December 16, 2005
BLM updates grazing study
A federal grazing study that has gone on for five years and has thus far cost
over $368 for every cow and calf grazed on a new national monument is a bit
closer to completion.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management last week mailed out an update to its grazing
study of the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument, a 52,940-acre patch of federal
lands east of Ashland, Ore., that feeds about 543 cow-calf pairs each summer
on seven allotments.
Howard Hunter, the BLM planner in charge of the monument studies, said most
studies will come to an end in 2006 and will face another year of analysis before
the agency decides if it will allow grazing to continue.
Weve already spent $1 million on this, Hunter said, and costs
to wrap up the project are unclear.
The 11 ranchers involved on the allotment have tried for three years to arrange
a buyout brokered by environmental groups boosting a cow-free monument. The
hangup has been settling on a price that would allow relocation of livestock
and the base ranches on private property.
A provision of the executive order reads: Should grazing be found incompatible
with protecting the objects of biological interest, the Secretary (of Interior)
shall retire the grazing allotments pursuant to the process of applicable law.
Two historic allotments are vacant. Hunter said they werent in use when
President Clinton created the monument in June 2000, and the BLM doesnt
want to offer them now with the possibility they would be canceled if the mandated
grazing study concludes cattle are no longer welcome.
Following terms of the executive order, the BLM had to inventory the complex
ecological communities that exist where the Cascade and Siskiyou mountains come
together, then observe and measure impact of seasonal grazing that runs June
Hunter said the breadth of the study is far beyond anything the BLM does when
it does renewals of grazing allotments.
For this study it hired a range scientist and a team of field data collectors,
who have been at it for four years. The 94-page update to the study plan issued
last week doesnt have any data.
This is really a guide to the statistical methods we used, the data we
will collect ... and the protocols for how we collect the data, Hunter
Preliminary findings will be issued in 2006. Hunter promised that
the process will be transparent. In many ways for these studies, its
the first time they have been done.
The BLM identified 33 special status plants within the monument.
It gave special status to 45 animal species.
Beyond that, dozens of species of butterflies and other insects roam the forest,
and its streams have seldom-seen fish and snails beneath the surface.
The monument has been controversial since then-Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt
began holding meetings with locals in 1999.
Information on the monument studies is on the Internet at www.or.blm.gov/Medford/CSNM.
Among the most contentious issue was a boundary that includes more than 40,000
acres of private lands within the monument. Pilot Rock, a column of basalt seen
from both sides of the Siskiyous, and Soda Mountain, an ancient ridgetop east
of the rock are landmarks in the mostly timbered area.
The Soda Mountain Wilderness Council, which pushed designation of the monument,
still advocates a 23,000-acre wilderness area. The BLM designated a study area
of less than 6,000 acres that remains a question mark along with the future
of grazing. Information on the monument studies is on the Internet at www.or.blm.gov/Medford/CSNM.