The Northern Great Basin: A Region of Continual Change

Svejcar, Tony
Society for Range Management
Publication Year: 
On the Ground• The Great Basin of the United States hasexperienced large climatic fluctuations over thepast 10,000 years. Lake Bonneville (the remnant ofwhich is the Great Salt Lake) at one time coveredalmost 20,000 square miles, which is about thesize of Lake Michigan. The fact that the region isinternally drained amplifies the effects of climaticshifts on the Great Basin environment.• Euro-American exploration also had dramatic effects onthe Great Basin environment. Some of the earlyexploration involved intentional destruction of resources(decimating beaver populations) to make the region lessappealing to potential competitors. The removal ofbeaver would have affected riparian areas of the GreatBasin as early as the 1820s.• The American settlement period was also fairlydestructive. The various Homestead Acts were notdesigned with the Great Basin in mind and the mix ofhomesteaded (private) and un-homesteaded (public)land created a chaotic setting where the first person toarrive used the forage. This situation persisted until theTaylor Grazing Act of 1934.• There are clearly reasons for concern over theexpansion of annual grasses and extensive wildfires.However, recent planning efforts associated withimproving habitat for greater sage-grouse provideexamples where science and management havebeen integrated, and there is a much needed focuson evaluating the success of management practices.The outcome of these efforts should be increasedaccountability for those involved in rangelandmanagement in the northern Great Basin.Keywords: historical change, homesteads, wildfire,shrub steppe.
Document Type: 
Journal Issue/Article
Society for Range Management

Rangelands, a publication of the Society for Range Management, serves as a forum for the presentation and discussion of facts, ideas, and philosophies pertaining to the study, management, and use of rangelands. The journal features scientific and historical articles as well as Society news. It provides readers with scientifically accurate information in a user-friendly format, placed in context of the world we live in today. Rangelands is a practical (non-technical) counterpart of Rangeland Ecology & Management (formerly the Journal of Range Management). The Global Rangelands collection includes articles from Rangelands up to 3 years from the current year. Access to more recent content is available by subscription from BioOne and the Society for Range Management and may also be available at your local university library. 
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