Wyoming may support rangeland monitoringWritten by Jennifer Womack
University of Wyoming personnel, agriculture associations’ leadership and some ranchers have spent a great deal of time advocating rangeland monitoring in recent years. Sublette County, where UW Cooperative Extension Educator Eric Peterson has written guiding materials for those looking to conduct monitoring and rancher Joel Bousman has spent countless hours advocating monitoring, has played a leading role. It’s rare to hear Rawlins rancher Niels Hansen give a presentation without mentioning monitoring at some point during the conversation. Rangeland monitoring could get yet another shot in the arm if legislation to go before the 2009 General Session is met with a positive response.
“It basically creates a program in the Wyoming Department of Agriculture whereby the Department would fund conservation districts who would apply for funding to contract with a professional for rangeland monitoring,” says Wyoming Stock Growers Executive Vice President Jim Magagna. The draft legislation, sponsored by Representative Allen Jaggi (R-Lyman), requests an $800,000 appropriation for FY2009. Moving forward funding for the program would become part of the WDA’s budget request.
According to an early draft of the legislation, conservation districts, under their cooperating agency status, could enter into agreements with BLM and USDA Forest Service offices to:
• Conduct rangeland monitoring on lands within the BLM grazing allotments and national forest grazing allotments. The legislation states, “Monitoring shall be conducted in cooperation with the grazing permit holders and lessees and federal agency personnel.”
• Participate in the development of livestock grazing operating plans, permit renewals and transfers and resource plans to assure that such plans and permits are based upon and supported by credible monitoring data.
• Provide office space for range professionals employed by or contracted for by the districts in the most appropriate Bureau of Land Management field office or National Forest Service office.
“The range professionals,” explains Magagna, “would work with permittees as well as with land agencies to get good, solid rangeland monitoring information to be used in decision making. Monitoring services could also be made available to those who hold grazing permits on state or USDA Forest Service lands as well as those wishing to monitor rangelands conditions on their private lands.
“The bill, at this time,” says Magagna, “envisions creating an opportunity to contract for eight specialists to potentially be housed in BLM field offices in those areas associated with Section 3 lands.” That doesn’t include Casper and Newcastle, according to Magagna, where challenges to livestock grazing on federal lands have been less frequent.