Transcontinental Railroad Act of 1862; the Forest Reserves Act of 1891; the Enlarged
Homestead Act of 1909; the Stockraising Homestead Act of 1916 (Holechek et al., 1989).
Because of governmental policy, individuals settled on the productive land and used the
surrounding government land (open range) freely. In 1934 came the Taylor Grazing Act, which
ended open range. This act was a result of a realization that private lands in the West were
typically too small to support a household. This led to private lands near natural waters and
floodplains, where homesteaders managed to carve out a living long enough to perfect the title;
with government lands and Indian reservation getting the rest of the land. (Sayre, 2005).
These acts defined the formation of the ranching industry. They encompassed 70 years
that "produced by far the worst ecological damage ever done to western rangelands" (Sayre,
2002). Since that time several congressional acts have been passed which try to address
environmental concerns of rangeland use in the United States. These include: the Soil Erosion
Act of 1935; the Multiple Use Act of 1964; and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969
(Holechek et al., 1989).
Recent years have seen a gradual shift from economic policies and practices furthering
productive capacity to those encouraging ecosystem health and restoration. For example, the
policies of the Conservation Reserve Program, contained in multiple Farm Bills of the past 20
years, have provided new and increased emphasis on improving soil stability, water quality and
wildlife habitat, along with a reduction in crop production (Maczko and Hidinger, 2008).
Trends for today surrounding grazing lands are equally disturbing to those interested in
preserving the original ecosystem. Sayre (2002) tells us that by the 1970's an urban boom was
under way in the United States, especially in the West. This was because of post war prosperity,
improved infrastructure, air-conditioning and automobile ownership. These developments
Becker, Wayne. Effect of Rancher’s Management Philosophy, Grazing Practices, and Personal Characteristics on Sustainability Indices for North Central Texas Rangeland. Denton, Texas. UNT Digital Library. http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc103289/. Accessed March 12, 2014.