing impacts

Fences are just as good at keeping animals out as they are at keeping them in. We use reference areas, which were once heavily grazed, to track the recovery of native species when cattle, deer, elk, and sheep are fenced out. We study the variety of plants that replace non-natives, and count how many of each species we find.

Identifying native plants

Pulling weeds

With the help of our herculean volunteers, we remove invasive plants in reference areas across the plateau. Eliminating weed seeds is critical to reverse the trend of invasives, and after years of persistent weeding efforts, we've seen significant decline of non-native species and a glimpse of what healthy public lands could look like.

Grazing - why care

Why care about grazing on our public lands

The arid reality of the Southwest, plus prolonged drought and climate change, means that cows aren’t grazing in green, bucolic pastures. Instead, they roam around parched lands and marginal forests looking for scarce food and even scarcer water. They damage biological soil crusts, erode streambeds, and crush native plants.


Grazing - where cows don't graze

How widespread is cattle grazing on the Colorado Plateau?

We know that cattle graze on the majority of our public lands, but pinning down an exact number is no easy task. We're compiling data from the four Colorado Plateau states — Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado — to determine just how widespread cattle grazing is on the Colorado Plateau. Volunteer on the project ›

What you can do (section title)

What you can do

Grazing - what you can do (text)

Volunteers in White Mesa Cultural Conservation Area

Volunteer with us ›

Want to make a difference on the ground? We have several volunteer trips each year focusing on research and restoration of grazed lands across the Colorado Plateau. Join us in the field!

Browse opportunities

Comment Card

Sign up for action alerts ›

Speak up for the Colorado Plateau at a moment's notice. We send out timely emails notifying you of opportunities to submit comments, sign petitions, and take other actions on behalf of our public lands. 

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Where We Work - Section Title

Where we work

Grazing - North Rim ranches

Grazing - North Rim ranches

North Rim Ranches

Nestled between the north rim of the Grand Canyon and the Vermilion Cliffs, North Rim Ranches provide the perfect grounds to study and test conservation-based land management. From working with local ranchers, to researching climate change, we strive to protect and restore wildlife, water sources, and landscapes while promoting healthy grazing practices.

More about the North Rim Ranches


Grazing - Dixie, Fishlake, Manti-La Sal

Grazing - Dixie, Fishlake, Manti-La Sal
Tim Peterson

Dixie, Fishlake, and Manti-La Sal national forests

We work on the ground, in meeting rooms, and sometimes in court to protect our national forests in southern Utah. Learn more about our conservation-based proposal for the Manti-La Sal National Forest and our restoration work on the Pando Clone, White Mesa Cultural and Conservation Area, and Monroe Mountain

Grazing - Grand Staircase

Grazing - Grand Staircase

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

About 95 percent of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is open to cattle, yet the monument does not have a grazing management plan. Before President Trump slashed the monument's boundaries, we were pushing the Bureau of Land Management to adopt a “sustainable alternative” for grazing management. Now it's a bit more complicated. 

Read more


Grazing -Breaking down the system (intro)

The West's grazing system explained

Public lands, by definition, are open to everyone for a variety of uses. Livestock grazing is the most widespread, as it's promoted and subsidized by federal agencies. Here's how grazing works in the West.

Grazing - grazing explained (text)

Note: when we talk about grazing, we’re talking about livestock — primarily cattle and sheep.

(Game animals, like elk and deer, can contribute to problems related to overgrazing if overpopulated.)

The grazing system in the West is based on a law from the 1930s called the Taylor Grazing Act. It divides millions of acres of public land in “grazing districts,” which are further segmented into “allotments.” Ranchers can apply for permits from the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to graze livestock on these allotments at a very low cost. Federal grazing fees are currently $1.41 per animal unit month (AUM), an obscure unit of measurement (see jargon list below) that basically means:

It costs $1.41 per cow/calf pair, per month, to graze on public lands. So if you have 100 cows, it costs you $1,692 to graze your herd on public lands for a year.

States in the Four Corners region charge six to 13 times more to graze on state lands. The formula that determines federal grazing fees is more than 40 years old and doesn't even account for inflation. By subsidizing grazing, the federal government is relying on the public to foot the bill of public lands ranching in the West.

Grazing - dictionary

Grazing dictionary

Graze: to eat small portions of food throughout the day

Jargon abounds in the grazing world. Let's break it down:

Allotment: An area of land that ranchers are permited to use to graze their livestock

Exclosures: These are fenced reference areas free of grazing animals that scientists and land managers use to see how the land recovers in the absence of cattle.

Forage: Edible plants that grazing animals eat (example: grasses)

Utilization: This number, often expressed as a percent, describes the amount of plant material that livestock eat compared to how much is available.

Animal unit month (AUM): An AUM is how much food a 1,000 pound cow and a calf (or one horse or 5 sheep) eat in a month.

Grazing Blog


You have the opportunity to comment on how you think some of the most beautiful landscapes in Utah should be managed into the future.

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Having trouble with the name of that wildflower? Check out these resources!

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What are signs of cattle grazing on our public lands? Volunteers find out in a three-day training.

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