Biome Books

Western Turf Wars Western Turf Wars
The Politics of Public Lands Ranching
Mike Hudak
ISBN: 978-0-9790816-1-3
Book (Hardcover)
Biome Books, 2007 (October)
List Price: $30.00
Web Price: $19.95 (1/3 off list)
6 x 9
396 pages, includes bibliographic references, index
     Click image to enlarge
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Alternatively to online purchase: a single copy of Western Turf Wars may be purchased within the U.S. by mailing a check made payable to the book’s author "Michael Hudak" for $24.90 (or $26.50 for NY state residents to cover 8% sales tax) (total price includes $4.95 S&H) to the address at the bottom of this page. To purchase multiple copies or to handle other mailing situations, please contact Biome Books at

Biome Books, operator of this website and the book’s publisher, is the only source of truly “new” hardcover copies of Western Turf Wars.

The most recent Revised Edition of Western Turf Wars is now available as a free download.

View Western Turf Wars’  Table of Contents.

View the extracanonical books of Western Turf Wars.

View video excerpts of interviews from the book in QuickTime format. These videos can also be viewed on YouTube and Vimeo.

Listen to podcasts that includes excerpts from the book:
   1) Ranchers Mortgage Our Natural Capital
   2) Politics Trumps Science in Range Management
   3) Public Lands Ranchers Obtain Favorable Livestock Management
       by Harassing Government Employees and Conservationists

   4) Nature's Aesthetics Fall to the Plague of Ranching
        (also available as an essay in PDF format)

Praise for Western Turf Wars:

“I highly recommend this book for everyone who hunts, fishes, bird watches, hikes, rides an ORV, or is simply content to know that these lands are there for future generations of Americans to enjoy. I sincerely hope it will inspire many of you to get actively involved. They are after all your lands!” —Erick G. Campbell, Wildlife Biologist—retired, Bureau of Land Management

“There’s no other book like Western Turf Wars. What Hudak has done is to document, not just that public lands ranching is bad (we probably knew that already), but why it happens this way, what the forces of resistance are, and what happens when people with a conscience take action against the political corruption rampant throughout the West.” —Keith Akers, quoted from his review in the Southern Sierran (newsletter of the Angeles Chapter Sierra Club)

“The horrendous damage done to millions of acres of fragile public lands in the arid West by overgrazing livestock has been documented in a number of books, media articles, and scientific journals in recent years. Less often told is the real story about the ultimate cause of this devastation of our public heritage: the blatant and unconscionable wielding of political influence on the part of too many agency officials, politicians, and stockmen (and women) to keep those numbers (and damage) at unsustainable levels. This captivating and absorbing book puts it all together—and in such a special, compelling manner, that it has become one of the best environmental books I have ever read. It is the tale of some of the brave men and women who worked, against great odds, to protect the vast publicly-owned rangelands of the West that they loved. And because it’s told in their own words, through a series of interviews, it adds a unique human immediacy, and dimension—and power, to an unhappily too-familiar scenario.
     “It’s a real page-turner; I literally could not put it down once I started reading. I kept on going, page after page, because I had to find out what was going to happen next—both to those courageous ones who dared to speak up against the abuses, and to the beautiful lands and native wildlife they strove to defend. I recommend it to anyone who cares about our public lands and who wants to understand better the forces and interests struggling over their ultimate fate.” —Brock Evans, president, Endangered Species Coalition; 1981 recipient, Sierra Club’s John Muir Award; vice president for national issues, National Audubon Society (1981–96); director, Sierra Club’s Washington, DC, office (1973–81), Northwest representative, Sierra Club (1967–73)

“Mike Hudak has performed a very valuable service documenting the comments of all these people, especially the older ones who have been in the trenches for all these years. I also believe the stories are more meaningful than data and that Hudak’s intuition to go that route is right on target. This is going to be a very important book in conservation history.” —George Wuerthner, ecological projects director, Foundation for Deep Ecology; photographer; author/editor of 33 books, including Welfare Ranching and Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy

“The tales of terror that Hudak has assembled run through the mind like a wilderness snuff film. The story is a familiar one. Resource extractors bully the land managers and buddy up with the legislators to acquire privileged access to public lands. They keep below cost fees so low they are in effect welfare for ranchers, and they feign bogus compliance with paltry environmental regulations.” —Andy Caffrey, quoted from his review in Oregon Conifer (newsletter of the Oregon Chapter Sierra Club), spring 2008

