Effect of Rancher’s Management Philosophy, Grazing Practices, and Personal Characteristics on Sustainability Indices for North Central Texas Rangeland Page: 28
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experienced in that time frame. These factors were the cattle themselves, the railroad, and the
culture- all driven by outside capital investment (Sayre, 2002).
The origins of range management in the United States are usually traced to a critical
situation in the late 1880s and 1890s, when severe drought and harsh winters led to heavy cattle
losses, thereby forcing livestock producers to respond to problems of uncontrolled overgrazing
(Brunson, 2003). This educational era, which was aided by the passage of the Morrill Act in
1862 and the formation of the land-grant colleges (Holechek, 1989; Sayre, 2002), led to several
management practices that helped to promote overall land health. This era also produced a sense
of "man can do better than nature", an attitude leading to the planting of "improved" grasses and
other management practices that may not have been in the ecological best interest of certain
regions. Most importantly, this era was unable to solve all of the problems caused by past land-
management practices (Sayre, 2002).
The passage of the Homestead Act in 1862 paved the way for the settlement of the west,
and thus the beginning of managed livestock grazing over most of the United States. This act
allowed anyone who had not taken up arms against the U.S. to lay claim to government land if
they filed an application, improved the land, and filed for deed of title.
Initially this caused a cattle boom in the west in the 1870's and 80's. Men wanted to
make the most of the situation while it lasted. They held the belief that there was more grass
than his cows could eat. They bought cattle in a time of rising cattle prices and high interest.
Soon drought and economic down-turn resulted in range degradation, cattle death and economic
loss. Responding to pressure by special interests and to developing circumstances a series of
congressional acts aimed at expanding the economic contributions of the west were passed.
Each helped to promote some aspect of the livestock industry and came with its own unintended
side effect. Some of the important congressional acts prior to the dust bowl years include: The
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Becker, Wayne. Effect of Rancher’s Management Philosophy, Grazing Practices, and Personal Characteristics on Sustainability Indices for North Central Texas Rangeland, dissertation, December 2011; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc103289/m1/39/: accessed March 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .