Wild Lands of the West | The BLM, National Geographic Magazine: Classic Western Cowboy Scene

Graphic picture of man on horseback in low light with golden clouds in sky.

Smothered in dust, a cowboy on horseback works the last bit of daylight moving cattle toward water on a Bureau of Land Management grazing allotment in southern Utah.

For most of the arid and semiarid American West, water is a precious commodity and livestock must have it to survive. In the 1930s the Taylor Grazing Act restricted the number of livestock that could graze on public land and fees were collected from ranchers for the first time.

In the 1970s the Federal Land Policy and Management Act reflected changing social values with respect to environment protection and conservation of natural resources. The act states that livestock grazing is considered a legitimate use of federal land, but that it must coexist with: recreation; protection of wildlife, endangered species, archeological and cultural resources, and clean water; mining and hunting; and wild horses and burros.