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Grazing

Cheyenne — Heavy grasshopper populations are being reported in much of Wyoming and one official expects the trend to continue into 2010.
    Maybe it’s only “rural legend” that a colder, wetter spring reduces populations, as that certainly wasn’t the case this year. “A wet spring is one hope, and a thought,” says Bruce Shambaugh with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Plant Protection and Quarantine (APHIS-PPQ) office in Cheyenne. “But, it never has much affect on a wide scale.” At times the cooler, wetter weather can encourage growth of a fungus that hinders population. This year, however, he says the weather pattern only served to delay what is proving to be a large hatch.
    “I just hope there’s enough grass for the cows and the grasshoppers,” says Gillette rancher Glenn Barlow.
    Fremont County Weed and Pest Supervisor Lars Baker says during early June surveys, timed with the normal hatch, his agency discovered very few grasshoppers. The one exception was the county’s Hidden Valley area.
    “About the third week of June they came out,” says Baker. “Everywhere we stopped we had hoppers.”
    Shambaugh says populations are surpassing what his agency had predicted based on last year’s adult surveys. While several areas had been identified as potential problems, he says the problem wasn’t predicted to be as widespread as it’s proving to be. While infestations aren’t statewide in nature, reports have been received from most eastern Wyoming counties as well as from the Big Horn Basin and Fremont County.
    This year’s hatch, says Shambaugh, was harder to detect amidst the more abundant forage. Now that the grasshoppers have become adults he says they’re easier to spot and their density more noticeable. While Shambaugh’s agency doesn’t specifically address grasshoppers affecting cropland, he says they have received reports of alfalfa, dry bean, wheat, barley and irrigated pasture damage. Similar reports have been made to USDA Agricultural Statistics Service, which mentioned grasshopper damage to crops in its past two issues of the weekly Wyoming crop update.
    It’s too late to effectively control the pests using the preferred and most economical method on rangelands, an insect growth regulator called Dimilin. Some control efforts are, however, being carried out to reduce damage to this year’s crops.
    Baker says some Fremont County crop producers have treated for the pests, but at a cost of $20 to $30 an acre, it’s a tough decision economically speaking. He says the damage has been the most significant in the Hidden Valley area.
    “They are on the rise and I would not expect it to get any better next year,” says Shambaugh. During the coming winter he says his agency is looking to partner with local weed and pest districts and the University of Wyoming to host educational workshops to help producers best prepare for the 2010 season.
    Baker says Dimilin can be utilized in a more economical manner by spraying strips and allowing the migratory nature of the hoppers to bring them to the treatment area. If APHIS chooses to carry out treatment on federal land Baker’s agency will consider partnering, but he says it’s too soon to say if cost share dollars will be available next year.
    Shambaugh says the ideal time to treat grasshoppers is early June, or as soon as they begin hatching. Dimilin, he explains, is a liquid that has a 30-day residual on the foliage where it’s consumed by the grasshoppers. “The main focus is to suppress the populations the current year and that will prevent reproduction and offer multiple year benefits.”
    Cost per acre of Dimilin application is a factor of numerous items including the possibility of local cost share dollars.
    Landowners who would like to report heavy infestations of grasshoppers can do so by calling 866-WYPEST1. Shambaugh can be reached 307-432-7979. Those dealing with the pests in their cropland are encouraged to visit with their local University of Wyoming Extension Agent or Weed and Pest District. Jennifer Womack 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..

On April 18, the U.S. Forest Service Intermountain Region released a supplement to their Grazing Permit Administration Handbook addressing permits with term status.

“Most allotment owners have been restricted to hard ‘on-off’ dates regardless of forage availability. Now, allotment owners will be able to seek better utilization of the forage through ‘shoulder’ season extensions,” said Redge Johnson of the Utah Office of the Governor in an e-mail to permittees. “We have been working with the Forest Service for about a year now requesting extensions where they make sense for full utilization of forage on the range.”

Jim Magagna, executive director of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, commented that the document provides more flexibility for livestock owners to extend grazing seasons based on pasture availability. 

“It’s too bad that this kind of document is necessary,” Magagna commented.

“In the past, if a livestock owner needed to extend a grazing season one way or the other, as long as there were animal units available, they could tell the Forest Service and go on five days early to stay 10 days late, for example,” he explained. “Now, however, that isn’t the case.”

With overregulation coming out of Washington, D.C. on every front, Magagna said that grazing dates were no longer as flexible.

He said, “Recently, there’s been a reluctance to grant those extensions.”

Amendment opportunity

Section 16.14 of the Grazing Permit Administration Handbook’s Chapter 10 now provides for modification to grazing permits concerning “numbers, seasons of use, kind and class of livestock allowed on the allotment…providing they meet the land management objectives prescribed for lands within the grazing allotment.”

All requests for modifications to permits must be made in writing, as well.

