Tag Archives: grazing

An administrative law judge has rejected a plan for public land grazing allotments that would have destroyed re-emerging sagebrush in south-central Idaho in favor of non-native plants to increase forage for cattle and sheep.

The ruling directs the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to set aside its final grazing decisions for about 80 square miles (200 square kilometers) of allotments in Twin Falls County and then reissue them with terms consistent with the ruling.

The plan that “provides for vegetation treatments intended to reduce or destroy native sagebrush and other native plant communities lacks a rational basis,” U.S. Interior Department Administrative Law Judge Andrew S. Pearlstein wrote in the May 9 order.

WildLands Defense and Prairie Falcon Audubon in 2017 appealed the Bureau of Land Management’s decision involving 18 permittees on 21 allotments that would have destroyed native plants on what are called the Berger Allotments.

“BLM is supposed to look for opportunities to restore sagebrush habitat,” said Katie Fite of WildLands Defense. “This was the dead opposite of that. This was purging sagebrush.”

A federal report last year concluded efforts to save sagebrush habitat in the West were failing, with invasive plants such as cheatgrass and medusahead on nearly 160,000 square miles (414,400 sq. kilometers) of public and private lands.

Federal officials in April released a plan intended to reverse that trend using new technologies and analytics to aid in restoring sagebrush habitats that support cattle ranching, recreation and 350 wildlife species, including imperiled sage grouse.

Efforts to restore sagebrush habitats can run into the millions of dollars from a single wildfire.

The BLM’s decision on the southern Idaho grazing allotments would have used large machines to kill sagebrush and other native plants where ranchers favor non-native forage plants such as crested wheatgrass.

“It’s like we’re back in the 1950s,” Fite said.

The BLM can appeal the judge’s ruling to the Interior Board of Land Appeals. BLM officials said Friday they were reviewing the order.

Pearlstein noted that besides sagebrush, the allotments are seeing a return of native grasses that include bluebunch wheatgrass, Thurber’s needlegrass, needle-and-thread grass, Sandburg bluegrass and Davis peppergrass, listed as a rare or special species by the BLM.

Invasive grasses on the allotments include primarily cheatgrass, as well as invasive forbs and shrubs.

Pearlstein also noted the presence of wildlife dependent on native plants, including pronghorn, mule deer, and smaller mammals and many types of birds, including sage grouse. He said sage grouse are rarely seen in the allotments, but there are four occupied sage grouse leks, or breeding grounds, within about 2 miles (3 kilometers) of the allotments.

Specifically, Pearlstein noted, the BLM classifies the allotments as “seedings,” meaning the agency can plant crested wheatgrass “without consideration of the vitality of diverse native vegetation.” But Pearlstein said killing native plants in favor of non-native crested wheatgrass couldn’t be justified.

Fite said the ruling prohibiting the destruction of native plants on the grazing allotments is one of the first such rulings she’s seen.

“This is a pretty exceptional decision,” she said.

A project that aligns the efforts of four Midwestern universities and two other groups dedicated to improving grazing practices for beef cattle in the Great Plains has received national recognition for its work.


The Great Plains Grazing project has been selected for a Partnership Award for Multistate Efforts by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which cited the group’s “outstanding efforts to strengthen the stewardship of private lands through technology and research.”

“This award is a testament to the significant efforts of all the collaborators involved in Great Plains Grazing,” said Dan Devlin, project leader and director of the Kansas Center for Agricultural Resources and the Environment (KCARE) at Kansas State University. “This research is important not only for projecting how climate change will affect the beef grazing industry but also how to manage that industry more successfully through future drought conditions.”

Devlin noted that protecting the nation’s vital beef production from the stresses of climate variability is a key method to ensure the success of ranchers in the Southern Great Plains as well as to protect food security for the country.

The project fostered partnerships between K-State faculty and researchers from Oklahoma State University, University of Oklahoma, the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, Noble Foundation, and Tarleton State University.

The interdisciplinary project included 45 scientists, and more than 50 graduate students and post-doctoral researchers assisted with the research. Together, they successfully measured the net greenhouse gas emissions of grazing cattle in the Great Plains and were able to develop and quantify the impacts of improved grazing management practices on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Along with Devlin, K-State faculty and staff who played significant roles in Great Plains grazing work in the Department of Agronomy, Department of Animal Sciences and Industry, KCARE, the Office of Educational Innovation and Evaluation, the Western Kansas Research-Extension Center, and the Southeast Kansas Research-Extension Center.

Martin Draper, K-State College of Agriculture interim associate dean for research and graduate programs, will join Devlin to accept the NIFA Partnership Award on behalf of Great Plains Grazing on April 25 in Washington, D.C.

The annual NIFA Partnership Awards were established in 2007 to recognize achievements and contributions by partners at land grant universities and other organizations and institutions.

USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Director Amanda De Jong today announced that effective immediately, emergency grazing use of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres is approved in Iowa through May 14, 2019. The authorization was granted to address the impacts of the recent extreme weather, including flooding. Participation is limited to livestock producers who lost pasture or fences due to the flooding.

“By allowing emergency grazing, we expand the available resources to help Iowa producers respond to recent weather events,” De Jong said.

Producers who are interested in the use of emergency grazing of CRP acres must request FSA county office approval before moving livestock onto the acres. Producers whose livestock grazing land was adversely impacted by the flood, must file a CCC-576 Notice of Loss or provide written certification of that loss. The request must include a modified conservation plan, with grazing provisions, from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

CRP participants can allow others to use their CRP acres under this emergency grazing authorization; however, the livestock owners will also need to complete FSA paperwork indicating their grazing land was adversely impacted by severe weather. There will be no reduction in CRP rental payments to CRP contract holders who use the emergency grazing authorization. CRP contract holders are not permitted to charge livestock producers for the emergency grazing option.

For more information on eligible practices or to request approval for emergency grazing use of CRP acres, contact your local FSA office or visit www.farmers.gov/service-locator.