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Natural Resources

“Our short term goal is to immediately stabilize disturbed areas and provide conditions necessary to achieve the long-term goal. We hope to set up to be successful down the road,” stated Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Supervisory Natural Resource Specialist Casey Friese.

Friese and others gave presentations at the Douglas Reclamation Plan Workshop, hosted by University of Wyoming Reclamation and Restoration Center and Extension in Douglas on July 22.

“The long-term goal is to facilitate eventual ecosystem reconstruction to maintain a safe and stable landscape to meet the desired outcomes of the land, as planned,” he continued.

These goals are part of BLM’s mission to leave disturbed areas in equal or better condition than they were before the disturbance.

“Our state office put together a reclamation policy. It’s pretty good,” Friese noted. “It’s for the whole state and it’s for all reclamation, whether it’s bentonite mining, uranium or oil and gas.”

BLM policy

The policy is broken down into three phases, from drilling and construction to interim and production, and lastly, the final reclamation phase. Planning, Friese emphasized, is the most important part of all the phases.

“Begin with the end in mind,” he said.

To start out, a site location should be placed where reclamation can be successful.

“If we can move our well location and avoid large cut-and-fills or really fragile soils, that’s going to be some of the best reclamation,” he explained. “We are really working hard at reducing our footprint.”

When drilling and construction begin, emphasis is placed on stabilizing the work environment. Good cut-and-fill designs and good engineering drawings contribute to successful interim and final reclamation. Topsoil, pit cuttings, storm water and sediment considerations are important management concerns.

“Moving out of the drilling and construction phase, we move into interim reclamation,” Friese continued. “Our interim goal is to maximize our reclamation to just what we need for production.”

Minimizing impacts

Using photo examples, he then described oil well sites with successful, minimum impacts, illustrating how the original footprint of a work site can be reduced during the production phase.

"The objective," Friese commented, “is to maintain healthy, biological, active topsoil and keep that topsoil viable, controlling erosion and minimizing habitat, visual and forage loss during the life of the well.”

By being proactive about reclamation work in the interim, operators can save time and money in the long run.

“There tend to be a lot more resources, financially and equipment-wise, on the front end versus a well that has production down to three or four barrels a day, a week or a month,” he stated.

Instead of keeping a long-term pile of topsoil, Friese suggested respreading it evenly over the site and seeding it to keep it viable for the life of the well.

Additional efforts

“Use gravel to help keep rutting down,” he continued.

Keeping the tank battery close to the front of the site was another suggestion that Friese presented.

“We are really trying to promote getting these tanks at the front end of these access roads because then we can get more reclamation,” he explained.

In one example, Friese shared a well site that originally covered eight acres but was reduced to 0.6 acres during production.

“That is our goal,” he remarked. “Then, come final reclamation, all we really  need to do is rip and seed a little area and pull the road out. It’s going to be a minimal cost, versus trying to reclaim the entire area.”

Along with site locations, Friese emphasized the management of roadways and pipelines as well. One suggestion that he made was keeping gravel on surfaces with heavy-traffic.

“It keeps people on the road, for one, instead of going around any puddles, and it keeps the road from rutting and getting pounded out,” he explained.

Once a site is no longer in use, the final phase of reclamation begins. The BLM hopes to leave no scarring behind when a production site is removed.

No trace

“We are really trying to emphasize the importance of our final reclamation. The long-term objective of final reclamation is to return the land to the condition that it was prior to the disturbance, restoring the land, vegetation, hydrology, visual and wildlife habitats,” Friese explained.

When possible, sites may also be improved. For example, a field of cheatgrass before a disturbance may be reclaimed with native grasses and shrubs.

During final reclamation, facilities and equipment are removed and gravel and culverts are taken out.

“We recountour to the original contour or a contour that blends in with the surrounding landform. It doesn’t need to be exact, but the untrained eye should see it as seamless,” Friese noted.

Lastly, he mentioned that efforts should be monitored and followed up.

“If we don’t have any success, we can go in and do it over again. We don’t want to let it fall through the cracks,” he said.

