From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 2, Number 2 - April 11, 2002
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

BLM prepares to deal with drought

by Cat Urbigkit

BLM prepares to deal with drought

Grazing permittees in the Bureau of Land Managementís Pinedale Resource Area learned that the BLM wonít be issuing decisions on grazing in drought conditions this year until later this month or the first part of May.

A March 19 letter to permittees stated that, "However, considering water shortages and low amounts of residual forage from last season, we are urgently suggesting you delay turnout dates and/or reduce the number of livestock on your public land allotments for this season."

Doug Powell of the BLM said in an interview that permittees had requested the BLM wait to see what the conditions are before making any specific decisions. The wait will also allow permittees to work with the agency one-on-one in taking necessary steps.

Powell said his agency has been touring rangelands in the area, conducting an overall assessment, but no specific monitoring data is being collected to document current conditions.

"Conditions are fairly bad field-office-wide, but I guess I donít have any geographical areas highlighted as being of any more concern than others," Powell said. BLMís concerns about the level of use on certain allotments last year have already been addressed in decisions, he said.

"Thatís not based on ongoing drought," Powell said. "Thatís based on recovery from what happened last year."

While the Bench Corral area has seen a heightened level of interest from environmental groups in the last year or so, the status of this area is no different from the remainder of the resource area, Powell said. In addition, none of the decisions issued for recovery from last year pertain to Bench Corral, he said.

"Specific to the Bench Corral area, there were some significant adjustments made last year in those allotments," Powell said. "Thatís probably why that hasnít been necessarily high on our radar screen.

"They did make some big adjustments last year," Powell said. "So some of those allotments should be in much better situations than some others, in the amount of carry over forage coming out of 2001."

The amount of forage available on the BLM allotments in the resource area is largely dependent upon April and May precipitation, Powell said.

"Itís still a little unknown just how much forage will be produced, and that could change 180 percent between now and the first of May," Powell said.

But permittees can expect to find dry reservoirs and not enough run-off to fill them, Powell said. In addition, some water wells donít pump as much water in dry years, and if there isnít a lot of wind, windmills wonít provide any relief either.

Water hauling is something permittees should be planning for. As long as the permittee wants to haul water to existing water facilities, BLM approval is fairly simple to get, as is approval to set up additional tanks at an existing water facility. In addition, Powell said his agency would entertain proposals to place water at other locations within allotments, but the approval process for this is slightly more complicated. Powell urged permittees to talk with the BLM immediately about supplemental water needs instead of waiting until livestock enter the allotments.

One other water option is to install temporary waterlines from existing water wells on natural gas drilling locations to pump water into dry reservoirs or other water holding facilities. Powell complimented natural gas operators for their cooperation with livestock permittees last grazing season.

As water shortages for livestock are addressed by permittees, wildlife benefit as well. Powell said wildlife use the livestock water facilities, and permittees routinely refill their water storage tanks as they leave the allotments so water is left for wildlife in the area.

Permittees have been notified that non-use this grazing season will not be counted against them, but will be approved as non-use for resource conservation.

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