Check it out: Grazing Lands in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington

By Janelle Christensen, USDA Northwest Climate Hub

A herd of cattle overlooking a stream
Cattle graze in a small pasture near Wendell, Idaho. Photo: USDA/Kirsten Strough

Grazing lands in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington—from state, tribal and federally managed rangelands and forests to privately owned pasturelands—are an important part of each state. Livestock are a critical part of each state’s economy and contributed about $8.4 billion in sales in 2017. They are also important to the livelihoods of people who live in these states, many of whom come from families who have taken care of these lands for generations.

To understand how climate change is impacting the grazing season, I looked into some of the changes that will affect ranchers’ and managers’ ability to graze sustainably in the future. With warmer temperatures earlier in the year, springtime and grass emergence will happen earlier. Livestock may have reduced access to forage on federally managed grazing lands, where permits are set to open at the same date each year. Temperatures may also affect plant germination. Some plants require a certain number of chilling hours to reproduce and others become less productive in temperatures that exceed their optimal growth temperature. Additionally, changes to precipitation will affect the amount of forage available each year, which could negatively impact herds.

These are among the changes that are happening with climate change in this region. Check out the article I wrote for the Northwest Climate Hub to learn more about the effects of climate change on grazing lands in the Northwest.