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Temporary grazing to provide valuable data
The Pumpkin Creek Area, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, is experiencing something it hasn’t for a while: grazing cattle. BLM’s local media relations spokesperson Mark E. Jacobsen said, “A lot of people locally want to know what we are doing about grazing out there.”
Pumpkin Creek was consolidated to create a block of federal land of more than 20,000 acres for public use. Those uses include rangeland management options, recreation, outdoor education and habitat improvement for wildlife. Jacobsen added, “Particularly in eastern Montana, the BLM can more effectively and efficiently manage a larger block of federal land and habitat for a greater end result versus small scattered tracts with little to no access.”
What the BLM is doing about grazing is issuing a free-use grazing permit to a group of five adjacent landowners who formed the Pumpkin Creek Grazing Association. The permit is an “unique, one-time situation,” according to the BLM information material.
The grazing is being permitted to reduce fire fuels, such as grasses, in an area that has experienced intense wildfire in the recent past. The terms of the temporary permit allowed cattle to enter the area as of May 5 and they must removed once the resource objectives are met or on October 5, whichever comes first.
There are restrictions, including that no permanent improvements are authorized and temporary improvements, such as watering troughs, will be removed when not needed.
In addition to reducing possible fire fuels, this grazing will also allow the BLM to study the effect of cattle grazing on the area. Selected portions of the area will be fenced and screened to prevent grazing so that scientists can study the effect of grazing on the land and plants.
Todd Yeager, field manager for the Miles City office, said this “is a first for this field office.” The BLM intends to study the area intensely to determine the health of the rangeland and the concerns about wildfire. The “scope, scale, and intensity” of the project will provide considerable information for the BLM to allow it to determine the best range management plan for the area.
Reyer Rens will be the supervisor of the range project and will spend considerable time in the Pumpkin Creek area.
Much of the credit for the current experiment goes to the Resources Advisory Committee, a volunteer group that assists the BLM in its management plans. Jacobsen said the RAC said, “Give us a project we can work on” rather than just attend meetings, and this was the project.
Working with the Tongue River Chapter of Pheasants Forever, the RAC facilitated with meetings, according to Jacobsen. “People were sometimes more willing to talk to the RAC members than to the BLM,” he said. There are fifteen members of the Eastern Montana RAC. Membership on the RAC is balanced to reflect various interest and users of ublic lands. Category One is comprised of five members representing commodity interests such as livestock grazing, timber, energy and mining, off-highway vehicle groups and developed recreation. Category Two is comprised of five members representing environmental organizations, historic & culture interests, wildlife organizations, wild horses & burros, and dispersed recreation. Category Three is comprised of five members representing elected officials, Tribes, state or other governmental agencies, academicians involved in natural sciences, and the public-at-large.
The members are Thomas Hohn of Columbus; Doug Kary of Billings; Bradley Clark of Gillette, Wyo., Mark Cole of Forsyth; Larry Philster of Alzada; Becky Kallevig of Sidney; Art Hayes III of Birney; Rita Harding of Billings; Ralph Bukoskey of Rosebud; Harold Guse of Billings; Tim Lehman of Billings; Calvin Cumin of Shepherd; Bill Kennedy of Billings; and Lance Kalfell of Terry. There is currently a vacancy in category two.
A sub-committee of seven primarily worked on the Pumpkin Creek Area grazing issue.