Everyone can recognize an oil-soaked sea bird, a clear-cut forest, a stream that's been ruined by industrial pollutants and extreme drought and other destructive weather. But few Americans visit the nation's public grass and forest lands; fewer still know what livestock damage actually looks like on them.
This is something that the media's present fascination with grass-fed beef being good for everyone (not just people, but cattle and western grass and forest land) has directly abetted with the help of western politicians, the beef industry and livestock producers themselves.
The media, it turns out, comfortably quotes ranchers on conservation issues but not scientists. Not surprisingly, the immense negatives of ranching in the arid West seldom make their way into mainstream media.
You can thank all that for conditioning the public to see ranchers as trusted stewards and cattle and sheep as native grazers of one million square kilometers of public land in 11 western states where livestock receives preferential treatment at great cost to everyone but livestock operators. That photographs of cattle impacting sensitive Western ecosystems don't make the news shouldn't surprise anyone.