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Federal Lands

Worland – When it comes to public lands grazing, Wyoming’s ranchers are often dependent on the range to preserve their livelihood and their operations. 

“I enjoy working with permittees who are grazing livestock,” said UW Extension Sustainable Management of Rangeland Resources Educator Barton Stam. “The other part of that is working with colleagues employed with the federal land management agencies.”

“When we see heated debates between permittees and federal land management agencies, it is ranchers’ livestock and their livelihood at stake,” Stam continued. “A lot of times, when I am talking with folks about what to do with their permits, it deals with the personal and mechanical aspects.”

“I don’t have any deep, dark secrets or magic bullets, but there are some ways we can look at what we are doing when we deal with federal agencies,” he said.

What not to do

“The worst thing we can do is stick our heads in the sand,” Stam noted of dealing with federal agencies

Because ranchers often have so much invested in their permits, if situations arise or get heated, they often choose to ignore the situation.

“We can’t ignore these issues,” Stam emphasized. “When things start to go haywire with our permit, it mainly stems from interpersonal relationships that we might have.”

Opening up the conversation

After visiting with BLM and Forest Service (FS) employees that he regularly interacts with, Stam noted, “The number one thing the BLM and FS said is important is that ranchers talk to their range conservationists.”

“I’ve been out with a lot of permittees who don’t know their the range conservationist is,” he continued. “I’m not saying that is the rancher’s fault or the range con’s fault, but think about how much ranchers have invested in their permits. It is their livelihood. Ranchers need to take the responsibility on themselves to develop that relationship.”

Keeping in touch

Ranchers should also keep range conservationists up to speed on the activities on their permit. 

For example, if the permit holder’s children are running livestock on the land, the range con should know. 

“If a rancher is turning their operation over to their children or heirs – or thinking about turning the ranch over – they need to involve those people in visiting the range con,” Stam added. “It pays to have continuity during generational transfer.”

At the same time, it is important to involve the next generation in learning about the intricacies and the red tape issues of working with the federal government. 

According to the permit

“Along with talking to their range con, there are a couple of other things that ranchers can do to help with their permits,” Stam said.

First, ranchers should make sure that their actions do not deviate from the permit. 

“The FS in particular stressed that, if there will be any sort of changes that arise on the rancher’s end that deviate from the permit, the earlier a rancher can communicate, the better,” he explained. “Better communication can help the rancher’s case, and the FS will try to have flexibility.”

Whether ranchers are seeking operational needs, improvement maintenance or new range improvements, if the agency is aware of those changes, the process will be easier. 

Third party agreements should also be discussed with the agency personnel. 

“If a rancher has a third party who will be in charge of the management of livestock, the agencies need to know that up front,” Stam said. “Those things need to be written into the plan.”

Maintenance

“Range improvements are also a big deal,” said Stam. “If the range con comes to do their standards and guidelines, if the improvements are not up to specifications, it will be hard to reach those benchmarks.”

The rancher needs to take the initiative, Stam added. 

“We have relatively few range cons to cover millions of acres of BLM and FS land,” he continued. “The rancher’s knowledge of the permits and improvements on the permit is much more detailed and in-depth that what the range conservationist could ever hope to have.”

Making changes

Often, ranchers have new ideas for the management of the permit. Supervisory range conservationists, however, don’t have the independent authority to implement those ideas. 

“I talked to range cons at both the FS and BLM, and they told me that while they can’t guarantee that new ideas would be implemented, they would love to hear the ideas,” Stam said. “The biggest benefit is that there is a dialogue started.”

“We are getting to know a person, their needs and their ideas,” he continued. 

Stam noted that often, the biggest frustration for permit holders is that they see no progress toward new ideas and suggestions. 

“What can we do to make sure projects are getting put into the pipeline?” asked Stam. “We really need to dig deep into what isn’t said. What is the timeline? What can be done to make sure we are getting the right people involved?”

If ranchers get involved in the process and communicate with their range staff, they can keep up to date on the progress of their projects. 

Getting involved

Stam also noted that the most important thing for permittees to do is to get involved with their permit. 

“Many ranchers have probably heard about cooperative permittee monitoring,” he explained. “We’ve been talking about it for a long time.”

“I want to stress the importance of getting involved, and permittee monitoring is one of the best ways to do that,” Stam continued. 

Getting involved with permittee monitoring starts with contacting either Extension or agency personnel to set up a monitoring plan. 

