Grazing resumes on fire-scarred land


SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Ranchers in Idaho and Oregon have begun grazing their cattle again on some of the thousands of acres burned in wildfires in 2015.

The Bureau of Land Management has allowed grazing to resume on 48 of the 84 pastures on affected allotments in southwest Idaho and southeast Oregon, the Capital Press in Salem reported Tuesday.

A decision on whether to resume grazing on the remaining 36 pastures is expected to come later this month, said Peter Torma, Soda Fire project manager for the bureau.

The bureau closed off the 279,000 acres (436 square miles) of scorched land for grazing for two growing seasons under a restoration plan following the fire.

The loss of the grazing land after the fire increased expenses for ranchers, said Ted Blackstock, who was one of the many ranchers affected by the blaze. Blackstock will be able use some of his grazing allotment again this winter.

“It wiped out all of our feed for that year and the next year,” Blackstock said. “It’s been very expensive for our ranch, having to find all that feed.”

In addition to the efforts to restore the scorched land, the bureau is planning to make it more resilient to fires by maintaining 30 miles of targeted grazing fuel breaks.

The bureau plans to create a 200-foot (60-meter) buffer area on the sides of roads where the grass will be trimmed down, said Lance Okeson, a fuels program coordinator for the bureau. The breaks aim to help reduce the spread of fires and protect the land that has been restored.

“We’re trying to develop these techniques with the operators on the landscape, without a bunch of extensive fencing,” Okeson said. “We’ve done some small-scale stuff like this, but we’re trying to take it a little farther than that.”