Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
- Northwest grazing lands support millions of animals and contribute billions of dollars to the economies of Oregon, Idaho, and Washington.
- Increases in temperature will change the timing of grass emergence and affect the timing for forage availability.
- Snowpack acts as a reservoir of water and is expected to decline with climate change, which will reduce water availability in the summer for livestock and the plants they eat.
- Carbon dioxide will continue to increase in the future and affect plant productivity.
Grazing lands—specifically pastures, rangelands, and forest lands—are located throughout the northwestern United States. Non-irrigated pasturelands are common west of the Cascade Range in Oregon and Washington, whereas rangelands and irrigated pasturelands are typically located to the east. The western part of the region is significantly wetter and more forested, making the area less suitable for large beef cattle operations but good for dairy operations. This is partly because the Cascades cause more precipitation to fall on the west side, so land to the east of the mountains is drier. Much of this precipitation is caught by higher elevation mountains as snow and allows northwestern mountains to function as natural reservoirs which release cold water into streams and rivers as temperatures rise in the summer.