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Producing the Range

Producing the Range

Extermination and Fences

(p.32) One Producing the Range
The Politics of Scale
Nathan F. Sayre
University of Chicago Press

Beginning in the 1890s, the US Biological Survey perfected methods to hunt, trap, and poison animals that threatened crops or livestock; after 1914, it executed campaigns that exterminated hundreds of thousands of predators and hundreds of millions of small mammals across vast areas of rangelands. But their absence was little noted by range scientists who sought to see or imagine original, pre-cattle boom conditions. Meanwhile, Forest Service range science began with the Coyote-Proof Pasture Experiment, designed by Frederick Coville and conducted between 1907 and 1909. The experiment asked whether a herd of sheep would grow and produce wool more efficiently in a space where predators were absent and human herders (and their dogs) were therefore unnecessary. It was declared a success almost before any data had been collected, and the final interpretations were seriously flawed, but the experiment prompted the Forest Service to take over range research from the Bureau of Plant Industry and to elevate James Jardine, who conducted the experiment, to direct the agency’s national range administration. The near-absence of predators and the ubiquity of fences, along with exclusive land tenure, became unacknowledged assumptions or blind spots for range science.

Keywords:   Bureau of Biological Survey, Bureau of Plant Industry, extermination, fences, Frederick Coville, herding, James Jardine, prairie dogs, predators

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