Recovery rate of depleted range sites under protection from grazing

  • Published source details McLean A. & Tisdale E.W. (1972) Recovery rate of depleted range sites under protection from grazing. Journal of Range Management, 25, 178-184.


In the North American Pacific Northwest, information on the number of years rest necessary for recovery of ‘depleted’ rangelands due to livestock grazing was lacking. This study attempted to evaluate effects of livestock exclusion on depleted (overgrazed) ranges by assessing vegetation changes in four exclosures in the ponderosa pine Pinus ponderosa zone and three on rough fescue Festuca scabrella grasslands in southern British Columbia, Canada.

The seven livestock exclosures were constructed mostly in the 1930’s. Periodic vegetation observations were made until more concerted monitoring was undertaken in 1959-60, and repeated in 1968-69. Inside and adjacent to exclosures, canopy cover and frequency of occurrence of each herb and small shrub species was recorded in 50 frames (20 x 50 cm) along a 25 m transect. Herbage yields were determined by clipping samples at ground level in five 9.6 ft² (0.89 m²) plots per site, drying and weighing. Range condition was classified (poor, fair or good).

Within exclosures considered of poor condition at time of exclosure, little change in plant composition occurred from 1959-1969. It took longer for these sites to progress to fair condition, than for those in fair condition at the outset to recover to good condition. The main plants to increase through livestock exclusion were two grasses, bluebunch wheatgrass Agropyron spicutum (Pseudoroegneria spicata) and rough fescue. The main species to decrease were Sandberg bluegrass Poa secunda, low pussytoes Antennaria dimorpha and grey rabbitbrush Chrysothamnus nauseosus.

Only approximate lengths of time for recovery in range condition could be assigned to each exclosure due to slowness of change, infrequency of data recording and individual site characteristics. However, the authors estimate that it will take 20 to 40 years of livestock exclusion for overgrazed ranges in these rough fescue and ponderosa pine zones to recover to excellent range condition.
Note: If using or referring to this published study, please read and quote the original paper, this can be viewed at:

Output references
What Works 2021 cover

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read the latest volume: Volume 21

Go to the CE Journal

Discover more on our blog

Our blog contains the latest news and updates from the Conservation Evidence team, the Conservation Evidence Journal, and our global partners in evidence-based conservation.

Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape ProgrammeRed List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Mauritian Wildlife Supporting Conservation Leaders
Sustainability Dashboard National Biodiversity Network Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Bat Conservation InternationalPeople trust for endangered species Vincet Wildlife Trust