Recently, BLM has begun to keep better records of their reclamation work in the field.

“We are trying to capture our efforts,” Friese remarked, noting that conservation and other interest groups like to see the information.

“We are permitting 200 miles a year, so it’s good to see that we are also replanting 200 miles a year,” stated Friese.

Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Worland – The mission of the Western Resources Legal Center (WRLC), located in Portland, Ore., is to train a generation of legal advocates to appreciate the natural resource industry, to provide balance in legal education and to use legal cases and projects to teach law students how to help natural resource users.

“We teach, and we represent natural resource users,” stated WRLC Executive Director Caroline Lobdell at the Guardians of the Range annual meeting in Worland on Feb. 13.

Representation by WRLC is carried out pro bono, and cases that are accepted must meet certain criteria to provide effective education for the intended curriculum of the students.

“All resource users need to get along on the issues, and the issues must be good in the classroom,” she explained. “The attorney advisory committee makes sure that cases will truly advance all of the natural resource industry voice across the board.”

Heart of the issues

Positioned within Lewis and Clark Law School, WRLC is surrounded by groups with conflicting interests, including the Earthrise Law Center, who’s mission statement says, “Earthrise secures significant environmental victories by tenaciously pursuing litigation and using other legal tools to establish positive legal precedent.”

Lobdell believes that being in the heart of extremist environmental and animal rights territory is an advantage for her students because there are many opportunities to tackle issues and educate audiences.

“We are strategically placed at the Lewis and Clark Law School,” she said.

One of the issues that is beginning to gain momentum in the legal arena is the extent of protection that animals should be afforded by law. Cases range from animal welfare to animal rights, extending even as far as personhood.

Welfare laws

“Generally speaking, animal law is any area of the law that relates to or impacts animals. Animal law developed through property law. We determined valuation and what we can or can’t do with a neighbor’s property,” Lobdell remarked.

In 1867, New York became the first state to adopt statutes expressly targeted against animal cruelty, and other states adopted similar legislation in the 1880s.

“The cruelty laws included unnecessary pain, needless death and traumatization, et cetera,” Lobdell noted.

She continued, “The definition of animal welfare now, put out by the Veterinary Medical Association, talks about human responsibility for all aspects of animal wellbeing, including housing, management, disease prevention and humane handling. I think we can all agree with this definition.”

Yet, current cases appearing in court are demanding more stringent definitions.

“We have animal welfare, meaning we can still use animals. Then we have animal rights, meaning they have certain rights. It’s beyond welfare,” she described. “Eventually personhood is going to start showing up. This is dividing the animal law world because they can’t all agree. Some people think we can still use animals but certain animals have certain rights, and other people say elephants are people.”

Impact

According to Lobdell, the reason these extreme animal rights and personhood cases are important is because they could set precedents that impact animal handling legislation.

“We have to get smart and use some of the environmental laws to protect our interests, and we also need to be smart and see how those same environmental laws are being used to project the animal agenda to our detriment,” she stated.

In the 1970s, many federally mandated environmental policies were put into place, and Lobdell sees similar trends arising in current animalist activities.

“With public relations campaigns, science, outsider buy-in and political pressure, the environmental law went for bipartisan, straight to the top. There was no problem because they had all of those factors in place,” she explained, adding that it’s too early to tell if the current animal law movement is as well prepared.

“Areas that we can expect to see change include the evolution in standing, the change in valuation of animals from economic to companionship value and increased prosecution under some of these state laws as well as the environmental laws,” she continued.

She warned producers that one negative event, with the right media attention, can have a big impact on public support of certain laws.

Using offense

“As an industry, we have to think about these things ahead of time,” Lobdell remarked.

She suggested educating the public about the positive aspects of resource management and animal husbandry, as well as playing the offense in the courtroom and going for good, clean wins.

For example, Lobdell outlined a case where the Animal Legal Defense Fund named a chimpanzee as the plaintiff in the case. But, the judge ultimately stated that the animal itself did not have personhood.

