range, large area of land unsuited to cultivation but supporting native grasses and other plants suitable for livestock grazing. Principal areas in the western hemisphere are the pampas of South America and the prairies of the United States and Canada. Originally the entire ranges of the W United States and Canada were unfenced public land. Under the Homestead Act (1862), more than 50% of the Western range land in the United States passed to private ownership and was fenced with barbed wire. The national forests and other public lands of the West still contain vast unfenced ranges; grazing permits are purchased by ranch owners. Ranges are known as summer or winter ranges according to the time of year when grazing conditions are best. Range management involves regulation of grazing and other economically productive uses of range land to prevent overgrazing or other abuse of the resource.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.