Overall, the recent grazing amendment provides a framework by which individual Forest Service Range Conservationists can decide whether or not to extend a grazing season if a producer requests such an extension.

Within that framework, guidelines and criteria for making the decision are laid out, which allows a timely response to requests for changes of allotment dates. Fourteen requirements are listed in the document, and all criteria must be met to qualify for a modification.

Restrictions

While the change is positive for ranchers, Magagna cautioned, “The allotment still has to meet all the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).”

He further explained that Forest Service employees must assess the status of the permit prior to granting an extension.

“Forest Service range cons may be reluctant to grant extensions if they feel that there will be challenges with the NEPA analysis,” Magagna said, also noting, however, that the locally led effort sets a positive tone.

The amendment only applies to Region Four of the U.S. Forest Service, which includes southwest Wyoming.

The remainder of the state is covered under Region Two of the Forest Service.

Magagna added that he is unsure whether Region Two will take action and implement a similar policy, but he notes that it is possible.

Also, the document noted, “Use of seasonal extensions should be an exception rather than a standard practice.”

Positive action

“Overall, this amendment provides a good statement of position,” Magagna commented. “We’ll have to see how the amendment is implemented to know if it is truly effective.”

While the change seems positive thus far, Magagna added that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) ideally would also adjust their policies to mirror Forest Service actions.

“The problem lies in the fact that ranchers wouldn’t be able to stay on BLM longer if they can’t get to their Forest Service allotment,” he said. “Right now, BLM is saying that we can’t extend grazing without having to go through the whole NEPA process.”

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..

Rock Springs — When the Union Pacific railroad began selling their land-grant checkerboard parcels in 1907 a loose-knit grazing organization in the area was motivated to incorporate, forming the foundation for the Rock Springs Grazing Association (RSGA) that still operates today.
    “Prior to 1907 the Rock Springs-area sheep producers wanted to stop migrant sheep bands from coming through, so they got together with the railroad and agreed to lease its odd-numbered checkerboard sections, which enabled them to control who came on the land,” says RSGA Board Chair John Hay.
    Before the grazing association began to control the land there were as many as 9,000 sheep that would cross the Green River to graze. “They’d come early and stay late and leave the range looking like an empty table. This area had been traumatically overgrazed,” says Hay. “The grazing association was put together to provide grass for the sheep producers in the area.”
    When UP began selling land in Carbon County the producers formed the RSGA so they’d retain authority on the land.
    The association was originally set up with 100 shares, with each share granting the right to graze 3,000 head of sheep from Dec. 15 through May 1. “Today we have 62.75 shares sitting out there, so our numbers are dramatically less than the estimated carrying capacity,” says Hay, noting that the association’s never been filled to its full extent.
    When the association was put together the operators were entirely sheep. In the 1960s the first cattle were allowed to come on with a seven-to-one conversion rate.
    This last winter the association grazed 58,000 sheep and 400 cattle under 39 shareholders. The livestock come from several areas, ranging from west of Rock Springs to near Kemmerer and in Utah and Idaho to east of Rock Springs around Baggs and down into Colorado, as well as some more locally in the Farson area and south of town.
    Today both RSGA and Anadarko Petroleum own the private checkerboard land, which lies 20 miles north and 20 miles south of the railroad for 80 miles on either side of Rock Springs. The BLM controls the other half of even-numbered parcels. Each parcel, a section, is one square mile.
    “The grazing association exists entirely on the checkerboard, so that’s always an interesting management situation,” says Hay, noting RSGA works very closely with Anadarko, which owns the mineral estate on all the odd-numbered sections. “The surface portion owned by Anadarko we lease from them, and on the public sections we have a grazing permit with the BLM, so it’s an unusual management situation from that perspective alone.”
    He explains the checkerboard is managed as one large unit with three very interested parties. “We work very closely with all of them to reach the objectives,” he says.
    RSGA uses its land strictly for winter grazing from Dec. 15 to May 1. “The federal government has summer permits and we handle the winter portion and work year round on what happens on the surface with oil and gas development, pipelines, transmission lines and wind power,” says Hay.
    Some of the summertime users are members of RSGA, and others are not. Hay says there isn’t a great deal of summer use, and where members graze in the winter is mostly determined by weather patterns.
    In addition to coordinating amongst the ownership interests, the RSGA has dealt with the wild horse situation for an awful long time,” says Hay.
    “It wasn’t a problem until the Wild Horse and Burro Act passed in 1971, because the individual operators managed the wild horse levels at a reasonable number,” he continues. “All the issues started when it became the responsibility of the BLM to manage populations.”
    In the late 1970s a lawsuit began that resulted in a judge ordering the BLM to remove all horses from the checkerboard at that point in time. More recently, Hay says the consent decree between the State of Wyoming and the BLM has been the most effective tool in keeping horse numbers down.
    Of pending legislation in U.S. Congress that would expand Herd Management Areas back to 1971 levels, Hay says he hopes it will be defeated. “We have enough difficulty without adding to it,” he says.
    Although wild horses are the biggest issue, Hay says the increasing numbers of elk on the checkerboard are a concern. “With the wolf situation our guess is they’ve come along the Wind River Range and crossed South Pass and come down onto the lease. It’s been a much faster increase than would naturally occur.”
    Although the Wyoming Game and Fish Department does have permits assigned, Hay says the association thinks they need to be more aggressive in reducing populations. “We’re well over agreed-upon numbers,” he says.
    “The development of the mineral resource has an effect on everything else we do,” he says of the land’s mineral rights. “We have to take advantage of the coal, oil, gas and wind resources, but we’re trying to do these things in a fashion that all the parties are taken care of.”
    Currently the association is working on wind projects. “We’re trying to have resource development that makes sense, and such that we have an income source for our shareholders,” says Hay, noting they’re in communication with four companies at this point. “We’re very proactive in terms of development and helping our shareholders.”
    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..

