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    The greater sage grouse, how can a medium sized bird cause such a commotion? Doesn’t Wyoming have more of the birds and their sagebrush habitats than anywhere in the USA?
    Well, yes. Much of the wild, open character of Wyoming’s rangelands is still intact and support a large, well-distributed population of grouse, but due to longterm declines throughout its western range, although Wyoming has seen a strong overall increase the last ten years, there is considerable concern about the bird’s future. Last year Governor Freudenthal asked a group of residents to bring their diverse understanding of sage grouse needs in Wyoming to bear on this issue.
    As most of us have heard there is considerable debate to list the sage grouse as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The only way to ensure a listing is not warranted is to demonstrate the population is not threatened and that adequate data and management practices are in place to restore numbers where needed or to maintain numbers where the grouse are doing well.
    The Governor’s Sage Grouse Conservation Implementation Team recommended that a principle need to improve management decisions in the future is to develop a better statewide map of sage grouse habitat using aerial photography and satellite images. A good habitat map of Wyoming will allow wildlife managers to focus their efforts more efficiently on places that could really help the birds while minimizing human conflicts.
    Ground samples are essential for improving interpretation of aerial imagery because they allow remote sensing scientists to understand what they are seeing in the images. Volunteers from across Wyoming will be crucial for collecting as much ground information as possible, because of the size of our state and because local knowledge of the land is so valuable.
    Samples will be needed across the entire state. Some of the sampling sites will fall on private land. Sampling private land sites will only occur with the concurrence of the private landowner. Landowners will be contacted in advance to determine willingness to participate by providing access and/or by collecting the vegetation data themselves. The assistance of the private landowner will add significantly to the success of the project. Landowners can help produce the best statewide map possible and learn more about their individual ranch by contributing to the ground sampling effort. The primary field data that will be collected at each sample site will include primary species of shrub, grasses and forbs present, percent canopy cover of shrubs grasses and forbs present, percent ground cover in terms of litter, rock, and bare ground, terrain features, such as slope, presence of cheat grass and other weeds and dominant soil color. Any data collected on private land is proprietary, only ‘generalized’ maps of the lands surveyed will be public.
    For a complete set of the sampling method and forms, information on training sessions, or to volunteer or provide habitat information that you have already collected from your own ranch vegetation inventory program, please contact the project lead – Eli J. Rodemaker, Remote Sensing Scientist, WyGISC, University of Wyoming. The first training to be held as part of this effort will begin at 9 a.m. on June 4 and stretch into June 5 in Laramie at the WyGISC offices. Rodemaker can also provide additional information on this event. Rodemaker’s contact information is 307-766-2794 or e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Those who can’t attend the training, but are interested are also encouraged to call. If enough requests are made additional trainings will be held in other areas of the state.
    Article provided by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department on behalf of the state’s sage grouse team.    
    Public collection of range monitoring data is a developing issue in the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) range program. It is undeniable that the BLM needs additional monitoring data. Every grazing permit we authorize must be analyzed in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, and issued with a decision the public can appeal. We need information to defend our decisions. However, the scope of the Wyoming range program makes it difficult for our range mangers to generate the monitoring data necessary to fully support the volume of permit renewal decisions we issue. The Wyoming BLM manages 18,000,000 acres of public land, and issues around 380 permits a year. Consequently we’re not in a position to say no thanks to willing cooperators, and we can’t be perceived as not wanting valid information.
    The problem with relying on outside source cooperators is that rangeland monitoring lends itself to a wide range of interpretation and complexity. Simply requiring cooperators to stick to “established protocols” doesn’t address the complexity, because the issue transcends just collecting data. Let’s say for example, a rancher and I agree to limit utilization to 50 percent. The meeting ends amicably with the rancher thinking the use cap is an average for the pasture, and me thinking it’s about use levels on green needlegrass (a cow favorite) along a transect right near the best water source in the pasture. Hopefully we’d get on the same page soon, because that is a very substantive difference. But what if the rancher and I never talked about that use level distinction, and the issue was left to a cooperator who would make that determination by the way the monitoring program was designed? Clearly, that scenario must be avoided.
    Data collection is just a component of a comprehensive monitoring program. The study design and evaluation process are equally important. Furthermore, monitoring is not the starting point of an effective range program. How do we choose what to monitor? First rate goals and objectives are the foundation. On a loamy site in the Bighorn Basin, my goal might be to increase the abundance of bluebunch wheatgrass, because bluebunch has the potential to produce both the most forage for cattle and hiding cover for grouse nesting. That is a good goal, but it is not measurable. Before I can specify a measurable objective, I need to establish where and how the data will be collected and evaluated. The where, what, and how part of a monitoring program links the BLM’s land use goals with the measurable objectives in a specific allotment. This is the critical function the BLM cannot delegate to the public.
    A permittee is not required to collect monitoring data. Anyone with legal public access is free to record their observations, and free to send their findings to the BLM. However placement of infrastructure (such as utilization cages), gets to the “how and where” part of the study design. If the BLM accepts cooperator data but fails to evaluate it, does it become part of the official record anyway? Clearly we need to formally accept or decline cooperator data in a timely manner, and communicate our intent to both the cooperator and the grazing permittee.
    The BLM’s challenge is to take advantage of offers of support, and honor the concept of public participation, without abdicating our responsibility. In the near future the Wyoming BLM State Office will issue guidance to the field offices designed to assure that we steer a steady course in our efforts to work with cooperators. I need to thank Kathleen Jachowski for her critical help in sorting out these important issues.
    This editorial was reprinted from the Guardians of the Range newsletter, March 2008 issue. A related news article appears on this page. Jim Cagney is Wyoming Range Program Lead for the Bureau of Land Management.

