Grazing permittees on the Dominguez-Escalante NCA and wilderness advised BLM public land managers at a July 31 meeting in Delta that "micro-managing" ag uses on the public lands there is not a good policy.
Occasion for the discussion was a meeting of the NCA Advisory Council to address biological systems and grazing in the Dominguez-Escalante Draft Resource Management Plan (RMP).
Escalante Ranch owner Dick Miller cautioned the BLM staff against "micro-management in its proposed resource plan."
Grazing permittee Ross Allen told the BLM public lands managers that "management of the sheep needs to be left to the operation. You should stay away from micro-management."
The Draft RMP has been under public review since May. Among the alternatives considered in the plan are ones dictating how many guard dogs must be used on sheep groups. Permittees told BLM staff that the number of guard dogs needed for a group of sheep can depend on the skill level of the dogs being used, and the decision on their number should be left up to operators.
Ranchers also offered suggestions on how the BLM could manage bighorn sheep reproduction areas and sagebrush stands to improve habitat for wildlife. Permittee Oscar Massey of Whitewater suggested that BLM look back in history to see what sagebrush treatment practices have worked and replicate those practices. Austin Massey noted that a proposal to take travel routes around the perimeter of larger sagebrush stands may tend to worry wildlife using those areas for habitat.
At the session, BLM staff also learned they need to better define and distinguish between the common practices of "trailing" and of "drifting" livestock.
Possible conflicts could arise between ag uses and recreation uses in the Gunnison River corridor. Such conflicts are benign events that occur mostly by surprise. They are normally avoided, Allen explained. The months of December through March are typically the months when permittees use the river corridor.
Delta County Commissioner Doug Atchley, a member of the 10-member NCA Advisory Council, reminded BLM managers of the county's stipulation that grazing continue in the area following establishment of the NCA and wilderness. Atchley said the overall objective of the RMP should be multiple-use. About the possibility of rec/ag conflicts he asked, "What takes precedence? There is a 130-year history of grazing use on the land," Atchley said. "Delta County is not opposed to recreation, but we are concerned that grazing uses continue. Multiple use should be in the plan with (recreation existing) along side of other uses."
Atchley noted the county commissioners' 2008 letter stipulating the continuation of historic grazing practices in the NCA. "The county gave the support it was asked for, but only under conditions," he said. The NCA grazing allotments are tied directly to the county's $36 million livestock direct sale economy, he said adding, "Take that number times an economic multiplier of two or three and you will see the importance of grazing to Delta County."
The guarantee of grazing in the NCA and wilderness was written into the public law creating the NCA, Atchley noted. Management of ag practices there is to be the same as on other BLM administered public lands. But one grazing management practice in the Draft RMP – response to "resource degradation" – was questioned at the Delta meeting.
Delta County administrator Robbie LeValley told BLM that it needs to establish a data set based on long-term monitoring of the grazing resource before it automatically assumes that any resource degradation is being caused by grazing.
Permittees in the newly designated NCA and wilderness areas have for generations pursued their livelihoods there, and it has been in their interest to steward the biological resources there for maximum efficiency and continued grazing use. Before she became county administrator, LeValley had over 20 years experience working in range management for CSU Extension.
Atchley also noted that BLM's management plan must take into consideration the importance of private property rights, which was another of the Delta BoCC's 2008 stipulations for support. He noted that the BLM's maps of winter range for desert bighorn sheep includes private property.blog comments powered by Disqus