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Public Lands

Cody – In a discussion pairing wildlife and livestock land management practices, BLM Lander Field Office Manager Jim Cagney said that range improvement projects are “the issue of our time.”
Cagney, along with Guardians of the Range Director Kathleen Jachowski, Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) Big Horn Sheep Coordinator Kevin Hurley and Blackfoot Challenge Program Coordinator Seth Wilson, among others, took part in a panel discussion at the 2009 meeting of the Society for Range Management Wyoming Section, the Soil and Water Conservation Society Wyoming Chapter and The Wildlife Society Wyoming Chapter in Cody in early November.
Cagney said range improvements have been a tough issue, swirling around for quite some time, because of perceptions of what range improvements are and their effect on wildlife and livestock interactions.
“I personally have never seen an elk starving because of livestock grazing. Most of the issues are not big game animals, but amphibians and biological diversity kind of things,” continued Cagney.
While Cagney explained the benefits of grazing management strategies, saying that land managers must combine water development with grazing management, he acknowledged there are those who disagree with fencing projects. One recent study has found the number of sage grouse succumbing to barbed wire fences is far higher than previously thought.
It is that relationship between the wildlife and the livestock production sides that Jachowski was responding to when she said, “There are a multitude of statements any of us could offer about interactions of wildlife with livestock, from intellectually sound down the trail to personal diatribes. We as human beings have perfected and frequently employed the full array of input.”
“It is without a doubt, in my experience in 25 years of public land issues, that in this country we do not have a communication skill set that moves us further to solutions than what we have,” continued Jachowski in talking about how long some issues, like brucellosis, are discussed without significant progress. “The verbal skill set of this nation is way below the problems we’re dealing with.”
She said solutions will come from talking about natural resource issues and understanding what it means to share. “That doesn’t mean get off the public landscape, and it also doesn’t mean to do what you want on the public landscape. It can mean tightening down on both sides, such as looking at our fellow American and saying ‘there really are too many wild horses.’”
Jachowski said three things very important to dealing with tough issues are ethics, intelligence and humor, calling them a winning trio.
“We need to defend and steward the resources of this nation. It’s those two areas that control the nation and the skill set we need is framed with ethics – which means don’t make it up as you go – intelligence and a sense of humor. Humor brings anger close, then dissipates it.”
Cagney said range managers need to start acting like they’ve got to make some tough choices. “It’s an issue where your range management skills don’t help because the choice between high intensity and high economic and low economic and natural systems, that’s a society choice and it’s hard to do it one allotment at a time.”
“It’s a matter of having a willingness to share and to practice tough love,” said Jachowski of leadership and decision-making. “That is one of the greatest legacies we could leave to our young people so they don’t have to spend 40 years going to a meeting on mountain plover. That’s not getting the job done.”
Christy Hemken is assistant 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..

Planning 2.0 is an initiative from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to review the way in which the agency develops and updates Resource Management Plans (RMPs). Shasta Ferranto, the Planning 2.0 project manager for BLM’s Washington Office, described changes in the proposed planning rule on March 21, during a live webcast.

“Under the last four years of developing resource management plans under the federal land and policy management act (FLPMA), we gained a lot of experience, and we have learned many lessons and also many best practices of planning in collaboration with our partners and with the public,” she stated.

The Planning 2.0 proposed rule aims to develop RMPs that are responsive to issues and opportunities within planning areas.

Best practices

“We’ve learned that collaboration is most effective when it happens early and often,” mentioned Ferranto.

Proposed changes have been developed to address best practices and address collaboration efforts, including those that cross administrative boundaries, such as migration routes that cover multiple states or concerns that affect multiple agencies.

“Although BLM recognizes the need for a landscape approach to resource management, we also acknowledge the importance of local issues and the important role that local partners play in the planning process. Our proposed landscape approach is meant to enhance local planning and involvement, not to replace it,” she added.

The proposed rule has also been designed to acknowledge changes that inevitably occur in resource management scenarios.

“Whether it be environmental change, ecological change, social change, economic change or changes in the best available science or management techniques we have available to us, when change occurs, we need to be ready for it, and we need to be able to respond quickly and meaningfully,” she explained.

BLM directives

BLM’s mandate to develop land use plans comes from the Federal Land Use and Policy Management Act (FLPMA) of 1976.

FLPMA directs BLM to provide for public involvement when developing those land use plans, and to coordinate with state, local and tribal governments. It also directs BLM to seek consistency with state, local and tribal land use plans to the extent practical.

“Planning 2.0 will revise two key components of BLM’s planning policy that implements FLPMA,” noted Ferranto.

Both the land use planning regulations and the land use planning handbook will be updated if the current proposed rule goes into effect.