On April 18, the U.S. Forest Service Intermountain Region released a supplement to their Grazing Permit Administration Handbook addressing permits with term status.

“Most allotment owners have been restricted to hard ‘on-off’ dates regardless of forage availability. Now, allotment owners will be able to seek better utilization of the forage through ‘shoulder’ season extensions,” said Redge Johnson of the Utah Office of the Governor in an e-mail to permittees. “We have been working with the Forest Service for about a year now requesting extensions where they make sense for full utilization of forage on the range.”

Jim Magagna, executive director of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, commented that the document provides more flexibility for livestock owners to extend grazing seasons based on pasture availability. 

“It’s too bad that this kind of document is necessary,” Magagna commented.

“In the past, if a livestock owner needed to extend a grazing season one way or the other, as long as there were animal units available, they could tell the Forest Service and go on five days early to stay 10 days late, for example,” he explained. “Now, however, that isn’t the case.”

With overregulation coming out of Washington, D.C. on every front, Magagna said that grazing dates were no longer as flexible.

He said, “Recently, there’s been a reluctance to grant those extensions.”

Amendment opportunity

Section 16.14 of the Grazing Permit Administration Handbook’s Chapter 10 now provides for modification to grazing permits concerning “numbers, seasons of use, kind and class of livestock allowed on the allotment…providing they meet the land management objectives prescribed for lands within the grazing allotment.”

All requests for modifications to permits must be made in writing, as well.

Overall, the recent grazing amendment provides a framework by which individual Forest Service Range Conservationists can decide whether or not to extend a grazing season if a producer requests such an extension.

Within that framework, guidelines and criteria for making the decision are laid out, which allows a timely response to requests for changes of allotment dates. Fourteen requirements are listed in the document, and all criteria must be met to qualify for a modification.

Restrictions

While the change is positive for ranchers, Magagna cautioned, “The allotment still has to meet all the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).”

He further explained that Forest Service employees must assess the status of the permit prior to granting an extension.

“Forest Service range cons may be reluctant to grant extensions if they feel that there will be challenges with the NEPA analysis,” Magagna said, also noting, however, that the locally led effort sets a positive tone.

The amendment only applies to Region Four of the U.S. Forest Service, which includes southwest Wyoming.

The remainder of the state is covered under Region Two of the Forest Service.

Magagna added that he is unsure whether Region Two will take action and implement a similar policy, but he notes that it is possible.

Also, the document noted, “Use of seasonal extensions should be an exception rather than a standard practice.”

Positive action

“Overall, this amendment provides a good statement of position,” Magagna commented. “We’ll have to see how the amendment is implemented to know if it is truly effective.”

While the change seems positive thus far, Magagna added that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) ideally would also adjust their policies to mirror Forest Service actions.

“The problem lies in the fact that ranchers wouldn’t be able to stay on BLM longer if they can’t get to their Forest Service allotment,” he said. “Right now, BLM is saying that we can’t extend grazing without having to go through the whole NEPA process.”

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..

Right on schedule on April 11, the environmental assessment (EA) and proposed decision record were completed for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to authorize temporary grazing permits “when there is above-average snowpack” affecting livestock grazing.

The EA was required as a foundation for BLM Pinedale Field Office Manager (PFO) Caleb Hiner to issue “temporary nonrenewable” permits (TNR) – and in an unusual partnership, the deed was achieved within a very short time frame so they could be applied for this spring.

Hiner issued his draft decision letter April 11 with a “finding of no significant impact” for the TNRs.

The PFO includes Sublette and part of Lincoln counties.

Analysis

“Based on the analysis of potential environmental impacts contained in the attached EA and considering the significance criteria in regulations, BLM has determined that neither the proposed action nor the no action alternative would have significant effect on the human environment,” it states. “Therefore, an environmental impact statement is not required.”