“The ruling said a person has the right to view animals in a certain way, not that the animal had specific rights,” she noted, explaining that the damages of the case were listed as aesthetic injury.

“I tell natural resource users to take a good clean win and build the next case. I tell them to then take that clean win that’s been multiplied and build on it and charge with it,” she said.

Coming together as an industry, thinking about things ahead of time and working collaboratively, Lobdell suggested, are actions that resource users should be taking.

Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“Pictures are really helpful in seeing how our management decisions have impacted our grasslands,” said University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Extension Educator Bethany Johnston.

After recognizing both the importance of rangeland monitoring for producers and the time consuming nature of it, a team at UNL created an app call Grass-Snap.

“This app assists producers in grabbing repeatable photo-monitoring data and saving it on their smart device in an orderly fashion, so it can be downloaded to the home computer to study,” says the app.

App

“We did some photo monitoring before using a digital camera and downloading those pictures to our computer, and as a producer, I would not have done that,” comments Johnston. “It was very time consuming.”

A group of Extension educators and range specialists in Nebraska began brainstorming ideas for an app that would make monitoring simpler.

“We developed Grass-Snap, which is available for both Apple and Android,” she says.

According to Johnston, one of the primary benefits of the GrassSnap app is its time-saving quality.

“It saves us a lot of time. We don’t have to name the files. We can repeat, and if we’re out doing monitoring, it takes a lot less equipment if we’re able to get rid of some of that paperwork and replace it with an iPhone, iPad, Android tablet or  Android phone,” she explains.

Features

The GrassSnap app has many features to make rangeland monitoring more simple, says Johnston.

“Once we go through the process and get data entered, it will sort by pasture name or transect into albums,” she comments. “Then, when I click on a file, it’ll open up the pictures and data for that pasture.”

Data collected over multiple years is stored within the folders, and each picture is digitally stamped with the pasture name, date, GPS information and what direction the picture was taken in.

“Another thing we can do is tie in some data with those pictures. We have some grazing indexes in there for Nebraska and an apparent trend score for the Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Stewardship Program. Then there are also places to add comments,” continues Johnston.

The app also includes a map feature that marks the location where each picture is taken.

“When I look to find my pastures next year, I can enter these coordinates into the GPS unit, and it will take me back to those sites. I don’t have to worry about forgetting that sheet back at home,” she says.

Resources

The GrassSnap app can be downloaded for free from the Google Play or Apple store by searching for “GrassSnap.”

Johnston explained that more information about the GrassSnap app can be found at go.unl.edu/GrassSnap.

“I have user manuals on there and downloadable instructions that explain how I get the information from my smart device to my laptop or my computer. There are some other links on there, as well,” she said.

When designing Grass-Snap, the team worked hard to make the program as simple and user friendly as possible.

“I have to tell producers, when I went to develop GrassSnap, I didn’t really know what an app was or how to use it,” comments Johnston. “I tried to make this program as simple as possible for those people out there who aren’t maybe as good with a smart device.”

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Sheridan – Not only is rangeland monitoring a time-consuming process, UW Extension Rangeland Specialist Rachel Mealor said that analysis can be intimidating and difficult.

However, improvements in smartphone technology mean that land managers can input data and analyze results using the same tool.

Mealor explained how land managers can utilize their smartphones in range monitoring during the Society for Range Management Wyoming Section’s annual meeting, held Nov. 12-14 in Sheridan.

Range monitoring

Monitoring is not a new concept for any of us,” said Mealor. “We have done a good job of going out and showing people how to monitor.”

However, Mealor added that during the process, the second part of monitoring – analysis – isn’t being addressed as frequently.

“I often get asked, ‘What do I do with my shoebox full of data?’” she said. “As land managers, we need to take the next steps and ask what to do with the information.”

Ultimately, Mealor noted that if we can make monitoring easier and less cumbersome, it will provide more efficient analysis.

Traditional techniques

In monitoring, Mealor emphasized that land managers should be looking at plant communities of interest to produce a plan to meet their goals.

