From the WWP blog. LDS Apostle Orson Hyde speaks in 1865 on the impact of Grazing on Rangeland

Any Utah Latter Day Saint knows the story how the Pioneers made the Utah desert “blossom as a rose,” but the real story is more complex-

Grass was so deep in the early years where Tooele, Utah (Ta WILL ah) now stands that livestock were frequently lost in it. It was named Grass Valley. Anyone been there lately or even a hundred years ago and seen any grass?

LDS Apostle Orson Hyde speaks in 1865 on the impact of Grazing on Rangeland. WWP blog.





  1. Tom Page Avatar
    Tom Page

    This kind of stuff is really fascinating to read – thanks for posting it here. I’ve been compiling some early Idaho/ Rocky Mountain books with an eye towards range and wildlife descriptions or photos prior to mass settlement, and intensive sheep grazing, in the 1880’s. Most of what you find focuses on other things, but there are often tantalizing fragments or photos…pictures of giant fish, descriptions of lush wet meadows, lots of bighorns and elk descriptions but few mule deer notations…

    Starting with the L&C journals, one gets a good idea of how different things looked at that time.

    I’m hoping to get back into restoration work soon, and these clues are very helpful when thinking about what’s possible and how to get there.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    I’m glad you are doing that. Too many read Lewis and Clark and decide they know what all of the Pacific Northwest and adjacent country was like.

  3. Debra K Avatar
    Debra K

    Tom, this is also an interest of mine. I read an early settler’s book about the Bruneau Valley, circa 1870, called “Valley of the Tall Grasses.” The book talked about how the pioneers would cut the native perennial grasses for their hay. Go there now, and you will see a moonscape!

    Also, Wuerthner’s book on ID Mtn Ranges quotes an early explorer, John Towsend, describing an area near the Portneuf River in 1834 as “A rich and open plain of luxuriant grass, dotted with buffalo in all directions..and a lovely stream of cold mountain water.” As Ralph can attest, things aren’t quite the same around the Portneuf today.

    I keep hoping to to track down more pre-European settlement sources of info, as I think it’s very revealing to compare today’s conditions to.

  4. JB Avatar

    Interesting, Hyde’s actual account predates Gareth Hardin’s metaphor by more than a century! Thanks to the folks at WWP for posting this gem.

  5. SR25Stoner Avatar


    Any way to see the original manuscript ? photo perhaps ? Is this a book then by this man ?

    I’m very impressed..

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I’d read it before. We have to ask the editor of the WWP blog where he found it. Hyde’s position on grazing is mentioned in the Mormon Wikipedia

  7. Brian Ertz Avatar

    I posted the account. It is featured in the Summer 2009 Watersheds Messenger – WWP’s semi-annual publication. Members should be receiving a hard-copy in the mail any day. I’ll get the full manuscript and post it if folk are interested


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan