I first became aware of this problem, when a large heavily wooded tract I often drive by (near E 850 road and N 1850 road) was systematically bulldozed and then the enormous piles of uprooted trees were burned. The dozing and burning went on for weeks and was so bad, that people more than a mile away, even with all their windows shut, could smell smoke inside their homes for more than a month. When the burning was finally over, and much of the topsoil had darkened our streams on its way into the river, the tract was seeded with grass. Since that time it has been grazing land for cows. Here (Below) is what this once beautiful, thick forest looks like now (the cows get moved to and from this pasture with some regularity -- and didn't happen to be on it the day I went to take a photo.)
Upon discussing what I had seen with others, I learned that similar events have happened to at least two other parcels in Douglas County. Here is a Google Earth image of about 160 acres located at approximately1032 N. 1100 road that used to be just as thickly wooded as the surrounding area until it was cleared for cattle. The third property I know of is located on E 300 road, near 40 Highway. The image at the beginning of this article (in the upper left corner) shows what is left of the thick woods that use to run all the way down to the creek -- as soon as the cow fences are secure it too will be used to meet the demand for "local, grass fed beef."
There is a good reason why large industrial-based, animal confinement operations flourished in the first place – confining animals in small spaces and feeding them grain, maximizes production of animal protein per unit of land. This, combined with government subsidies, makes industrial meat, dairy and eggs cheap, and has caused Americans to consume far greater amounts of them, then we did 100 years ago. As more people jump on the ‘grass fed’ and ‘local’ bandwagon, and pay more for what they erroneously believe is a less problematic product, more forests will have to come down just to provide these people the same amount of animal protein that they were eating before. Furthermore, grass fed animals actually produce even MORE greenhouse gasses before they are killed for meat, because they grow more slowly, thus living longer and emitting more methane, and other waste products before they reach slaughter size.
The choice is NOT between supporting either large animal confinement operations, or small local farms touting the more classist meat, dairy and eggs. There is a better option – veganism.
Here's what the Union of Concerned Scientists has to say on this subject.