From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 4, Number 2 - April 8, 2004
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Ranchers face reductions

by Cat Urbigkit

The Bureau of Land Management has notified its grazing permittees that if they have an early turnout date, they will face a 25-percent reduction in the amount of grazing allowed this year. This is the same action that was taken last year and stands to impact at least one-third of the allotments in this region.

Permittees received letters noting: "We recognize that the last four years have been very difficult for anyone engaged in ranching in Sublette County. We understand and appreciate the sacrifices that have been made, and like you, we continue to be concerned about the potential ongoing drought conditions.

"Considering the severity of the drought conditions during the last four years and the low amounts of residual forage from last season, we are again suggesting that you delay turnout dates and/or reduce the number of livestock on your public land allotments for this season," the BLM letter stated. "Even if precipitation conditions improve over the next two months, we believe it would be best to reduce the amount of livestock use and allow the forage resource to recover prior to stocking your allotments at or near grazing capacity."

The 25-percent reduction is being implemented on allotments that are grazed between May 1 and July 15. According to BLM range specialist Nick Schultz, well over one-third of the allotments in this field-office area are those with early turnout dates. This area has 230 allotments, with more than 90 of them having turnout dates between May 1 and July 15.

Any allotments where grazing use begins in May or June but carries on beyond July 15 are not affected by the reduction. Although these allotments aren't affected, the BLM does recommend permittees reduce the amount of grazing on these allotments as well, adding "If drought conditions persist, we may need to make adjustments in those allotments later this season."

Schultz said leaving the allotments early is a possibility as well.

"That's always an area we have to look at," Schultz said, when it comes to drought conditions. Schultz added that his agency would base all its decisions on utilization levels on the allotments.

The BLM letter continued: "Drought conditions have adversely affected vegetation growth and production. The rangeland simply cannot sustain the normal level of grazing use when forage production is greatly reduced due to prolonged drought. This upcoming grazing season, numbers of livestock and the season of use that we set for each allotment must allow the rangeland vegetation to recover."

The letter stated the agency's intention to closely inspect allotments after livestock are turned out.

"If moisture conditions do not improve, and if the incoming grazing applications indicate that permittees are not making adjustments to their operations, we may issue decisions for delays in turnout dates or reduced livestock numbers," the letter stated. "Unfortunately, the time available to deal with drought conditions on individual allotments in late April and May will be limited and adjustments affecting a significant number of our allotments may become necessary.

"Regardless of any changes made before turnout, you can expect us to inspect allotments closely after livestock are turned out," the letter stated. "We will not hesitate to ask permittees to remove livestock early should forage utilization become too high."

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