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Sage grouse initiative team discusses grazing

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Casper – In a meeting of the Sage Grouse Initiative Team, held Oct. 11 in Casper, the group discussed grazing implications on sage grouse habitat and looked at amendments to draft habitat definitions.
    “Improper grazing, can be a threat,” commented Bob Budd at the meeting. “Consequently, a set of di minimus practices has been developed.
    “BLM analysis determined that there needed to be more information about grazing.”
Grazing implications
    The result was a discussion about grazing practices and ideas to fix the executive order in dealing with grazing.
    “Grazing in general is perceived by some to be a threat on sage grouse,” commented Doug Thompson. “Improper grazing can indeed be a threat, and this committee is working on guidance for the executive order on grazing.”
    Thompson continued that grazing is provided for under current exemption, if it was taking place under and existing grazing plan, resource management plan or managed effort.
    “The BLM has a mandate to evaluate all existing grazing practices and infrastructure associated with grazing,” he continued. “The agency has a mandate, and we felt the executive order should address that.”
Executive Order
    While the Sage Grouse Executive Order Grazing Sub-Committee has spent time talking about grazing changes, they also issued a draft guidance, with the goal of creating language to identify both how and when land management agencies can determine when grazing is posing a threat to sage grouse.
    Included in the document were items to define proper grazing, as well as the premise that grazing is part of the solution to improve sage grouse habitat.
    The sub-committee includes Buddy Green with BLM, Peter McDonald with the U.S. Forest Service, Temple Stoellinger with the Wyoming County Commissioners Association, Doug Thompson with Fremont County, Steve Ferrell with the Wyoming Governor’s Office, Jason Fearneyhough and Doug Miyamoto with the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, Mary Flanderka and John Emmerich with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Ken Hamilton with Farm Bureau, Jim Magana with the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, Dick Loper with the Wyoming State Land Board, and Brian Rutledge with Audubon.
    Buddy Green with BLM said, “When this is all said and done, we can provide something that accomplishes what we want to do.”
Proper versus improper
    Proper grazing, according to the Sage Grouse Executive Order Grazing Sub-Committee is “compatible with sage grouse habitat needs and can improve habitat for sage grouse.”
    Additionally, the draft states that grazing practices should maintain or enhance Wyoming ranges while supporting viable populations and diverse plant life.
    “Wyoming Core Areas have been identified as having the best existing habitat for sage grouse needs based upon past practices,” adds the document.
    “We talked about maintaining good habitats, as well,” commented Thompson. “We also affirm that improper grazing can be a threat.”
    “If an allotment is considered as not meeting the ‘proper grazing definition,’ all allotment-influencing factors need to be analyzed,” adds the document, citing recreation, weather, development, wildlife and wild horse impacts as potential contributors to habitat degradation.
    Thompson also noted that there are provisions in place as well for emergency situations, such as fire and severe drought, when considering if grazing standards have been met.
    “If there is an emergent situation, such as a fire, there will have to be changes made, but long term changes need to have analysis and monitoring,” he said.
    Thompson added that while grazing may not meet BLM standards or standards for healthy rangelands, it may not be a threat to sage grouse.
    “There are a number of considerations they do in their analysis on habitats overall,” said Thompson. “It is improper, for example, to eliminate or greatly restrict a grazing permit or lease for factors that are not within the control of the grazer. It also calls for joint cooperative monitoring for a period of five years.”
Common standards
    He continued that while the guidelines and definitions provided in the sub-committee document are not agency specific, the group realized that BLM control the greatest amount of habitat lands in Wyoming.
    “The purpose was to make this concise and to narrate it to give guidance to the Governor,” he added.
    Green also emphasized the need for commonality between rangeland health standards.
    “We can look at our standards and find some common threads,” Green mentioned. “We can look at our health standards and find a consistent and accountable statement, definition or goal.”
    “Properly managed grazing is good for sage grouse conservation,” Green added.
    Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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