“There are other ways to get involved besides just cooperative permittee monitoring,” Stam added. “The best way to get involved is to have a good relationship with the range conservationist on the permit.”

Permit file

“Each person who has a federal lands grazing permit has a file,” said UW Extension Sustainable Management of Rangeland Resources Educator Barton Stam. “As a permittee, the rancher should have full access to the file at all times, and they ought to have their own copy of the documents in the file.”

Each permit file contains information about the permit, including all agreements, cooperative monitoring efforts, improvement maintenance agreements and others.

“The file should not be mysterious to the permittee,” Stam said. “Make sure that everything pertinent to the permit is in that file, and make sure you know what’s in there.”

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..

May 16 marks the deadline for comments on Forest Service planning regulations, and many national groups have signed onto a draft of an extensive set of comments on the topic.
Jim Magagna of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association says his group will sign onto those comments, and will also submit their own. He says he sees two big issues with the planning regulations.
“The first is the topic of ‘species of viability,’” he says. “That is what the Forest Service, under the current rule, has used to shut down domestic sheep grazing because of interaction with bighorn sheep, and this rule extends that concept from vertebrate species to all species, including plants and insects.”
The second topic relates to a shift away from a multiple use focus.
“This set of rules talks about multiple use on an equal basis with things like climate change, and they also give recreation its own little spot, and nothing is defined in terms of outputs,” says Magagna. “It’s all about protection, with no outputs of grazing or recreation days. Everything is measured in terms of the resource.”
This set of regulations would guide how individual forest plans are developed in the future. Currently the Shoshone Forest is updating their plan under the 1982 planning rule. There were rules released in 1995 and 2002, but both were shut down by the courts, returning rules twice to the 1982 version.
“We tried to get a 90-day extension to the comment period because of its complexity, and because the Forest Service also recently released an independent scientific study of the regulations, but we received a letter denying that extension,” states Magagna.
The Forest Service began a year ago with public scoping meetings throughout the west and a series of meetings held in Washington, D.C. More recently, another round of meetings were held, one of which was in Cheyenne, to give an overview of what was in the regulations.
“The development of the regulations had a lot of public input, but the opportunity to comment on the actual final draft has been more limited,” says Magagna of the reasoning behind requesting the denied comment period extension.
Christy Martinez 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..

