Wild Utah Project's Grazing Related Efforts
In recent years, a clearer picture of rangeland ecosystems, and what it truly means for them to be healthy and functioning, has emerged. For example, new knowledge on plant community state-and-transition models has better identified influencing threshold transitions between 'states', thus identifying remedies for correcting problems. For nearly a decade, Wild Utah Project and many partners have been assessing the condition of rangelands in Utah and elsewhere. The conclusions we have reached from our data collection are broad, reflecting the data that we have collected, and are often representative of many grazing allotments found on arid rangelands elsewhere in Utah. The good news is that we have tools and methods at hand that, through ecologically based adaptive management, can bring back range health to degraded lands. Restoring habitat quality also restores productivity, something good for wildlife and the rancher.
tools and studies:
- Grazing Literature Review: We produced a comprehensive literature review on the environmental impacts of desert grazing, with specific attention to grazing impact studies conducted on the Colorado Plateau or in the Intermountain West. This literature review provided the basis for our development of our ecologically-based grazing management model, which we developed for the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, and for many of our comments on federal grazing plans and permit renewals.
Field Monitoring Data: For the past fifteen years Wild Utah Project has conducted tedious, detailed field analysis to test the key monitoring methods the BLM and U.S. Forest Service use in making grazing decisions. We have scores of sample points across the state where we measure things like grass and herbaceous plant production by clipping, bagging and weighing sample frames of plants. Through this data collection, we have discovered that the primary survey process the BLM uses often significantly under reports degraded rangelands.
Idependent Scientific Research Studies: Current Example: our long-term, large scale study at Kennecott Utah Copper investigating the interaction with mechanical sagebrush treatment and the return of livestock grazing. Learn more
- GIS Analysis: We have produced various GIS overlays with sensitive species and habitats, and indicators of grazing pressure (such as cattle density) in order to target high-risk grazing allotments for our conservation partners to comment on, appeal decisions on, or work to retire grazing permits. In particular, we can use GIS to do a forage-based livestock grazing capacity model, in order to set livestock stocking rates at a level that the land can really support. The best, current example of this analysis is our sheep grazing capacity model for the High Uinta Wilderness.
Informing grazing management
We have many examples of using best science, our own field monitoring, and ecological range studies to work to bring about changes to grazing management. Perhaps our best examples are:
- our work to bring grazing management change in the Grand Staircase Escalante Monument. See our coomprehensive grazing guidance document for the Monument
- our efforts to improve grazing management on the Duck Creek allotment in Rich County, UT