The demand for recreational opportunities on Western rangelands has skyrocketed over the past two decades. Hikers, birders, and rock hounds share the range with mountain bikers, off-road vehicle (ORV) operators and ranchers' livestock. In recent years advocates have also sought the designation of millions of acres of mostly Bureau of Land Management rangeland as wilderness. The divergent goals of these many rangeland users inevitably results in conflict. Motorized recreation and livestock grazing alter the pristine character and solitude sought by some, while restricting areas to primitive, low-tech use limits access by others. Land management agencies struggle to resolve conflicts among constituents and still protect the natural resource base.
The cumulative impact of so many activities on the land can be significant. Some activities, such as unrestricted ORV use can be more deleterious than poor grazing management. Other pursuits while light on the surface may, in sufficient numbers, disrupt wildlife breeding and feeding. Agencies are faced with the need to increase monitoring, education, and regulation, which also increases costs. Controversially, some have turned to recreational fees to off-set costs. Here we describe the social, ecological, and economic aspects of Western rangeland recreation conflicts and the controversy over rangeland wilderness designation. Areas of conflict resolution and successful cooperation are also highlighted.