“Regulations provide the framework for developing resource management plans, as required and directed by FLPMA. Although minor changes were made to these regulations in 2005, the last major revision occurred in 1983, making our current planning regulations over 30 years old,” she explained.

The new handbook will be based on how procedures are described in the final regulations and provide details about how to implement procedures. A draft of the handbook is expected to be available by next summer or early next fall.

Planning 2.0

“We began this process formally in the fall of 2014. At that time, we hosted two public listening sessions, and we accepted written comments,” Ferranto stated.

Input from BLM staff, the public and other stakeholders was considered for the proposed rule, which was formally published on Feb. 25, 2016 in the Federal Register. The proposed rule is out now through April 25 for public comment, and BLM encourages feedback.

One proposed change is an overall planning framework that would describe the content of RMPs, as well as supporting documents included with the plans.

“The goal of our proposed changes to the planning framework is to improve the BLM’s ability to apply adaptive management approaches and also to focus BLM management on achieving desired conditions in the planning area,” Ferranto commented.

Planning components and implementation strategies are two key categories that would be adapted in accordance to the proposed rule. Plan components include land use decisions, and implementation strategies would assist in implementing the land use plan.

Plan components

“The plan components would be required for every single land use plan and would provide ‘planning level management direction,’” she noted.

Implementation strategies and contrast would be developed as needed and would be updated on an ongoing basis to incorporate new information and the best available science.

The six kinds of components described in the proposed rule include goals, objectives, monitoring and evaluation standards, designations, resource use determinations and lands available for disposal. Of those, goals and objectives will be achieved through the direction of the other four components.

“The intent is that the goals would be landscape-minded and responsive to cross-boundary concerns when it is appropriate, or the goals might focus on a small area and unique local concerns when that is appropriate,” remarked Ferranto.

Objectives would be required to be specific and measurable, while also intending to be aligned with specific, measureable, achievable, relevant and time-bound, or SMART, objectives.

Key attributes and indicators would be implemented to address the outlined goals and objectives and a revised planning handbook would provide detailed guidance for those factors.

Collaborative input

“To the extent that it makes sense, we would like to align with national indicators in coordination with BLM’s Assessment, Inventory and Monitoring program, also known as the AIM program,” Ferranto continued. “That being said, for some resources, we won’t be able to use national indicators, and we’ll develop them locally for that particular planning effort.”

A number of new steps would also be included in the planning process, including planning assessments, information gathering and other steps designed to involve the public and other stakeholders as early as possible in the planning process.

“It’s going to be additional work, and it’s going to be additional time for the BLM upfront. But, we believe this is going to be time well spent, and ultimately, it’s going to result in a better plan and probably some efficiencies,” Ferranto explained.

By gathering more information upfront, BLM hopes to develop more robust draft plans that have already considered issues that impact RMP development.

Changes in the protest process have also been proposed, with the intention of creating a system that is easier for protesters to use, so BLM is able to receive quality and timely feedback.

Public comments

Other procedural changes have been proposed, as well, and BLM strongly encourages the public and other entities to review the proposed rule and provide feedback about Planning 2.0.

Ferranto suggests that feedback should be specific with reference to specific section numbers and concise explanations about why certain aspects are supported or not supported.

“We would really like to know what people think and why,” she said.

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..

Pinedale – The brightly dressed woman paced quietly around the room but didn’t waste time when she took the floor.

“Okay, let’s get this out of the way – I am Dan Budd’s daughter,” attorney Karen Budd-Falen told the audience gathered at the Pinedale Library Jan. 27 for the Sublette County Conservation District’s (SCCD) grazing permit renewal workshop.

Budd-Falen – a celebrity of sorts for public-land use and ranchers across the West – offered to speak to workshop audiences in Pinedale and Marbleton, many of whom recognized her for growing up in Big Piney as “Dan Budd’s daughter.”

She has her own law firm, Budd-Falen Law Offices, and represents many battling with government agencies and “enviros” across the West.

With the header of “Permit Renewal Court Cases in the West: Who Won, Who Didn’t and Why?” Budd-Falen immediately updated the audience on the Jan. 22 Ninth District Court hearing in Lander, in which private landowners filed suit against Western Watersheds Project (WWP) state director Jonathon Ratner.

Budd-Falen represents the group of ranchers who are suing Ratner for trespassing on their lands to collect water quality samples, which he submitted to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.

In the hearing, Judge Norman Young allowed Ratner was “likely trespassing” but took the issue of damages under advisement, she recounted, noting she has seen and heard of the WWP director riding along with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) range specialists.

“Jon Ratner doesn’t have the right to ride along with anyone out there,” she stated.

Quickly warming to her topic, Budd-Falen advised permittees to “understand and know before litigation that WWP is in litigation with the agency.”

