Directive overhaul: USFS extends deadline for proposed changes to rangeland management directives
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) rangeland management directives, which serve as the primary basis for management of the rangeland management program and act as a primary source of direction to USFS employees in the program, are currently undergoing updates. The focus of this update, according to USFS is to make rangeland management policies more usable, modern and conform to recent legislation including management flexibility and clarifications to guide consistent management of lands.
USFS proposes changes to grazing permit terms and agreements, rangeland planning and decision-making and rangeland improvements as well as cooperation on national forests. The original comment period for the proposed changes has been extended from Feb. 16 to April 17.
According to the Major Changes Summary provided by the USFS, it is proposed to change the expiration date for all term grazing permits to Feb. 28 rather than Dec. 31. This change ensures the grazing permits coincide with grazing fee years.
Proposed changes also terminate the use of all livestock association permits.
“This change clarifies livestock associations are not to be confused with grazing associations and proves direction on how to properly authorize grazing for members of livestock associations,” shared USFS.
The directive also makes changes to assist in family estate planning. The proposed changes expand the types of entities able to hold term permits, including LLCs and LLFPs, and also allow children and grandchildren of term permit holders to run on the older generation’s permitted numbers. A section on conservation easements and agricultural land trusts is proposed to allow ranches to remain in agricultural production.
Further proposals include establishing forage reserves as an official type of grazing allotment, as well as allowing permits to be listed as the total number of animal unit months (AUMs).
“USFS acknowledges many areas have year-round allotments with multiple periods of use and need this flexibility,” states the summary.
Clarifications to grazing agreements, as well as allowing for fee credits to be carried into future years by smaller associations in order to complete large rangeland improvement projects are among proposed changes.
Range planning and improvements
Changes to rangeland planning and decision-making include an explanation of the proper use of annual operating instructions, which are only to serve as instructions for the allotment for a certain year and not as a legal requirement. The USFS also includes new policies and clarifies existing policies related to rangeland improvement.
“Examples of new or clarified policies include such things as advanced coordination with journey level rangeland expertise on management decisions, improvement practices, appropriate inventory and monitoring procedures, requirement for permittees to contribute to rangeland improvements and maintenance and require grazing permittees to maintain all assigned range improvements even periods of nonuse,” reads the summary.
The proposed changes also remove most references and discussion concerning noxious weeks and invasive species, stating, “Management and control of noxious weeks and invasive species is nearly always one of the duties carried out by the rangeland management specialist. But, spread and control of noxious weeds is not a range and livestock problem any more than it is a management problem and control need for every other multiple use.”
Changes to rangeland cooperation also expands the discussion on cooperating with other agencies on animal disease control and inserts a new section to expand the discussion of certain diseases.
Information for this article was sourced from documents on the U.S. Forest Service website.
Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.