Statewide CRM committee reorganizesWritten by Jennifer Womack
Casper – Coordinated Resource Management (CRM) program supporters are working to reorganize a committee from the early 1990s that helped numerous Wyoming ranchers work with their neighbors, community members and federal land management agencies.
“Over six million acres in Wyoming – state, federal and private lands – are managed under a CRM,” says Larry Bentley with the Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA). Bentley is one of two remaining Wyomingites who’ve helped facilitate the CRM process. “It can be as small as an individual ranch or as large as a county,” says Bentley, noting CRMs for prairie dog management in Natrona County and noxious weed control in Goshen County. Outside the natural resources arena, he says it’s an approach that can be used by local government and others.
“There was a statewide executive committee back in the 80s when everything was established,” says Bentley. “It later went away. WDA Director John Etchepare, with the support of Governor Freudenthal, has re-initiated the committee.” Bentley says the committee’s resurgence comes at a time when there’s a great deal of opportunity to utilize the CRM process and the need to remember creation of a CRM group must be landowner-driven.
In the late 1980s southwest Wyoming rancher Richard Hamilton helped launch a CRM along the Willow Creek watershed that passes through his ranch. “It’s mixed ownership between the state, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and private,” says Hamilton. Willow Creek was thought to be impaired and natural resource managers and interested parties pooled their resources for answers.
“It’s a bottom up process,” says Bentley. “It’s a landowner driven process and the landowners identify the problems and make a mission statement and set goals and objectives on how to go from where they are to where they want to be.”
“We’ve been into range improvement for a long time, long before it was popular,” says Hamilton, noting that participation in the CRM was “just an extension” of what they were already doing. While not all of his neighbors were as enthusiastic, many became stronger supporters when they saw the benefits of the water developments and the doubling of forage production in the wake of brush control.
“Once we got going the funding was extremely important,” recounts Hamilton of the CRM’s early efforts. “We put in six stock pits, developed a spring and built numerous miles of fence.” He also says they seeded areas where ground was disturbed and where timber was removed.
“One of the advantages to me was in dealing with the BLM,” says Hamilton, who earned leniency in his grazing management as a result of the CRM. “At the end of the year I give them my AUM numbers. Between May 15 and Oct. 15 it’s my choice when to go out and how long I go out for. At the end of the year they monitor me. If we have an early or late spring we’re not tied into a regimented program. I’ve got the latitude to read the grass and decide what and when.”
“I’ve also got the latitude to read the markets,” says Hamilton. “I can use cows and calves or yearlings and make those fit the cash market. If I want to buy more I can. I can lease private pasture and use the BLM ground for yearlings. It’s allowed me the latitude to manage and we’ve got a good relationship with the BLM.”
Rawlins area rancher Neils Hansen is part of the Muddy Creek CRM that was formed in the late 80s and early 90s. “The CRM looked at things on more of a watershed basis than on a ranch basis,” says Hansen. “Through the CRM we were able to get some funding and fast track some funds to work on projects. When working with the BLM, the CRMs float to the top a lot quicker for BLM funds than individual projects.”
As a result of the CRM, Hansen says, “We haven’t had the fluctuations in stocking rates and gains that we’ve seen some of our neighbors experience. We’ve got a lot of water developments and range improvements that could help us ride out the dry years a lot better.” As part of the effort he says, “We implemented a pasture management and monitoring program I tout everywhere I go.”
“What we’ve done is well documented,” says Hamilton. “You need good documentation of what you do and how you do it. I don’t think we can survive in ranching without that anymore.”
“It’s always looked at as a way to work in a contentious area or where you have problems, but it also creates a lot of opportunity,” says Hansen. “It doesn’t have to be an adversarial situation to bring in a CRM and have it be beneficial. It’s got to be rancher driven and rancher originated. It’s an opportunity to look at the landscape from a watershed scale and bring all the players together so you can access multiple benefits and better protect yourself from all of the challenges out there.”
“It’s a broad, diverse committee,” says Bentley of the reorganizing effort. “The goal is to rework the CRM process and identify, if anything, what might be wrong with the present planning process. We’ll also train other facilitators to help CRMs get started across the state.”