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A Legacy of Community: The Inyan Kara Grazing Association marks 85 years of community grazing

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

In the 1930s, President Roosevelt was implementing New Deal projects to help provide economic relief to depression-stricken Americans. Included in his programs were various attempts to provide relief to farmers and ranchers across the countryside. 

By the late 1930s, the government started buying back land from homesteaders who couldn’t afford to stay, which is how the Inyan Kara Grazing Association came about in 1939. 

“The government was buying back some homesteads that were going belly up, putting blocks of land together and then leasing it out to ranchers who were hanging in there in better shape,” explains Jim Darlington, director of the association. “This enlarged their places so they could run more livestock and make a better go of things.”

While the New Deal reformation was successful in the long run, putting together enough land to maintain a successful grazing association eight decades later, wasn’t always met with open arms. 

“It did work out in the long run, but there were some hard feelings,” says Jim.  “Neighbors got their arms twisted pretty strongly if they happened to be in the middle of a block that was being put together. The government told them ‘Well, here’s your two dollars an acre, load up your stuff and get out of here.’”

How a grazing association works

The government still owns the land the Inyan Kara Grazing Association exists on, however, permittees do not have to work directly with them. 

“The association is the government’s permittee, and individual ranchers are the association’s permittees,” explains Jim.

Aside from administering the grazing permit, the Inyan Kara Grazing Association works on conservation practices. Over the years, the association has implemented water management systems, originally with dams and windmills and now solar pumps and pipelines. 

Jim has been with the Inyan Kara Grazing Association since 1982, outlasting many of the U.S. Forest Service rangers he has worked with through his years with the association.

He has been involved with multiple land exchanges over the years and has subsequently become very familiar with the long processes tied to government work, in hopes permittees do not have to jump through the hoops. 

Association members

When the grazing association was started 85 years ago, there were about 120 ranchers who had permits. Now, this number is closer to 75. Many of the ranchers involved with the grazing association today are descendants of the original association’s members. 

In order to be granted a permit with the Inyan Kara Grazing Association, an individual has to already own base property the equivalence of 50 percent of the amount of land they would like to have under permit, and of this, 50 percent of land needs to be deeded acres. 

“For example, if a person has 500 acres of base property, 50 percent of it has to be deeded land. So, if they had 250 acres of deeded land and 250 acres of leased land, they would qualify for 1,000 acres,” says Jim.

There are both individual allotments, as well as community pastures. The individual allotments can be utilized year-round, whereas community pastures are usually only for summer use. 

Community pastures are typically all grassland, with some of the pastures having multiple grazing permittees running alongside each other. 

Lay of the land

The Inyan Kara Grazing Association covers a wide variety of country – approximately 150,000 acres of national grassland, private and state leases primarily in Weston County, with some acres in Niobrara County. 

Between all of the grazing allotments, the Inyan Kara Grazing Association is permitted 35,500 animal unit months.

“The people who run on Inyan Kara Grazing Association are good, salt-of-the-Earth people,” says Jim. “It’s an efficient program which allows people to run more cattle than if they were just making a go of it on their own.”

Tressa Lawrence is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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