“The first thing I want to tell people about is FOIA – the Freedom of Information Act. FOIA allows us to get a copy of every document in our files,” Budd-Falen said. “Get that file. See if there’s anything in there. Western Watersheds puts lots of stuff in our files. We might be shocked.”

Regarding the above-mentioned WWP trespass lawsuit, Budd-Falen asked the audience how many Wyoming BLM allotments they thought WWP might have requested information about.

“WWP has requested information about every single allotment,” she replied. “Every single one of us is on Western Watershed’s list.”

Budd-Falen said the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) is a non-mandated procedure used incorrectly by “enviros” to get their desired outcomes.

If an organization suing the BLM seeks even a temporary stay of grazing, Budd-Falen said, “Know we can get kicked off our land for a year or two,” and many decisions take much longer.

“BLM voluntarily stopped using categorical exclusions (CX) to renew term grazing permits. The CX actually is a NEPA document and is preferable when renewing Forest Service permits,” she added.

Budd-Falen continued outlining the grazing permit renewal and appeal processes, with a stream of information about agency data starting two steps above whatever a rancher collects.

“And if there’s no other data but theirs, we’re going to lose – end of story,” she said.

One rancher asked her, “When a permittee has little experience with NEPA, should they call an attorney?”

Budd-Falen commented, “I think ranchers need somebody to make sure they’ve got all those legal arguments in there.”

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

Worland – “We’ve been working with Hay Creek Land and Livestock and Josh Longwell since roughly 2009 when he applied for some vacated Bureau of Land Management (BLM) grazing permits,” says Mike Phillips, manager of the Worland BLM Office. “We’ve been working hand-in-hand to build a level of trust in going through the permitting process.”

In December 2016, Longwell was awarded the permits, and he will begin using them this season after pre-grazing meetings in late December.

Unique process

“We typically don’t have vacated permits,” Phillips says, “so this was a new process for our office.”

The process led to a three-step approach for Hay Creek and Worland BLM, where they divided the large ranch into three phases.

“The ranch is divided into the low county, the middle country and the upper country,” Phillips explains. “Each phase has unique characteristics.”

For example, in their low country, the rangelands provide sage grouse habitat, while the upper country sees Bighorn sheep, grizzly bear and wolf populations.

“We worked through a three-step approach, doing rangeland health, working through a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) document with public scoping and then issuing a permit,” Phillips says.

Cooperative approach

For the permit reissuance, Phillips explains that one essential component meant working with the public and interested stakeholders.

“Throughout this whole process, we invited all the interested public to be involved, which included the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Wyoming Stock Growers Association, Wyoming Wool Growers Association, the Governor’s Office, Western Watersheds Project, the Wyoming Wild Sheep Foundation and others,” Philips says. “This was a large project.”

The one protest that was received on the NEPA document was answered by Worland BLM and went without appeal from the commenter, meaning that the permitting for phase one, the low country that Longwell sought to use, is now issued.

“Right now, we have a pre-grazing season meeting with Josh in late December, and he’ll be using those permits this winter,” Phillips adds.

Moving forward

“We’re working on phase two and phase three now,” Phillips says. “We’re going to do those together.”

As they conduct their rangeland health evaluations, which will then be included in a NEPA document, he explains that they have an additional wrinkle in the form of new guidance that was issued, mandating that they collect additional data.

“We’ll collect the data on the upper country this field season, which is this summer, so by next winter, we’re hoping to have the rangeland health evaluation determination done,” Phillips explains. “Then, we’ll go right into the NEPA document and try to get those permits issued by 2018-19.”

Working together

The approach taken by Longwell and Worland BLM has yielded what both parties tout as a resounding success.

“We followed a process and worked together,” Phillips says.

As they worked to develop a positive relationship, Phillips notes that the biggest piece was establishing communication and being able to bridge some gaps that had deteriorated in the past.

“We worked together to come up with common goals and objectives, looking at the land holistically and what it can really produce,” he says. “We did a carrying capacity study of the allotments to look at what they can really produce and worked all that out together.”

Phillips adds, “I think the constant communication between Josh and our staff has been crucial. He’s been with us while we’ve done the monitoring, the field tours and all of this work. Josh has done everything we’ve asked of him, and we’ve developed a really good partnership.”

Longwell commends BLM for their professionalism and the partnership they’ve developed.

“This BLM office is really just a group of outstanding guys,” Longwell says. “They did a great job and deserve to be recognized for the work we’ve done here.”

Success story

Both Longwell and Phillips recognize the other as being necessary to completing the process and getting BLM permits reissued for Hay Creek Land and Livestock.

“Josh has been so key in all this,” says John Elliott, assistant field manager for resources in the Worland BLM office. “I talk to Josh so often, and if we have a problem about anything, we’re honest and direct.”

