Retired Professor of Vertebrate Morphology, University of Utah
A vertebrate morphologist, Dennis Bramble recently retired from the University of Utah after working in the biology department for over 30 years. Though he and his wife had originally hoped to build a house on the plot of land we visited today near Escalante, Utah, Dennis says with a playful smile that high winds and shockingly low winter temperatures caused them to quickly learn that “this is not a place for old folks.” Nevertheless, Dennis has certainly found a way to put these 160 acres to good use. Over the past 20 years, he has been conducting a passive restoration experiment on his land. As a result of his efforts, the water table has risen 5 feet, and the number of native grass species on his land has doubled. His secret? He only allows light cattle grazing in the fall, after both the cool season and warm season grasses have had the chance to germinate. Just like Western Watersheds and Suzanne Fouty, Dennis believes that cattle grazing can greatly harm an ecosystem. But he doesn’t think that cows necessarily need to be removed from Western landscapes entirely. After all, he points out, their hooves can aerate the soil, and they can prevent the reproduction of all grasses, including invasive species.
By Libby Fones