McClung faces challenges as new Bighorn National Forest district ranger
Sheridan – Clarke McClung, new District Ranger on the Tongue Ranger District of the Bighorn National Forest (BNF), begins his job full-time on March 17. McClung, a 28-year veteran with the U.S. Forest Service (FS) and BLM, returns to Wyoming after two years as the Rangeland Program Manager in the Chadron office of the Nebraska National Forest. McClung replaces Craig Yancey who retired in January.
“My whole career has been rangeland management,” McClung comments. After earning a degree in Range Science at Texas A&M University, McClung says, “I started with the BLM in Casper in 1980. For 10 years, I worked in the resource area of southern Natrona County, and Platte and Goshen counties. I also worked with sheep operators and managed stock driveways in northern Natrona County.”
In 1990, McClung went to work for the FS as the Lead Rangeland Management Specialist in the Laramie Ranger District. In 1999, he moved to Douglas, assuming the same position at the Douglas Ranger District. Six years later, he went to work for the Nebraska National Forest.
Bighorn Forest Supervisor Bill Bass reportedly hired McClung for this position because of his experience and success is working with grazing permittees and others, his optimistic attitude and his lengthy experience with the FS in general. These attributes will be essential as McClung works through the mediation process with 12 of 13 grazing permittees who appealed the FS decision to cut AUMs from between 40 and 68 percent on six allotments on the Tongue Ranger District. If monitoring is completed on seven more allotments in 2008, additional reductions may begin in 2009.
“I’ve worked in Wyoming, and I know a lot of the players, including the guys at the Wyoming Department of Ag and the University of Wyoming. I’ve got some working relationships there that I’ve had for a number of years. I’m also a member of the Society for Range Management,” McClung adds.
He received the call of his official hire during a January meeting in Greybull between the BNF, the Guardians of the Range and grazing permittees. The AUM reductions were a hot topic there and McClung was aware of the challenges he faced before accepting the position. Since Feb. 19 he’s been back and forth, tying up ends in Nebraska and getting started in Sheridan. During his first week in Sheridan he met with some of the permittees whose AUMs were cut.
“I’m a firm believer and big supporter of multiple use. Grazing is one of those uses allowed to come off the Forest, and I would hate to see that use disappear from the Bighorn. It’s got a place, but at what level? That becomes a balancing act. How much grass needs to be left for some of the other uses that occur? Can we graze it to a level that’s feasible for operators? Can we leave enough grass for other uses?” McClung questions. He adds, “Tongue Ranger District Lead Rangeland Management Specialist David Beard was out with Jonathan Ratner (Wyoming Director of the Western Watersheds Project), and they looked at (range) that was meeting standards, and (Ratner) was fine with that. We just need to see if that will balance out with everybody.
“At Laramie, I spent a lot of years working on Pole Mountain. There was a group there, then called Friends of the Bow (who evolved into the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance), that didn’t like to see things – for example, places they liked – turned into a mud hole,” McClung explains. “But, I believe they think some use is acceptable.”
“The main things I’ve got to do are get with all the different disciplines on the District and figure out what’s going on, and I’ve been getting myself up to speed on the Tongue. Recreation is a big thing on the BNF, and that’s one of the areas I’m going to have to spend some time on, specifically recreational residence and cabins on the Forest, special uses with outfitters and guides and some snowmobile stuff.”
McClung grew up in Houston, Texas. “After moving to Casper, I fell in love with the place. I enjoy working with people; that’s the best thing about my job. I’m a Range Management Specialist, or what we used to call a Range Conservationist. I don’t manage livestock, I manage the people who manage the livestock.”
McClung lives with his wife, Leslie, who is a writer/editor for the FS, working on projects in Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska. “I’ve got a couple of dogs, and I like to bird hunt. We spend a lot of time camping and doing day hiking. I’m thrilled to be back in Wyoming, and some day we plan to retire at Thermopolis.”
Clarke McClung encourages people to contact him with questions or concerns at 307-674-2680, 674-2600, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Echo Renner is field editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. She can be reached at email@example.com.