Federal lands managers strive to meet agriculture’s expectations
Cheyenne – Federal land management remains on the forefront of producers’ minds across the state.
“We are in an interesting era of federal land management,” commented Temple Stoellinger, Wyoming County Commissioner’s Association natural resource attorney, marking energy developments, impact of pests, recreational use and environmental litigation as all having an effect on land management. “As the complications and uses have changed, so have expectations that the federal land managers are held to.”
Stoellinger moderated a panel of federal lands managers at the 2013 Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show, held in Cheyenne on June 5-8. Panel members included Rocky Mountain Region Regional Forester Dan Jiron, Intermountain Region Regional Forester Nora Rasure and Wyoming BLM Director Don Simpson.
Wyoming BLM strives to accomplish four goals – managing healthy lands and communities; maintaining energy development; managing for multiple use and the urban interface; and maintaining budgets.
“If we aren’t responsible for participating and working with producers to provide for healthy landscapes, we can’t have healthy communities,” said Simpson. “I appreciate the partnership we have because we have some of the best rangelands and healthiest communities.”
Despite economic downturn recently, Simpson noted that public rangelands are faring well.
On BLM lands, he also noted that a multiple use agenda is a strong focus for the agency. Under multiple use, efforts include supporting energy development and recreation, along with livestock grazing.
“We are working on four 500 kilovolt power lines, and we are looking at authorizing in excess of 1,000 wind turbines on public lands,” he commented. “It will change the landscape, but the balanced use of land is something we work toward.”
“We manage for multiple use,” he continued.
At the same time, he noted that more and more people are moving to the West, meaning that more people have easier access to public lands. More use translates into new users and problems that weren’t present in the past.
In accomplishing all of these goals, Simpson continued, “Over all, budgets are getting smaller. We have to be more effective and make the dollar stretch further.”
Forest Service lands
Two different Forest Service regions cover Wyoming – the Intermountain Region and the Rocky Mountain Region.
Dan Jiron, regional forester for the Rocky Mountain Region, noted, “We have many opportunities to work together, and we will work through the challenges together.”
Currently of top priority for Jiron are National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) evaluations.
“NEPA is an important piece of moving ahead with range management challenges,” Jiron said. “In the Rocky Mountain Region, we pretty much have those pieces done. In Wyoming, we will finish this summer.”
Moving forward, Jiron noted that the Rocky Mountain Region has seen some success, including contracts for long-term timber management and the reopening of the Saratoga Mill.
“The reopening of the Saratoga Mill is really important to restoration and resiliency,” he explained. “These are important things to sustain.”
At the same time, he noted that there is a lot of work to do on the national forest lands and national grasslands and, by continuing partnerships with state, local and private entities, sustainable land management can be achieved.
Connections to ag
Rasure also emphasized the importance of the connection between Forest Service lands and agriculture.
“I have a deep connection to agriculture,” said Rasure, who is relatively new to her position. “I am excited to be back in the Intermountain Region.”
The Intermountain Region, which covers Utah, Nevada, parts of Wyoming, Idaho and California, is about 83 percent urban, said Rasure, which provides challenges.
“When you have large rural landscapes and urban populations, people who live in the urban areas are not connected to those landscapes,” she commented. “One of the challenges that we have is to help people in urban areas have a connection to the land and the way we manage lands.”
Rasure noted that working together is one area she has focused on.
“We are going to get litigated, and we get litigated because people have other perspectives and other values,” she explained. “The question is, how do we work together to continue using the land but to sustain it overtime?”
Range monitoring, said Wyoming BLM Director Don Simpson, is of utmost importance.
“Where we lose in court is where we don’t follow the rules,” Simpson explained. “When we can prove we maintain healthy rangelands, we can win.”
By adequately managing rangelands, Simpson noted that court cases can be won.
“In Wyoming, we can get more done with a dollar than anyone else,” he continued. “The ranchers and land managers are active conservationists who help.”
The Intermountain Region, Regional Forester Nora Rasure said, is also focusing on rangeland management and is looking for opportunities to utilize the landscape and manage it effectively.
“It will take all of our knowledge and resources to resolve the issues of the future and partner to address them,” Rasure concluded.