Land managers are grappling with massive changes in vegetation structure, particularly in protected areas formerly subjected to fire and grazing. The objective of this review was to compare notes on the historical and current management of ecosystems around the world (especially in wet to dry grasslands in the Americas, Australia, Africa, Europe and Asia) with respect to the usage of fire, grazing and cutting to reduce dominance and support the biodiversity of rare species. This review suggests that former disturbances, which are now often lost, may have once kept tall vegetation from pushing out rarer subdominant species. In cases where prehistoric biodiversity depended on fire or large ungulate grazing, traditional agricultural and indigenous practices may have carried biodiversity forward to historical times by mimicking pre-cultural disturbances (e.g., lightning fire and bison grazing). Ironically, biodiversity related to species richness, landscape heterogeneity and function may decline in preserves, especially if traditional management once maintained this biodiversity. Managers can benefit from a cross-continental comparison of the full arsenal of management techniques used to control encroaching vegetation.