Conflicts with Ranching

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Ranch life and transportation have changed over time. Courtesy of the University of Utah - J. Willard Marriott Library via Mountain West Digital Library.

Conflicts between ranchers and the tourism industry occur over land and resource use in the Mountain West region. Tourism increases market prices of basic supplies such as groceries and fuel for ranchers. Tourists themselves also may trespass on or damage private lands owned by ranchers, and increased tourism can drive up property values making additional land purchases more difficult. With a rise in international visitors comes a greater drive to put aside more public lands and protect more wilderness areas, which may in turn decrease the amount of land available to ranchers.

Sometimes the only access to public lands is through private lands, which causes legal battles over right-of-way and road issues. Lengthy court battles are fought over water rights held by ranchers as stream flows diminish and adversely affect recreational activities like fishing and rafting. Feedlots can cause streambed erosion and pollution and draw the ire of animal and environmental activists. Federal laws also protect predatory species such as the wolf and Grizzly bear, which cause conflict when ranch animals are lost to depredation. Ranchers’ need for water, animal protection, and land will continue to draw debates over resource management.