Hiner explained the context, saying, “It is important to understand that the analysis is not to authorize new grazing. Rather, it is to analyze a shift in grazing dates in locations where grazing is already authorized. The impacts of the project would be beneficial to vegetation and livestock, and no long-term negative impacts resulting from the implementation of any action would occur. BLM anticipates impacts to be local and not regional or national.”

This gives PFO authority to shift the season of use up to 30 days on the end of a permit.

BLM is not authorizing any changes in number, kind or class of livestock or roads.

The announcement is followed by a 15-day comment period through April 26.

Feedback

“The feedback has been fairly positive,” Hiner said.

Hiner said Jonathan Ratner of Western Watersheds Project is on the list as an interested party. Any protest must justify the party’s “relative harm” for a stay. Public interest will be weighed but not heavily, according to Hiner.

“In the absence of a protest, this proposed decision shall constitute my final decision without further notice unless otherwise provided for in the proposed decision,” he added.

Permittees must apply for the permits, to be considered case-by-case. They also must show the actual delay and report use at the end of the TNR.

BLM permittees start on the high desert “usually in the first part of May,” with staggered dates for going on and off allotments, and the dates were as good as set in stone.

In early March, BLM’s Kyle Hansen told a Green River Valley Cattlemen’s Association (GRVCA) audience that those with BLM permits might not be able to turn out their livestock in the first part of May, due to heavy and deep snowfall last winter that is still melting and flooding in some places. The hard winter will likely lead to late “green-up,” and he wanted ranchers to be aware there might be a delay.

Even harder on those with permits would be a delay in turning out on Forest Service allotments, usually June 15, which many move to when their BLM grazing permits end. Hansen warned ranchers that if the Forest Service spring forage wasn’t high enough to accommodate livestock, they would not be able to leave their cattle or sheep on the BLM past their permitted dates.

“With the weather the way it is, it’s looking like the Bridger-Teton National Forest allotments are not going to be ready for grazing at the normal time,” said County Commissioner and Rancher Joel Bousman. “It’s really unlikely permittees will be able to go on. “The problem is, there’s no flexibility in BLM to allow grazing to go beyond the date on the permit. So, for example, if a permit ends July 1 or July 5, if those cattle aren’t off the BLM, they’re subject to ‘trespass.’”

With different herds mingling on large common grazing allotments away from home pastures, bringing them home or finding temporary pasture would be a costly and time-consuming enterprise. If the livestock are left longer than permits allow, the ranchers could also be fined for trespass on the BLM.

The EA states, “The majority of the allotments in the planning area are considered lower-elevation allotments, and livestock turnout in these allotments typically occurs from May 1 to June 1. After four to six weeks, the livestock on these allotments are moved to higher-elevation pastures. The higher-elevation pastures could be entirely private land, U.S. Forest Service administered allotments or other BLM-administered allotments.” Typically, the season of use for these allotments is two to three months.

Spring turnout

Conversations began that day with officials and ranchers mulling next month’s potential roadblock not far down the road.

“The conversations at the GRVCA meetings spurred us into trying to think outside of the box,” said Mike Henn, Sublette County Conservation District (SCCD) manager.

After speaking with Hiner and county commissioners, Henn asked his staff what they thought of developing the EA in a very short time to provide a foundation, with Eco Research Group filling in the socioeconomic portion.

“It was a big group effort,” Henn acknowledged.

Hiner said his PFO staff is extremely busy, but he wanted to accomplish the change as soon as possible, commenting, “I really appreciate the SCCD being able to assist us.”

Support

With a county letter of support in hand, Henn approached the Governor’s Office with a request for Federal Natural Resource Policy Account (FNRPA) state funds to compensate Eco Research Group and SCCD.

“The Governor also supports this effort,” Henn said, adding that funds for this EA fall within the state’s legislative intent for that account to effect smaller changes in federal policies.

Henn estimated the EA’s total cost at just over $25,000, with the county’s match at 20 percent to FNPRA’s 80 percent.

PFO allotments stretch from the Hoback Rim to LaBarge Creek and south to the middle of the Jonah Field and Luman Road, Henn said.

This EA and decision applies only to the PFO and does not affect Forest Service grazing permits.

Statewide

While this TNR permit process applies only to PFO, Henn suggested other field offices might do the same if needed.

Tackling this EA was a new direction for the SCCD – or for any conservation district, as far as Henn knows, probably setting a statewide precedent.

“Conservation districts don’t generally get involved in EAs,” he said. “It’s the first time the SCCD has ever done something like this, and to my knowledge statewide, to be the lead on this EA. It’s precedent setting – especially with this accelerated time frame.”

Joy Ufford is a reporter for the Pinedale Roundup and Sublette Examiner, as well as a correspondent for 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..