Monday, October 6, 2014

Range Tour

Ranchers Open lines of Communication with Forest Service on the Salmon/Challis

Mackay--Custer and Lemhi Counties held a range tour of the Double Springs allotment on the Yankee Fork District of the Salmon/Challis National Forest.

The ranchers wanted to show fellow ranchers and the Forest Service the condition of their allotments. The US Forest Service asked the permit holders to move cattle off the land 30 days early, on short notice. That move drastically impacted rancher Troy Olson who says that he's out tens of thousands of dollars. 

"It's been a communication problem. I think it's been the transfer of long term employees within the agency. We’ve addressed the problem with them and it seems like shortly thereafter we have somebody new to deal with. There’s no continuity, we never have the same people to deal with, so every issue has to be re-addressed, then readdressed and readdressed," said Olson.

"The range shows the effect of drought and damage around riparian areas," said range expert Wally Butler.

"Overall, despite the drought, I think its in pretty good shape," said Butler. "Theres probably room for improvement and that would be great, but its mostly a water distribution problem. Cattle tend to bunch up around available water and thats the problem here."

Butler says giving the cattle more areas to drink, adding pipelines could solve problems on that stretch of rangeland.

Katie Wood of the Forest Service went on the tour and visited a spring that was declared an archeological site. Ranchers put up an electric fence at their expense to protect the site, water in the area is scarce, they want to put in a pipeline to spread the cattle out to protect the riparian area but also want the Forest Service to pitch in and help. Wood said their budgets are spread thin.

"Its a zero-sum game, I have little staff and little money. When I look at all the projects that people come to me with on this allotment or others or other projects that I have going on, we can't always do it all," said Wood.

The Forest Service noted each and every problem and took part in lively but positive discussions.

"We've spent the day working on the positives and building communication," said Butler. "The overall purpose for having this tour is to heighten and awareness level for the agencies and the ranchers are going through. The whole idea with this tour was to develop a line of communication, I think we did it."

Forty-five fellow ranchers showed up to support fellow ranchers. They visited four sites and at the end of the day asked the Forest Service to listen, be mindful of economic impacts and short deadlines imposed on Ranchers.

"We're trying to improve the Range for future use and continued use," said RJ Hoffman. "I feel it probably cost me somewhere between $12-15 thousand in feed loss to go home early, but we're trying to improve the Range and we want that consideration."

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