Dear Fellow Sheep Producers,

To paraphrase Mark Twain, “The rumors of our demise have been greatly exaggerated.”

Over the past many months, rumors and mistruths have swirled about Mountain States Lamb Cooperative and our meat company, Mountain States Rosen. We are alive and well, accepting lambs for slaughter and paying for those lambs in a timely manner at competitive prices. Quality and yield return on lambs through our plant are exceptional.

Mountain States supports price reporting, and we have actively pushed for inclusion of our cooperative prices in those reports. We do not believe keeping our data out of the USDA reports is good for the industry. Hopefully, we will see our data included soon, which will give the industry a more complete and timely picture of the lamb market.

Our prices are competitive, our members’ lambs get killed when they are ready, and we offer premiums for better quality lambs. We provide them with a settlement sheet showing all charges and providing detailed information on carcass quality. This information is provided to help our members improve their sheep herd and better understand what they are delivering.

We are here for our members and for the industry. We encourage you to consider joining us in making the industry stronger.

Sincerely,

Frank Moore,

Mountain States Lamb Cooperative Chairman

Douglas

To the Editor:

This is an example of an overreach by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

We have leased our fee minerals to an oil company. The oil company has proposed a site to drill an oil well. The direction will be horizontal for two miles, all under privately owned surfaces. Out of the two miles, five-eighths are fee minerals, and three-eighths are federal minerals. Since some of the minerals are federal, BLM starts to have total control over the entire project.

Therefore, they have their archeologists out looking for everything and anything. They state they have found a “cairn” – also known as a pile of rocks – on a BLM 40-acre parcel, which is at least one mile away from the proposed site. They state a production pad cannot be within the view shed, or line of sight, of the cairn. There are already many production sights in view of the cairn, many on our neighbor’s land and two on our private surface.

Now, back to the so-called cairn. Our ranch has been a sheep ranch for well over 100 years. Just recently, we have gone to a cow/calf operation. There are at least three other sites that are sheepherder’s monuments. We claim this cairn is a sheepherder’s monument. Like all the other monuments, it is on the top of a hill with excellent view of the surrounding area. Like the cairn, all of the monuments have been tumbled by Mother Nature or by animals.

The cairn is in line of sight of a huge portion of our privately-owned minerals. Therefore, the BLM seems to think they can prevent any development of our minerals. We call this a taking of private property without due compensation. This is part of the Fifth Amendment.

We thought Roundup readers might like to know about this arbitrary and capricious ruling. It is not a law. We are currently in touch with our Senators, Congresswoman and state officials. Hopefully we can come to a mutual agreement.

Respectfully,

Warren and Judith Manning

Douglas