From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 2, Number 50 - March 13, 2003
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Joel and Susan Bousman tear it up on the dance floor at Saturday night's Green River Valley Cattlemen's Association banquet.
Bousman named environmental steward

Joel Bousman and his family were recently honored with the 2003 Environmental Stewardship award from the Wyoming Stock Growers Association. Each year, WSGA recognizes a ranch that displays commitment and innovativeness in stewardship.

East Fork Livestock is a family-owned ranch located near the East Fork River, 12 miles southeast of Boulder on the western slopes of the Wind River Mountains. Joel and Susan Bousman, together with their oldest son, Jim (and his wife, Kristy) and their youngest son, Cotton, run a 350-head cow/calf/yearling operation.

Currently the East Fork Livestock operation is comprised of 3,800 acres of private lands. One thousand of those acres are native-grass hay meadows under flood irrigation, producing feed to carry their cows and weaned calves through winter. They lease over 4,600 acres of State land. They also have one individual and two common BLM allotments totaling over 900 Animal Unit Months. Their only U.S. Forest Service grazing permit is on Silver Creek Common Allotment where they have approximately 1,200 AUMs. In the last few years, Joel has acquired additional private leases from absentee landowners as well as additional federal grazing permits, adding more grass to their operation. This has enabled them to rotate non-use on their federal lands and incorporate more rotational flexibility on their privately owned and private lease lands, benefiting both their cow/calf as well as the yearling part of their operation. During the last three years of intense drought, this flexibility has proven a tremendous asset.

Joel Bousman believes that one must utilize science-based data for decision-making in the area of natural resource management. The University of Wyoming has been the academic training ground for the entire Bousman family. Joe earned his BS in farm and ranch management. Oldest daughter Tomi is a UW College of Ag alumni and the younger daughter Julie is working in the Washington, D.C., office of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Jim, received his BS in ag business while Cotton is in his senior year at UW in range management. An important stewardship goal is the maintenance of their ranch as ecologically sound and sustainable for the future.

Conservation practices implemented on private lands include rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure of the Tibbals Place; riparian corridor fencing to create riparian pasture along the East Fork River to allow for more carefully managed grazing. Spike has been applied and grazing deferred on several hundred acres of sagebrush uplands to increase forage production by targeting big sagebrush while not affecting other woody species. This type of chemical treatment provides greater biological diversity for wildlife habitat while also increasing forage for livestock.

The ranch provides wonderful year-round habitat for moose, elk, deer, antelope, sage grouse and waterfowl. It also controls the access point to a significant portion of Forest Service lands. The income the ranch receives from sharing this bounty is intangible. The Bousmans charge no fees, preferring to grant access to "all who will ask and some who don't." The good will of the recreational community is their pay.

In the early 1990s the concept and practice of monitoring rangelands become more important. In 1995, the county extension office began an effort to make monitoring part of the day-to-day business of the grazing associations. Concurrently, the Bridger-Teton National Forest supervisor sanctioned a committee of producers, educators and scientists to develop a voluntary permittee monitoring protocol. Joel volunteered to serve on the group which resulted in the development of a Voluntary Permittee Monitoring plan where producers could actively and cooperatively monitor their range.

The idea was extended to the Silver Creek Grazing Association of which he is also a member. His foremost objective was to employ the monitoring effort to expose and discuss problems and to help carry the message that livestock producers were interested in good management and great stewardship. Part of the interest in telling the story of good stewardship was the fact that the Forest Service had developed an internal report detailing several perceived ecological problems on the permit. The cooperative monitoring program which Joel initiated tackled the identified problems. In retrospect, Joel's instinct was to develop a coordinated resource management effort. All of this was done without knowing or recognizing the similarity of the properties of his effort with those of a Coordinated Resource Management project.

Inviting Forest Service personnel ranging from range specialists, soils specialists, taxonomists, regional ecologist, ranger and supervisors, Joel has organized annual monitoring rides on the forest permit. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has participated with habitat biologist and regional supervisors, the BLM has sent their range specialists, the NRCS has sent district conservationists and UWCES has marshaled the talents of between two and four scientist, specialists and educators. The monitoring rides feature the identification of issues, key areas and species which can be monitored to measure progress toward objectives. Participants are encouraged to contribute to the discussion and be active members of the issue identification process. They are also asked to learn, practice and master the monitoring processes.

In addition to performing and teaching the monitoring processes on the Silver Creek allotment, Joe is often invited to discuss and teach the monitoring processes at extension and other gatherings of range users and managers. The association has also implemented an intensive rider/herding program with the cattle. The objective of the investment in riders is to improve grazing utilization and implement a sort of rotational grazing system. The result of the program is a remarkably uniform level of utilization throughout the pasture. An unanticipated benefit of enhanced uniformity of utilization is the propensity of the cattle to "want to stay on the mountain longer." Previously, cattle often would begin to leave the high country for the foothills near the beginning of September. Now the cattle are demonstrating a willingness to remain two to three weeks longer.

Photo credits:  Andy Sacks -

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