Cattle Grazing Increases Catastrophic Fires in Western Forests
An early interest in hunting and fishing inspired Leon Fager to earn a bachelor of science degree in range and wildlife management at the
University of Arizona. Upon graduating in 1965, he joined the
Nevada Game and Fish Department as a wildlife biologist. After subsequent employment with the
US Soil Conservation Service, he joined the
US Forest Service in 1976 as a wildlife biologist on Arizona’s
Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. Mr. Fager transferred to the
Black Hills National Forest
(South Dakota) in 1978, later earning a master of science degree in public land policy at
Michigan State University. Mr. Fager went on to serve in the
Rocky Mountain Region as a regional fisheries biologist, and in the
Southwest Region as a wildlife program manager and then as the endangered species program manager. He retired from the Forest Service in December 1997.
Shortly after his retirement, Mr. Fager wrote a much-publicized
letter to then Forest Service Chief
Mike Dombeck in which Fager criticized several policies of high-level managers within the Southwest Region.
Leon Fager explains how decades of livestock grazing in forests of the American West have disrupted natural fire patterns and, as a result, have changed the very structure of the forests in ways that make them more prone to catastrophic fires.
Recorded in September 2004. This video is an excerpt from Leon Fager’s interview in Western Turf Wars: The Politics of Public Lands Ranching