Riverton – At the early-February Fremont County Farm and Ranch Days in Riverton, Inspection and Compliance Supervisor Brian Lovett of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality was present to explain the most recent developments in regulations for confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, and nutrient management plans.
    Lovett said the rule changes began in 1999 with a unified strategy between the USDA and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on CAFOs. After a number of lawsuits the EPA issued a final rule in December 2008, of which Lovett said, “Hopefully we’ll have a little better idea of where we’re going from here on out.”
    The rule most recently approved relates to a 2003 lawsuit resolved in 2006. Lovett said the “duty to apply” provision was a big part of the lawsuit. The rule said that if an operation cared for more than 1,000 head of cattle it had to apply for a discharge permit. “The ag groups challenged that, saying we couldn’t make somebody apply for the permit if they didn’t plan on discharging, and they won that part of the argument,” he said.
    The definition of a confined animal feeding operation is 45 total days of confinement in a 12-month period where the vegetation doesn’t return to the area during the growing season.
    “A discharge permit is a permit to pollute, and that includes your entire production area, including feed mixing, feed storage, silage pits and hay storage,” said Lovett. “The EPA sees haystacks as feed storage areas that need storm water containment because they consider it an area that adds nutrient to water.”
    Although Lovett said there will be a lot of discussion around the country about the duty to apply for discharge permits, he said that is irrelevant in Wyoming because of the state’s Chapter 2 permitting rules that built in a state requirement to automatically apply for a discharge permit if an operation tops 1,000 animals.
    However, he said an operation can apply for a non-discharge designation. “But that test will be so hard to meet, because for a non-discharge designation you’re talking about forever. There are no exceptions for the 25-year storm event – nothing can ever happen. It’d be easier to get a permit than to try to prove you don’t need one.”
    One thing in the new rule that will really affect Wyoming’s program is the system for devising manure application rates. “The new rule has significant changes in how the nutrient management plan is looked at and how it ties to the actual permit,” explained Lovett.
    He said the program change relating to nutrient management plans will affect his program on the permitting side and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), because they’ve written 95 percent of plans in Wyoming.
    “These fairly significant changes won’t affect how you’re doing things, but how the plans will be structured,” said Lovett. The plans are also now required to be public noticed and tied to the permit to make it an enforceable document.
    “The other twist, because now the plan is part of the permit, is that anything you do to change the conditions in the plan means the permit has to go back through public notice,” said Lovett. “This includes a change in application area and rate, as well as stocking rates.”
    The new format of the plans is what Lovett described as a narrative rate, rather than the previous linear approach. “The NRCS used to do plans using a formula. That took the soil test, manure test and the crops and balanced them. It was straight agronomy: this crop needs this many pounds of nutrients.” In the past the calculation would be run and the actual number would be included in the plan.
    Now, however, the narrative rate says how to calculate the application rate, and outlines the process, but doesn’t include a specific rate for each field. “We’ll restructure the nutrient management plans so they’re more a description of the process and less a calculation of the number,” said Lovett. “The pressure on the producer will be to run those numbers every year using the process we cite in the plan, which is tied to the permit. You’ll calculate and report your application rate annually.”
    The plans will include tables with all potential crops by region or county, with a number for nutrient requirements. “A producer will select a crop and a production level and it’ll dictate how many nutrients are needed to grow that,” he explained. “Producers will still test soil and manure annually, then run the formula. The effluent limit now is the application rate, and that’s what’s being tied directly to the permit.”
    “It’s a significant shift in how we’ve been doing those plans, but ultimately more clear because the process is laid out,” noted Lovett. “You decide what you’re going to grow, get soil and manure tests, plug the numbers in and come up with an application rate and report that to us annually.”
    Although he said he doesn’t think it will be a complicated shift, there will be some training available. “Right now the national focus from EPA is wet weather violations. You’re under the microscope to some extent, and that’s why we’ll do the training.”
    He said the biggest problem with most operators is they don’t keep up the records they need. The training will explain what producers need to show the DEQ when they show up at their place. “There will be a lot more paperwork and tracking things and maintaining records for five years,” he said. “Most things we’ll require you probably already do, it’s just a matter of writing them down and keeping those records all in one place.”
    The training sessions will offer all the forms in a disk format, so that people can begin to maintain their records electronically
    For more information on the changes with CAFOs and nutrient management plans, contact Brian Lovett at 307-777-5630 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 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..
Casper — Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) says legislation that will enhance preservation of the Continental Divide Trail, among others around the United States, is completely voluntary and should not infringe on private property rights.
    Lummis is co-sponsoring the “Complete America’s Great Trails Act” with Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) to protect America’s eight National Scenic Trails, including the Continental Divide Trail that runs through Wyoming.
    “This legislation will ensure one of America’s greatest scenic trails, the Continental Divide Trail, will be protected for future generations,” Lummis said in a prepared statement on the legislation. “The bill will provide voluntary incentives for landowners to complete the trail while protecting their property rights and safeguarding Wyoming rich agricultural heritage.”
    H.R. 1912 would provide landowners with a tax credit to grant conservation easements and public access easements in half-mile corridors of National Scenic Trails.
    “I am proud to work with Wyoming’s agricultural community and private landowners to protect our heritage by encouraging the completion of this important scenic trail corridor,” Lummis added.
    During an April 24 interview with the Roundup Lummis elaborated on the legislation. “The trails bill does not make any federal trails designations, it doesn’t mandate any enhancements of current trail protections. The purpose is to provide incentives to landowners to assist in the completion of the national trails corridors.” She said, “Most importantly, participation is 100 percent voluntary.”
    Asked whether or not the legislation would create additional trespasses for those landowners along the trail, Lummis said she envisions participants designating areas covered by the easement and those that are private property and not open to the public. Access is a stipulation of the easements that would be written with a land trust of the landowner’s choice.
    “There would be no liability,” said Lummis when asked if landowners could be held accountable if someone is injured on the portion of the trail that passes through their private property. “The opportunity to cross the land is not an accepting liability. Even though they’re under the law an invitee, the fact that it has been designated as a federal trail under federal law would prevent the landowner from liability.”
    “It’s all voluntary,” stressed Lummis. “If a landowner decides to voluntarily create an easement under the bill they can help craft the restrictions.” She said each conservation easement is unique and catered to the situation at hand.
    Lummis said she’s also been asked about the legislation’s impact on the development of transmission lines. She said, “There are no public lands affected because easements can only be made on private lands on a voluntary basis. The only way transmission could be affected is if a private landowner is the one who decides a conservation easement is better use of his or her property than a transmission line.” In that regard Lummis said the legislation also serves to enhance private property rights.
    Jennifer Womack 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..

