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High Desert to the Hill: SRM hosts public grazing regulatory change discussion

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Public lands ranchers had the opportunity to communicate face to face with federal agency administrators on July 11 in Reno, Nev., during an event hosted by Good Grazing Makes Cent$ in conjunction with their affiliated partners the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, Western Landowners Alliance, Ranchers Stewardship Alliance and Wyoming Livestock Board.

Topics discussed included the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) proposed public lands rule, potential grazing regulation changes and how public lands grazers can benefit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) risk management and disaster aid programs.

Additionally, Turnipseed Engineering, who specializes in Nevada water resources, discussed how to assist ranchers in the region with water rights management.

Making sense

of the science 

Good Grazing Makes Cent$ aims to provide practical, applicable and economically feasible range management solutions which can ultimately improve the productivity of the land and the bottom dollar of the ranch through conversation and collaboration between range scientists and ranchers.

According to the Good Grazing Makes Cent$ website, each month they dissect a new topic intended to improve the productivity of the land and the bottom line of their members, including a monthly newsletter covering diverse topics, including everything from planning for drought to better understanding how the history of land impacts today’s management decisions.

The organization also offers a monthly video series featuring experts and ranchers from across the country discussing lessons learned and the success stories that have helped them advance the science and art of range management.

USDA risk management and aid programs

Zach Ducheneaux, USDA Farm Service Agency Administrator, a third-generation rancher of his family farm on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, discussed building a proper safety net for producers. 

“We are not spending taxpayer money, we are investing it,” Ducheneaux noted, as he continued discussing challenges producers face, current conservation programs and how producers can work with local USDA offices to find solutions for producers.

Ducheneaux informed the audience he and his team will provide leadership and direction on agricultural policy, administering loan programs and managing conservation, commodity, disaster and farm marketing programs through a national network of offices.

He emphasized the importance of local offices being staffed with individuals ready to assist producers.

Ducheneaux expressed, “Preserving the heritage and legacy of producers and what they have built is a commitment from the USDA team.”

He concluded, “We are focused on investing in rural communities through staffing those areas with personnel to assist local producers with programs.”

Society for Range

Management land


During the event, attendees had the opportunity to ask questions and share concerns with top agency leaders, including BLM Senior Policy Advisor Errol Rice. Rice, a Montana native and fifth-generation farmer and rancher, assists in facilitating BLM’s outreach and policy on grazing and investments in restoration.  

According to BLM, Rice has experience in agriculture, ranching and renewable energy and works with clients in the agribusiness, agriculture technology and the renewable sector to navigate the supply chain, government, climate, profit, risk and strategy.

During the town hall meeting, Rice addressed several programs BLM manages. One particular program Rice identified as a hot topic is livestock grazing. 

Rice stated, “BLM manages livestock grazing on 155 million acres and administers close to 18,000 permits and leases held by ranchers who graze their livestock. The proposed public lands rule is a vehicle for BLM to tee off better opportunities.” 

He further stated, “The proposed public lands rule would establish a framework to ensure healthy landscapes, abundant wildlife habitat, clean water and balanced involvement.”

“BLM was flooded with more than 150,000 public comments, which closed July 5,” he added, stressing that the agency wants to continue public engagement, and even though the comment period has closed, he wants to put out “a call to action” to keep the conversation going.

Rice continued, “The comments give the agency a vast amount of data to sift through and helps them to understand risk profiles better, create a better framework, streamline programs to enhance the land and build a better relationship at multiple levels.” 

“BLM does not have all the answers,” he concluded. “We are learning as we go, and the agency wants to continue to seek continuous improvement.”

Open discussion

Rice was met with several topics when he opened the forum for questions.

Jeff Eisenberg, former executive director of the Public Lands Council, was first to engage in the open forum asking Rice, “Please touch on the biggest complaints the BLM has had about the public lands rule, as this has been a question many have been asking.”

Rice explained, “The number one complaint the agency has heard is the rule came out of nowhere. The agency has heard this loud and clear, and if the agency had the opportunity to remedy that, it would.” 

He continued, “The agency understands this was not the best way to build trust, but it is still open for discussion even though the comment section on this rule has been closed.” 

Rice fielded questions on the topic of the grazing rule being paused, wild horse grazing on BLM land and conservation concerns. 

The town hall concluded with David Hillis, principal engineer at Turnipseed Engineering, sharing important information on water rights analysis in Nevada and the Western states. The event brought together board of directors, committee leaders, members and the public to discuss the future of ranching and farming.

Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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