Welfare Ranching – The Subsidized Destruction of the American West Now available for download

Welfare Ranching
Welfare Ranching

From the Editor,

From time to time we will be putting out information on books and other resources, both new and old, of particular value and importance to understanding the issues that face our public lands and wildlife.

The first is the seminal work on public lands livestock grazing and its insidious web of impacts, Welfare Ranching – The Subsidized Destruction of the American West is now available for download, free, from Sage Steppe Wild’s Resources.

Even though its out of print, paper copies of this masterpiece can be purchased from Abe Books or Amazon

Whereas the effects of urban sprawl and clear-cut logging are readily apparent, the far-reaching and devastating consequences of large-scale livestock production are less obvious to the untrained eye. In this excellent overview of the ecological and economic consequences of ranching in the arid Western United States, natural historian and photographer Wuerthner and environmental activist Matteson present a collection of impassioned essays by scientists, conservationists, and economists.

As writers like Edward Abbey, T.H. Watkins, and Carl Bock point out, livestock grazing has caused irreversible damage: it has degraded water quality, eroded the soil, introduced invasive plants, and endangered countless native plants and wildlife. Although the West accounts for less than three percent of U.S. meat production, livestock grazing occurs there on an enormous scale (a single cow uses one acre in Mississippi but 250 acres in Nevada). To provide enough space, three million acres of public land are being used by private ranchers with the help of government subsidies a consequence of the ranching industry’s political power. This oversized book has 175 full-color photographs plus a resource directory and a bibliography


  1. Wayne Tyson Avatar
    Wayne Tyson

    “That work lead him directly to deal with the gross corruption within the federal agencies’ range program.”

    I resemble that remark! Farce Service in the late fifties and early sixties.

  2. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
    Jeff Hoffman

    Over the past several decades ranching has become one of the worst things that humans do to the planet. The list of major ecological harms caused by cattle grazing is very long. Grazing large non-native animals like cattle is bad enough in the eastern U.S., but in the dry western U.S. it’s ecologically devastating. And that doesn’t even include all the harms that ranchers themselves do, like fencing, replacing native plants with ones that cattle like to eat, killing native predators and ungulates, etc. One of the best things you can do for the Earth is to not eat beef.

  3. M Leybra Avatar
    M Leybra

    I was expecting further info on downloading the book which I bought the printed copy a year ago but it’s too ‘uncomfortably heavy physically’ to be able to read comfortably, what happened to the digital copy offer I rec. via email from a friend? ?

    1. Jonathan Ratner Avatar

      This is newly available digital copy so cant say anything about any digital copy that may have been available from where you purchased the hard copy

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Jonathan Ratner

Jonathan Ratner has been in the trenches of public lands conservation for nearly 25 years. He started out doing forest carnivore work for the Forest Service, BLM, and the Inter-agency Grizzly Bear Study Team, with some Wilderness Rangering on the Pinedale Ranger District. That work lead him directly to deal with the gross corruption within the federal agencies' range program.

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Jonathan Ratner