Allan Savory’s Holistic Management raises a number of important points about brittle environments and grazing animals:
To decide what we should or shouldn’t do in managing our lands, we need to consider its brittleness: “…environments may be classified on a continuum from nonbrittle to very brittle according to how well humidity is distributed throughout the year and how quickly dead vegetation breaks down.” (p. 36)
“…in brittle environments, relatively high numbers of large, herding animals, concentrated and moving as they naturally do in the presence of pack-hunting predators, are vital to maintaining the health of the land…” (p. 40)
Traditionally, land managers have removed herd animals, arguing that they destroy environments through overgrazing and trampling. But “…in any environment, overgrazing and damage from trampling bear little relationship to the number of animals, but rather to the amount of time plants and soils are exposed to the animals.” (p. 16)
And the burns used instead by land managers to maintain grasslands produce atmospheric pollution: “In Africa three-quarters of the savanna grasslands go up in smoke every year. Pollution — ozone, carbon monoxide, and methane — from grass fires in southern Africa drifts thousands of miles within weeks to Australia and Antarctica…” (pp. 190-191)
Herd animals have many benefits: “in the lumbering, smelly, but powerful behavior of grazing animals, [are significant tools] for reversing desertification and for better management of water catchments, croplands, forests, and wildlife.” (p. 236)
In fact, “…animal impact [is] the only practical tool that can realistically halt the advance of deserts, by providing the periodic disturbance needed to maintain stable soil cover, [over] millions of square miles of often rugged country each year without consuming fossil fuel, without pollution, and by a means millions of even illiterate people can employ even while it feeds them.” (p. 240)
We need the herd animals.
Quotes are from Allan Savory’s Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making, 1999, compiled by Martin Boksenbaum.