PLC and Forest Service sign MOU
On Nov. 28, the Public Lands Council (PLC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Service (USFS) announced they have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to encourage, promote and enhance cooperative monitoring on National Forest System grazing allotments, which will stay in effect until January 2027.
Mutual interests and benefits
Both PLC, a membership of state and national cattle, sheep and grassland associations dedicated to representing producers, as well as USFS, a natural resource agency whose mission is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands, have responsibilities and interests in rangeland management.
The MOU notes, because monitoring of rangelands is essential to the sustainability of livestock grazing activities on national forests and grasslands, a cooperative approach to monitoring these lands is crucial.
“Cooperative monitoring enhances working relationships of the parties at the local level when the parties cooperatively acquire, analyze and approve data collections to assist with creating adaptive rangeland management programs to enhance and improve the condition of rangelands,” reads the MOU.
“Furthermore, cooperative monitoring could lead to increased understanding of resource conditions and management needs, which can result in more responsive and proactive management practices,” the MOU continues. “This will benefit the resource in the long term.”
According to a PLC press release, this MOU will help public lands ranchers and local USFS officials cooperate to collect and analyze data on rangeland health, ultimately ensuring better management of national forests and grasslands.
The press release notes the MOU will lay out a path to make data collection and sharing between the USFS and grazing permittees more efficient.
“The data collected by permittees through approved and agreed upon methods will provide the agency with a larger set of reference points when evaluating rangeland health and resource needs,” reads the press release. “In short, more accurate data ensures the USFS has evidence of the investments producers make that lead to better rangeland conditions across the country.”
While the two entities will be working together to accomplish the overarching goal of cooperative monitoring, the MOU outlines specific responsibilities for both PLC and the USFS.
According to the MOU, PLC will be in charge of publicity surrounding the cooperative rangeland monitoring program among its membership, particularly those authorized to graze livestock on national forests and/or national grasslands.
Additionally, PLC will serve as a liaison to address issues of concern for livestock grazing permittees that may arise during the administration of the MOU.
Responsibilities outlined in the MOU for the USFS are a longer list.
These include identifying grazing allotments where cooperative monitoring data is currently collected and analyzed, contacting livestock grazing permittees and inviting them to participate in the program, establishing a cooperative rangeland monitoring program, encouraging and increasing grazing allotments participating in the monitoring program each year, working cooperatively with livestock grazing permittees participating in the program to develop allotment monitoring plans for their assigned grazing allotments and providing information and updates of rangeland condition changes as it becomes available to the livestock grazing permittees for their assigned livestock grazing allotments.
The USFS is also responsible for working with other federal agencies to improve consistency of rangeland management, coordinating with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service staff to inquire and provide soil surveys and/or vegetation correlation information for sites involved in cooperative monitoring, ensuring conformance with USFS protocols, ensuring agreements between the livestock grazing permittees and USFS officers on methods for collecting cooperative monitoring data and ensuring livestock grazing permittees have the option to seek assistance from other individuals or institutions.
A valued partnership
In the press release, both PLC President Mark Roeber and USFS Chief Randy Moore expressed they value each other’s partnership and are excited to work together under the new MOU.
“As America’s original conservationists, cattle and sheep producers are stewards of millions of acres of federal land,” says Roeber. “Data is key to every decision permittees make on the landscape, and this MOU will allow permittees and the USFS to better share key information and strengthen the partnership between producers and agency officials.”
“The Public Lands Council is excited to join the USFS in this cooperative monitoring agreement, and we look forward to our continued partnership on this issue,” he continues.
Moore comments, “The USFS values the importance of cooperative relationships. This MOU signifies our continued commitment to work cooperatively with our permittees and to build trust, while expanding our collective ability to gather important information about the health and productivity of National Forest System lands.”
Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to email@example.com.