He adds, “Our success here doesn’t mean that either of us likes everything that happens all the time, but we’re up-front with each other and we work through it. Without Josh, I don’t believe we would have been able to reissue these permits as we have.”

Broader scope

Phillips notes that the success seen by Worland BLM and Hay Creek Land and Livestock can be replicated across the state, but permittees and BLM must work together.

“I think it’s really important that BLM and permittees get out on the ground together, kicking the dirt and seeing the problems, as well as the good things, that are happening out on the ground,” Phillips said.

He adds that permitees and BLM staff can’t be afraid of conflict or communication, which are both instrumental.

“We can’t be afraid of being able to communicate or sit down with folks. We have to do that and get out into the field,” Phillips says. “It takes a lot of face-to-face, which takes more time, but that’s what we should be doing to see success on the ground.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Powell – Montana lawyer and cattleman Wally Congdon noted that it is important for producers to be involved in public lands planning in order to allow the industry voice to be heard now. 

“Agriculture is a national heritage,” Congdon said. “The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) says that the government recognizes an obligation for the broadest range of beneficial uses possible, and that they seek to preserve important cultural and natural aspects of our national heritage.”

NEPA language

Because of the language in NEPA documents, Congdon affirms that agriculturalists have a right to be at the table in federal lands planning.

“The problem is, for the last 30 years, ag has not shown up for the ball game,” he added. “It is a game, and if you are going to play, bring a team.”

He noted that federal land management agencies are making decisions without the input of agriculturalists because the industry hasn’t taken an active stance in supporting their interests until recent years.  

“It is fairly simple process – the problem is no one bothers to read and understand the rules or wants to talk to anyone who knows the rules,” said Congdon.

He further noted that federal agencies even have a guide they use in cooperating with local interests.

“If it didn’t work, the BLM wouldn’t have published their Desk Guide to Cooperating Agency Relationships and Coordination with Intergovernmental Partners,” added Congdon. 

According to Congdon, NEPA requires that the government recognize an obligation for the broadest range of beneficial uses possible, as well. He emphasized that BLM is also responsible to coordinate land use plans with those of local governments.

“‘In providing guidance to BLM personnel, the BLM state director shall assure such guidance is consistent with officially adopted and approved related plans, policies and programs for other state agencies, Indians tribes and local governments that may be affected,’” said Congdon, quoting NEPA. “The federal policy has to be as consistent as possible with local policy, as long as the local government has one.”

“If you have a weed management plan for your jurisdiction, or a fire plan for the local fire district, that is part of local governments,” he added. 

At the table or on the plate?

 “Once you know the rules, you have to play by their rules. Part of the problem is you haven’t shown up and taken the time to be at the game,” said Congdon. “If you’re not at the table, you’re probably on the plate.”

For example, Congdon used the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Strategy of Montana, noting that 33 percent of grasslands and most of waterways were designated as in need of conservation.

“Mountain streams in greatest need of conservation we tallied at 59,364 miles,” Congdon said. “The mountain streams in Montana total 59,364 miles – all of them need conservation according to this.”

The same trend occurred in prairie streams and grassland ecosystems.  

“The gig is over. That was the 2005 policy,” he said. “The document was published in 2008.”

Congdon noted that no one commented, so agriculture is now at risk, saying, “The plan has been there for almost 10 years.”

“Those guys have been playing the ball game for a long time,” he said of groups already involved in NEPA projects, “and we have been sitting on our butts.”

Preserving heritage

“The first best thing that you can do in terms of local custom, local heritage and local history,” he said, “is collect information about your heritage.”

Congdon added that economic development, economic sustainability and heritage are also included in land use planning, and agriculture is a vibrant part of both the economy, culture and heritage of the country. 

“The Forest Service is obligated to consider and provide for community stability in its decision making process,” he said. “Community stability is defined as the combination of local custom, culture and economic preservation.”

In order to understand local custom, culture and economic preservation, Congdon noted that producers, their families and relatives know their lands better than anyone else, and they should document their knowledge in photographs and in chatting with younger generations. 

“You know what Western Watershed does not and what BLM does not,” Congdon noted, specifically commenting in terms of local custom and heritage.

He also added that those sources of our heritage are beginning to disappear with the passing of the oldest generations. 

“The problem is we are losing a toolbox – knowledge is power,” Congdon said. “The memories are going to be gone. Soon there will be no one to remember it and no one to talk about it.”

He encouraged producers to document their historical buildings and lands using photographs taken on real film, and to have maps of their lands, with roads, historic buildings, and areas of significance indicated to preserve the culture of local areas.

“It is our culture, our custom and our art,” said Congdon of agriculture. “We are agriculture, and we haven’t shown up, but we damn well better, because if we don’t there isn’t going to be any of us left.”

Congdon spoke at the 2013 Northwest College Spring Roundup, held Jan. 25-26. 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..