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Natural Resources

"Interaction" between wildlife and livestock discussed

Written by Christy Hemken

Cody – In a discussion pairing wildlife and livestock land management practices, BLM Lander Field Office Manager Jim Cagney said that range improvement projects are “the issue of our time.”
Cagney, along with Guardians of the Range Director Kathleen Jachowski, Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) Big Horn Sheep Coordinator Kevin Hurley and Blackfoot Challenge Program Coordinator Seth Wilson, among others, took part in a panel discussion at the 2009 meeting of the Society for Range Management Wyoming Section, the Soil and Water Conservation Society Wyoming Chapter and The Wildlife Society Wyoming Chapter in Cody in early November.
Cagney said range improvements have been a tough issue, swirling around for quite some time, because of perceptions of what range improvements are and their effect on wildlife and livestock interactions.
“I personally have never seen an elk starving because of livestock grazing. Most of the issues are not big game animals, but amphibians and biological diversity kind of things,” continued Cagney.
While Cagney explained the benefits of grazing management strategies, saying that land managers must combine water development with grazing management, he acknowledged there are those who disagree with fencing projects. One recent study has found the number of sage grouse succumbing to barbed wire fences is far higher than previously thought.
It is that relationship between the wildlife and the livestock production sides that Jachowski was responding to when she said, “There are a multitude of statements any of us could offer about interactions of wildlife with livestock, from intellectually sound down the trail to personal diatribes. We as human beings have perfected and frequently employed the full array of input.”
“It is without a doubt, in my experience in 25 years of public land issues, that in this country we do not have a communication skill set that moves us further to solutions than what we have,” continued Jachowski in talking about how long some issues, like brucellosis, are discussed without significant progress. “The verbal skill set of this nation is way below the problems we’re dealing with.”
She said solutions will come from talking about natural resource issues and understanding what it means to share. “That doesn’t mean get off the public landscape, and it also doesn’t mean to do what you want on the public landscape. It can mean tightening down on both sides, such as looking at our fellow American and saying ‘there really are too many wild horses.’”
Jachowski said three things very important to dealing with tough issues are ethics, intelligence and humor, calling them a winning trio.
“We need to defend and steward the resources of this nation. It’s those two areas that control the nation and the skill set we need is framed with ethics – which means don’t make it up as you go – intelligence and a sense of humor. Humor brings anger close, then dissipates it.”
Cagney said range managers need to start acting like they’ve got to make some tough choices. “It’s an issue where your range management skills don’t help because the choice between high intensity and high economic and low economic and natural systems, that’s a society choice and it’s hard to do it one allotment at a time.”
“It’s a matter of having a willingness to share and to practice tough love,” said Jachowski of leadership and decision-making. “That is one of the greatest legacies we could leave to our young people so they don’t have to spend 40 years going to a meeting on mountain plover. That’s not getting the job done.”
Christy Hemken is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..