Range Monitoring in the Badlands Grazing District

Final Report for FW99-102

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 1999: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Region: Western
State: Montana
Principal Investigator:
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Project Information

Abstract:

OBJECTIVES
The monitoring project had three objectives:
1. Increase monitoring awareness and knowledge among the members of the Badlands Cooperative State Grazing District
2. Establish monitoring studies on at least half of either the number of acres or the number of permittees of the district
3. Communicate the results of the project to other ranchers

ABSTRACT
The Badlands Cooperative State Grazing District encompasses 845,349 acres in southern Valley County of northeastern Montana, nearly 70% managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Aware that bureau is encouraging ranchers on Western rangelands to monitor and evaluate grazing management practices as a tool to evaluate the impact of livestock and provide information to modify grazing practices, the district adopted a rangeland-monitoring program in 1999.

Working with BLM, the district board of governors developed a monitoring form to help evaluate vegetation cover, bare ground, streambank stability and other rangeland conditions. Each rancher was to estimate eight factors and take photos from a permanently marked photo point. The monitoring sites were agreed upon by the ranchers and the BLM and jointly interpreted and evaluated. Most are in riparian areas, important to ecological integrity.

SPECIFIC RESULTS
Fifty-five people attended a rangeland monitoring workshop May 26, 1999, sponsored by the Badlands Cooperative Grazing District and the Valley County Conservation District. Instructors Jeff Mosely, Montana State range extension specialist, Verlin Koenig, Valley County extension agent and the project's technical advisor, and Marko Manukian, Phillips County extension agent, demonstrated utilization-measuring methods and how to monitor trend on upland and riparian areas.

Over the two years of the project, 43 ranching families collected monitoring data on nearly 500,000 acres of rangeland in the district. These 43 families now better understand the process of collecting and recording data from key areas and analyzing and interpreting the data in terms of resource objectives.

"The ranchers now realize monitoring is critical to their sustainability," says the report on the project. "They also recognize that the public has a vested interest in wildlife, recreational opportunities, watershed values, clean air, aesthetic qualities and other products provided by properly managed rangelands."

POTENTIAL BENEFITS
The monitoring program provided grazing district members with professional training in range science and helped them monitor more than half of the land within the district. The ranchers recognize that the monitoring information provides the basis for evaluating current management practices, and that if specific objectives are not being met by 2005, the BLM may have to adjust livestock numbers.

FARMER ADOPTION AND DIRECT IMPACT
The members of the Badlands District's board of directors are strong advocates of monitoring and are working closely with BLM to develop the "Riparian Trends Assessments." Rancher comments show that they are equally committed to monitoring and its values.

"Virtually every BLM permittee in South Valley County is presently evaluating and documenting riparian range condition on their individual allotments," says rancher and Badland District director Steve Page.

Adds rancher and director Sever Enkerud, "It's a plus for wildlife, livestock and riparian land management."

And rancher and director Paul Cornwell says, "The monitoring should insure the health of range units for generations to come."

FUTURE RECOMMENDATIONS OR NEW HYPOTHESES
Resource trends typically cannot be interpreted on two years of data. For that reason, the ranchers in the Badlands District plan to continue to collect monitoring data and hope to expand the monitoring to more acres.

DISSEMINATION OF FINDINGS
Montana State University's extension office published a news release on the project that was widely circulated and published in several farm and ranch publications. In addition, two ranchers were slated to discuss their monitoring data at livestock producer meetings in 2001.

The participants in the study invite interested ranchers, grazing associations and agency personnel to call them about the rangeland monitoring project. Write to the Badlands Cooperative State Grazing District, P.O. Box 422, Glasgow, MT 59230, or call (406) 228-2961.

PRODUCER INVOLVEMENT
Forty-three ranch families monitored their rangelands during the project. Among them were Loran Albus, William Anderson, Jack Billingsley, Boucher Ranch, Hugh Brookie, Don Burke, Paul Cornwell, Robert Cotton, Desert Coulee Ranch, Jeri Engstrom, Engstrom Ranch, Sever Enkerud, Gif Fjeld, Rocky Kittleson, Gary Martin, Jack McCuin, Jim McIntyre, Steve Page, Corby Palm, Billy Uphaus, Kendall Vaughn, John Sesen, Wes and Marlyn Orahood, Larry Olson, Ted McIntyre, DeWayne Ozark, Mike Hammond, Allie Olsen, Gary Dix, Leonard Swenson, Matt and Angie Page, Curt Wesen and Sam Olson. Also involved were the Wittmayer and Silver Dollar grazing associations, which include 35 members affected by the monitoring project.

Cooperators in the project are:

John Fahlgren
Bureau of Land Management
501 Court Square, Box 12
Glasgow, MT 59230

Jeff Mosely
Extension Range Management Specialist
Linfield Hall
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717

Bob Fossum, Valley County Conservation District chairman
54062 U.S. Highway 2 West
Glasgow, MT 59230

Natural Resources Conservation Service
Glasgow Office
54062 U.S. Highway 2 West
Glasgow, MT 59230

Research

Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.