“Without the initial assessment or grasp of what is going on within the plant communities, we can’t move forward without goals,” she said. “We want to monitor changes, but we also want to record the resources and conditions.”

Common techniques utilized in monitoring, including photo points, line point intercept, landscape appearance and the Daubenmire method, are all well understood. 

Additionally, each requires a similar process.

“When we go out to monitor, we have to gather our forms, find the GPS and camera and head out to the field,” Mealor explained. “Then we take coordinates, take our photos, set up the transect, collect data points, take our information back to the office, download the pictures, download the waypoints, enter the data into a spreadsheet and then analyze the data.”

The process of monitoring sometimes means that data analysis gets left behind.

“No wonder monitoring is daunting,” she added.

Smartphone efficiency

Using a smartphone to aid producers in monitoring, Mealor said, will allow land managers to save time and be more efficient.

“If we have a smartphone, some of the steps in monitoring are taken out,” she commented.  “We already have our camera, GPS and clipboard right in the phone.”

Mealor continued that utilizing a smartphone can mean that the data is directly input into forms, which are easy to analyze and compare to past data collection samples. 

Available apps

There are a number of applications available on smartphones to aid in collecting range monitoring data. 

One app is EDDMapSWest, explained Mealor, which is an early detection and distribution mapping system.

“This is a free app mainly used for early detection and rapid response,” she said. “There are a lot of folks using this technology.”

Because rapid detection leads to increased efficiency and a better chance of eradication and control, Mealor added that the tool can also be useful to detect new weeds. 

“This is a nation-wide tool, and anyone who is interested can go online and see infestations that have already been documented,” she explained. “We can see what weeds are in our areas.”

New developments

Mealor is also working on a new app in cooperation is AgTerra, a company from Sheridan.

“We are getting very close to releasing this app for download,” Mealor said, noting that the app with available for Android users. “It outlines the Wyoming Rangeland Monitoring Guide.”

Within the app, she noted that users have the ability to take and store photos, select the method of monitoring they choose to utilize and input data directly.

“Not only does this increase efficiency, I think it will tell a better story and help us to make better decisions,” Mealor noted. “It gives us a visual and helps us to make decisions.”

For more information on the app, contact Rachel Mealor at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Livestock grazing on the Upper Green River rangeland is proposed to continue, with a 270-head reduction and rotational grazing, according to the Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF) draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) published in the Federal Register on Oct. 7.

The draft EIS’ publication marks opening of a new 45-day public comment period that closes Nov. 21.

“The Pinedale Ranger District proposes to authorize continued livestock grazing on the Badger Creek, Beaver-Twin, Noble Pastures, Roaring Fork, Wagon Creek and the Upper Green River allotments using livestock strategies designed to maintain or improve resource conditions,” wrote BTNF Pinedale District Ranger Rob Hoelscher in his Sept. 30 stakeholder letter.

Hoelscher’s preferred Alternative Three of the four presented for the 170,643-acre project addresses “gaps between existing conditions and desired conditions,” with strategies to eliminate season-long grazing, build a “hardened water crossing” and use adaptive management on “focus areas.”

The EIS has long been in the works, with public scoping in 2000 and a notice of intent to publish an EIS in 2003. A draft EIS was released in 2004 for public comment, with the final version and record of decision in 2005 – but those were withdrawn for a supplemental EIS (SEIS).

The draft SEIS was released for review and comment in 2010. Since that time, grizzlies, wolves, Canada lynx and other wildlife issues have arisen to be considered, the new draft EIS states.

“In the intervening time period, I have been working to address concerns expressed by commenters with regard to the draft SEIS,” Hoelscher wrote Sept. 30. “Normally the next step in the process would be to release a final EIS and draft decision. However, since several years have passed since the draft SEIS, I am offering another comment period on this draft EIS that is the result of much work with stakeholders.”

The Upper Green River Area Rangeland Project Draft EIS supporting documents and link to submit comments are available at fs.usda.gov/project/?project=3049.

Joy Ufford, a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and reporter for the Pinedale Roundup, wrote this article. Send comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..