“Interviews with 27 experts—all with extensive experience with or knowledge of public lands ranching—provide us intimate, accurate perspectives on just what ranching does to our public lands as well as how it affects us economically, socially, and politically. Special attention is focused on the political forces that keep stockmen arguably the most influential special interest in the rural West. If the western wild means as much to you as the Wild West, if you’re concerned about environmental destruction, about waste and injustice, then read Mike Hudak’s Western Turf Wars.” —Lynn Jacobs, author Waste of the West

“Hudak’s contribution to the litany of arguments against public lands grazing is nearly 350 pages of transcribed interviews with fifteen public land managers—everyone from former BLM state directors to Forest Service biologists—as well as twelve conservation activists. Their sober, detailed and nuanced recollections are every bit as damning as the arsenal of facts, figures, scientific analysis and economic calculus with which other well-known anti-grazing books bombard the reader.” —James Johnston, quoted from his review in Forest Magazine, spring 2008

“If you care about our public lands, Western Turf Wars is a must read.”  —Howard Lyman, LLD, president and founder, Voice for a Viable Future; author Mad Cowboy: The Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won’t Eat Meat and NO MORE BULL! The Mad Cowboy Targets America’s Worst Enemy: Our Diet

“It’s a great book to browse. Opening it is like going to a public land management fiesta, of the reformist variety to be sure, and finding everyone you had hoped to talk to all under one roof. The more I look through this book, the more I am grateful that someone took the time to collect this wealth of experience and make it available to all of us. Without Hudak’s efforts, the experience of all the individuals interviewed would surely have been lost.” —Jamie Newlin, quoted from his review in Counterpunch, Weekend Edition, August 23 / 4, 2008

“[Hudak] wisely allows the 27 individuals—long-term government employees, research scientists, academics, environmental activists—to speak in their own voices. Their narratives are fascinating and illuminating, providing diverse but convergent threads of what is ultimately a coherent story: the relationship between the deleterious ecological consequences of livestock on western landscapes, and the political power structures that have long enabled this dubious land management practice. The book is well-organized, and makes for compelling reading.” —Thomas L. Fleischner, PhD, professor of environmental studies at Prescott College; author Singing Stone: A Natural History of the Escalante Canyons and Desert Wetlands

For more than a century the world has been entertained by the fictional stories of brave cowboys and upstanding ranchers who allegedly loved the American West and fought to protect it in the nineteenth century. This is the “cowboy myth”—a Home on the Range fiction generated by books, articles, films, music, and television shows that still benefits ranchers today.

Reality on the range is something quite different. Today, as in the past, western ranching degrades, even destroys, millions of acres of wildlife habitat on public lands. Scarce water supplies are threatened. Fragile ecosystems endangered. This environmental destruction continues in spite of numerous laws and regulations intended to make the management of livestock grazing ecologically sustainable. Why do such environmental impacts persist? Are the laws inadequate? Are the agencies incapable of enforcing the laws? Are the management techniques ineffective? And what role does the livestock industry, and ranchers themselves, play in the management?

Seeking answers to these and many other questions, Mike Hudak traveled throughout the West speaking with former employees of wildlife- and land-management agencies, and citizens who have long advocated for better management of our public lands. Western Turf Wars is a compilation of these accounts—testimonies that reveal how and why the management agencies have failed to protect our public lands. Underlying that management failure is the cowboy myth’s social and political legacies.

Western Turf Wars tells the stories of the real heroes of the Wild West in their own words—penetrating the media fictions of the past to reveal the stories of ordinary people who stand up for our environmental laws even when doing so subjects them to political coercion in the workplace or persecution in the communities where they live.

Mike Hudak Mike Hudak, PhD, founded the nonprofit project Public Lands Project (initially named Public Lands Without Livestock; subsequently renamed Vibrant Public Lands) to increase awareness of the environmental damage caused by livestock production in the American West. From 1998 until mid 2000 his presentations throughout twenty states brought the issue to the attention of the Sierra Club. Subsequently, Hudak participated in negotiations that resulted in significantly strengthening that organization’s livestock grazing policy. Since that time, he has continued speaking throughout the United States at a variety of organizations, universities, and national conferences. His website now brings his articles, photo essays, and videos about public lands ranching to an even broader audience. The videos, short excerpts of the interviews that went into the making of Western Turf Wars, provide a unique contribution to our understanding of public lands management from the 1950s through the early years of the twenty-first century.

Mike Hudak earned his BA in mathematics and PhD in advanced technology from Binghamton University, as well as an MS in computer science from Northwestern University. As a former computer-industry researcher his work focused on the design of adaptive intelligent software. He served as Chair of the Sierra Club’s National Grazing Committee from 2008 until 2013 in which capacity he worked with the Sierra Club and other organizations to enact legislation that would reduce livestock grazing on public lands.


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