New Study Shows Grazing Cattle, Clean Water Can Coexist on Public Lands

Recent research conducted by the University of California-Davis - funded by the USDA Forest Service - shows livestock grazing, public recreation and the provisioning of clean water can be compatible goals - according to Lead Study Author Leslie Roche. The study says roughly 1.8-million livestock graze on national forest lands in the western U.S. each year. There are 500 active grazing allotments that support 97-thousand livestock across 8-million acres on 17 national forests in California alone. Principal Investigator Kenneth Tate says it's often said that livestock production isn't compatible with environmental goals - but the study helps show that's not completely the case - as there's no real evidence hot spots of human health risk are being created with livestock grazing in these areas.

During the study - a group of 40 people - including researchers, ranchers and USDA Forest Service staff - collected 743 water samples from 155 sites across five national forests in northern California. Researchers then analyzed the samples for microbial and nutrient pollution. They found the recreation sites were the cleanest with the lowest levels of fecal indicator bacteria and found no significant differences in fecal indicator bacteria between grazing lands and areas without recreation or grazing. Overall - the study found 83-percent of all sample sites and 95-percent of all water samples were below the EPA's benchmarks for human health. This study is the most comprehensive examination of water quality on National Forest public grazing lands to date.

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