Tragedy Of The Commons In The American West Summary

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Tragedy of the Commons in the American West: The Cattle Boom
Garrett Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons is a fundamental principle in the study of environmental science. Hardin’s classic example is the herdsman who desires to selfishly maximize their economic gain at the expense of their community’s shared pasture. In his example, the commons are a shared resource or the open range. Each herdsman is located in a society that prioritizes constant economic gain, while there are limited resources. “Ruin is the destination toward which all man rush, each pursing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons” (Hardin 1244).
This paper will specifically analyze and discuss the Cattle Boom in the American West as a tragedy
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As early as 1780, Congress “called for converting the lands west of the Appalachian Mountains into a great public domain, to be parceled out to citizens under federal authority” (Merchant). Subsequently, the price of land shifted between two dollars per acres to one dollar per acre for large tracts of lands. The Log Cabin Law of 1841, legalized squatters that built a house and settled on up to 160 acres (for $1.25 per acre) (Merchant). Then in 1877, the Desert Land Act made desert land available for $1.25 per acre if it was irrigated. A total of 640 acres were made available (Merchant). Thus, land in the American West was most often sold cheap and in large quantities. The acts promoted agriculture and settlement, as if land was an infinite …show more content…
The range in the 80’s was as full of them as a dog’s hair of fleas” (Abbot & Smith). Abbott’s father was a rancher and farmer in Nebraska, however he left home to become a cowboy. He spoke about the large influx of settlers in 1876, that began to diminish and overstock the open range (Abbot & Smith). Ten years later, there was a total of 7.5 million cattle on the plains (“Cattle Boom”). Just as Hardin had predicted, more and more cattle were added to public domain until severe ecological degradation occurred. The cattle damaged plants, the soil, and the water. The nutritious plants were consumed, the soil was compacted by their hooves, and riparian habitats were degraded (Nagendra). It now took 90 acres of land to support a single steer, where it took 5 acres in 1876 (“Cattle

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