Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type


Type of Thesis

General Honors


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Patricia Limerick

Second Advisor

Dale Miller

Third Advisor

Phoebe Young


The ‘Cattle-free by ‘93’ campaign sought to end to cattle grazing on public rangelands in the American West. The slogan, popularized as bumper stickers and other anti-ranching signage distributed by environmental activist groups, demonstrates the burgeoning frustrations towards public lands ranching at the end of the 20th century. In this paper, I explore the key figures and publications of ‘Cattle-free by ’93’, as well as studying the environmental, economic, and cultural context in which the campaign formed. The central questions I seek to answer are: (1) What were the motivations of ‘Cattle-free by ’93’?, (2) What were the direct and indirect outcomes of the campaign?, and (3) What does the formation of ‘Cattle-free by ‘93’ tell us about rancher/environmentalist conflict? I rely mainly on primary literature including local and national newspaper articles, scientific journal publications, and federal government documents, as well as secondary texts about the public lands ranching issue. While ‘Cattle-free by ’93’ failed to remove cattle from public rangelands, I find that the campaign had several significant outcomes: increasing rancher/environmentalist partnership, as demonstrated in the formation of organizations such as the Malpais Borderlands Group and the Quivira Coalition; highlighting issues of traditional federal rangeland management and policy, as illustrated by the Clinton Administration’s failures to implement rangeland management reform; and, lastly, creating awareness of conflicting land use ideologies, as observed in the encroachment of residential development adjacent to public rangelands and the proliferation of the ‘Cows Not Condos’ counter-campaign. In sum, the rise of ‘Cattle-free by ‘93’ offers valuable insight into the contested uses of public rangelands, in addition to serving as a worthwhile study of natural resource management conflict within the broader field of modern American environmental history.

Available for download on Saturday, April 11, 2020