Cheyenne – Federal land management remains on the forefront of producers’ minds across the state.

“We are in an interesting era of federal land management,” commented Temple Stoellinger, Wyoming County Commissioner’s Association natural resource attorney, marking energy developments, impact of pests, recreational use and environmental litigation as all having an effect on land management. “As the complications and uses have changed, so have expectations that the federal land managers are held to.”

Stoellinger moderated a panel of federal lands managers at the 2013 Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show, held in Cheyenne on June 5-8. Panel members included Rocky Mountain Region Regional Forester Dan Jiron, Intermountain Region Regional Forester Nora Rasure and Wyoming BLM Director Don Simpson.

Wyoming BLM

Wyoming BLM strives to accomplish four goals – managing healthy lands and communities; maintaining energy development; managing for multiple use and the urban interface; and maintaining budgets.

“If we aren’t responsible for participating and working with producers to provide for healthy landscapes, we can’t have healthy communities,” said Simpson. “I appreciate the partnership we have because we have some of the best rangelands and healthiest communities.”

Despite economic downturn recently, Simpson noted that public rangelands are faring well.

On BLM lands, he also noted that a multiple use agenda is a strong focus for the agency. Under multiple use, efforts include supporting energy development and recreation, along with livestock grazing.

“We are working on four 500 kilovolt power lines, and we are looking at authorizing in excess of 1,000 wind turbines on public lands,” he commented. “It will change the landscape, but the balanced use of land is something we work toward.”

“We manage for multiple use,” he continued. 

At the same time, he noted that more and more people are moving to the West, meaning that more people have easier access to public lands. More use translates into new users and problems that weren’t present in the past.

In accomplishing all of these goals, Simpson continued, “Over all, budgets are getting smaller. We have to be more effective and make the dollar stretch further.”

Forest Service lands

Two different Forest Service regions cover Wyoming – the Intermountain Region and the Rocky Mountain Region.  

Dan Jiron, regional forester for the Rocky Mountain Region, noted, “We have many opportunities to work together, and we will work through the challenges together.”

Currently of top priority for Jiron are National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) evaluations.

“NEPA is an important piece of moving ahead with range management challenges,” Jiron said. “In the Rocky Mountain Region, we pretty much have those pieces done. In Wyoming, we will finish this summer.”

Moving forward, Jiron noted that the Rocky Mountain Region has seen some success, including contracts for long-term timber management and the reopening of the Saratoga Mill.

“The reopening of the Saratoga Mill is really important to restoration and resiliency,” he explained. “These are important things to sustain.”

At the same time, he noted that there is a lot of work to do on the national forest lands and national grasslands and, by continuing partnerships with state, local and private entities, sustainable land management can be achieved.

Connections to ag

Rasure also emphasized the importance of the connection between Forest Service lands and agriculture.

“I have a deep connection to agriculture,” said Rasure, who is relatively new to her position. “I am excited to be back in the Intermountain Region.”

The Intermountain Region, which covers Utah, Nevada, parts of Wyoming, Idaho and California, is about 83 percent urban, said Rasure, which provides challenges.

“When you have large rural landscapes and urban populations, people who live in the urban areas are not connected to those landscapes,” she commented. “One of the challenges that we have is to help people in urban areas have a connection to the land and the way we manage lands.”

Rasure noted that working together is one area she has focused on. 

“We are going to get litigated, and we get litigated because people have other perspectives and other values,” she explained. “The question is, how do we work together to continue using the land but to sustain it overtime?”

Monitoring emphasis

Range monitoring, said Wyoming BLM Director Don Simpson, is of utmost importance.

“Where we lose in court is where we don’t follow the rules,” Simpson explained. “When we can prove we maintain healthy rangelands, we can win.”

By adequately managing rangelands, Simpson noted that court cases can be won.

“In Wyoming, we can get more done with a dollar than anyone else,” he continued. “The ranchers and land managers are active conservationists who help.” 

The Intermountain Region, Regional Forester Nora Rasure said, is also focusing on rangeland management and is looking for opportunities to utilize the landscape and manage it effectively.

“It will take all of our knowledge and resources to resolve the issues of the future and partner to address them,” Rasure concluded.

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..