The Cattle Boom Analysis

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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Settlers could obtain 160 acres of land for paying a small fee, living on the land, and improving the land (“The Farming Frontier”). Thus, settlers were flooding into the American West and bringing their cattle to graze on the open range, which was open to the public. As stated, a cattle rancher could graze their cattle for no expense on the public domain and reap high profits. Hardin’s classic example of cattle on a public domain rings true for the American West. However, it wasn’t just settlers who were stalking the public domain with cattle. Individuals from Europe invested in cattle ranching, as well as wealthy business men in the United Stated (“Cattle …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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