An ‘all lands’ approach to grazing management is vital for ranch futures
With management of grazing a consistent concern, ranchers, federal lands agencies and groups across a wide swath of interests have begun to focus on strategies for grazing that include an approach of the entire landscape, rather than just acre-by-acre.
On Nov. 1, the Western Governors’ Association organized a webinar titled, “An All Lands Approach to Grazing Management.” Hosted by Curtis Elke, Idaho state conservationist, the webinar included four panelists who discussed outcome-based land management and an all lands approach for grazing management.
According to Karen Launchbaugh, University of Idaho (UI) Rangeland Center director, outcome-based land management is still being defined.
“The UI Rangeland Center is currently working with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to define outcome-based land management by bringing people in the field together to identify challenges and giving them a chance to think about what outcome-based land management is,” Launchbaugh said.
“For outcome-based management to work, ideas, knowledge and opportunities need to come from the people who are involved with the process,” added Launchbaugh. “This management idea is inherently collaborative, across multiple landownerships.”
She believes opportunities on a large-scale basis, like large allotments, ranches and watersheds, should also be discussed because bigger scales offer more opportunities across land ownerships.
Idaho BLM Resources State Director June Shoemaker, another panelist, said BLM’s goal for outcome-based management is to promote shared land stewardship.
“Currently, regulations restrict the possible actions BLM can take, but we hope to push the edges and test what we can do to identify changes and create more flexible regulations,” she said. “No one-size-fits-all approach actually works, and I think BLM wants to focus on beneficial management plans for the future.”
She noted management plans, including ecological and socioeconomic goals, are largely untested, so BLM is developing the management plans as they go.
In connection with the all lands approach, Launchbaugh believes outcome-based is a different management approach.
“Outcome-based management focuses on desirable outcomes rather than prescriptions, like the number of animals and when to graze. The all lands approach focuses on using different types of ownership to create opportunities for land management across different landscapes,” she explains.
Dustin Miller, Idaho Governor’s Office species conservation administrator, said the all lands approach is connected with species conservation because both ideas strive to find a beneficial balance between wildlife and livestock.
“I truly believe healthy rangelands are important for the economic prosperity of the ranching community and are certainly important for maintaining viable populations of fish and wildlife,” Miller stated.
Because state lands are intermixed with federal and private lands, Miller believes the all lands approach is vitally important because multiple wildlife species have seasonal habitat considerations on more than one type of land.
“With the all lands approach, a lot of good is accomplished for wildlife and various groups who also use land resources,” he added.
Grazing as a tool
Miller cited the all lands approach as a possible turning point for shifting the focus towards livestock grazing and management as a more necessary tool in helping conserve land and wildlife.
In Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission Board of Directors Chair Chris Black’s opinion, “The all lands grazing approach and outcome-based land management from BLM are vital for the future of ranching because ranchers make their living off the land and always will.”
Heather Loraas is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org