What Does the Range Program Do?
The Range Program provides technical assistance to private landowners and land management agencies (both federal and state) throughout the year. Team members strive to meet the needs of a community which relies on a multiple use and a predominantly federally managed landscape, while also promoting private property rights. Range staff strive to create positive, long term, cooperative relationships between the Conservation District, Sublette County landowners, and land management agency personnel.
The staff consists of a team whose expertise is natural resource based, but with broad enough experience to create a program capable to assist with a variety of projects in an area where a “one size fits all” approach does not work. This allows the program to be flexible enough to assist with constantly shifting priorities of policy and land management agencies (i.e. permit renewals, energy development, wildlife habitat, etc.), while endorsing overlapping opportunities and goals that benefit community members and multiple resource demands.
What are we up to this year?
In 2017‐2018, SCCD Range Staff assisted with monitoring on over 975,000 acres (public land) in Sublette County. 152,000 acres are currently in Forage Re‐serve or Vacant status with the USFS. Monitoring of these allotments is meant to provide vegetative status to decision makers that can then analyze the re‐issuing of grazing permits. All other acres are tied to deeded lands within Sublette County. Range staff implemented the first year of the Greater North La Barge Ecological Site Inventory which included the collection of vegetation and soils data on 67 sites. This project covers 116,000 BLM acres within 18 grazing allotments. In addition to the ESI project, the range program monitored 47 upland and riparian sites as part of the Rangeland Health Assessment Grant Program and Cooperative Monitoring we participate in across the county.
SCCD is currently supporting range projects in a variety of landscapes across the county through the provision of either staff time or funding. See below to learn more:
Watershed & Vegetation Inventory Projects
Conservation Collaboration and Cooperative Partnerships
Rangeland Health Assessment Grants
What is RHAP? The Rangeland Health Assessment Program is a grant program administered through the Wyoming Department of Agriculture. The RHAP program began in 2010 and has been providing an avenue for cooperative monitoring, education, and important data collection since its inception. According to the Department of Ag, “The RHAP program’s principal focus is centered on the cooperative involvement of all parties, beginning with the design of the project, education related to methodology, through all phases of monitoring, leading to sustainable grazing now and into the future. This program provides an avenue for the permittees to be more involved in adaptive management strategies, founding decisions based on scientifically defensible data, and credible monitoring data for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements essential for permit renewals.” RHAP grants are applied for and awarded funds for the project are managed by SCCD.
Why would I want to enter into a grant agreement? Facilitates on the ground conversations between permittees and land managers and leads to collaborative monitoring and the collection of viable data that can be used to guide future management decisions as well as providing data for permit renewal.
Cooperative Monitoring (Non-Grant Related)
What is Cooperative Monitoring? Cooperative Monitoring allows for all parties (SCCD, Permittees, and Federal Land Managers) to discuss goals and objectives for allotment monitoring. These goals, objectives and data collection assist in maintaining rangeland health and productivity of the allotment, collecting baseline data that can be used for trend analysis, future management, and permit renewal. Goals and objectives are set for each allotment by all parties involved in the cooperative monitoring. Every allotment and management situation can be different, so these conversations are very helpful in getting started.
What is the output of cooperative monitoring projects?
Cooperative Monitoring Plans
Annual Monitoring Reports
Greater North LaBarge Ecological Site Inventory (ESI)
The SCCD range program is active in two cooperative grant agreements with the BLM to obtain a better understanding of the watershed and landscape health and function on the Greater North LaBarge area in the southern part of the county. The ESI project is aimed at collecting data that will help managers understand the ecological condition and function of plant communities within the boundaries of the project area which will, in turn, inform future Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decisions. Specific objectives for this project include, correlating sites to their appropriate Ecological Site using available soils data and on the ground soils pit information. SCCD will also collect vegetation data at each site that can help with correlation and also provide plant community characteristics information as well as production and habitat information.
Big Piney - LaBarge Watershed Restoration Project
The SCCD Range staff is also actively collecting watershed inventory data through the Big Piney - LaBarge Watershed Restoration Project. This cooperative grant agreement with the BLM Pinedale Field Office is aimed at jumpstarting a multi-watershed wide project in the same southern portion of Sublette County. Data collected within the initial project area will help identify areas of concern that may be contributing to accelerated erosion in the area; leading to the movement of sediment and salts into the upper Green River.
Data collected in association with these projects will help drive further assessments, assist with understanding the geology and plant community function within this sensitive area of the county and most importantly it can help guide future watershed restoration projects and guide on the ground management of the project area.
Cliff Creek Project
The SCCD range program is active in post fire recovery projects within Sublette County. In 2016 the Cliff Creek Fire burned approximately 34,000 acres of the Upper Hoback Drainage. The majority of the acreage burned was in active cattle grazing pastures. In order to ensure the burned area was given time to revegetate without additional pressures and impacts of grazing, a fence was built to keep livestock off of the burned area within the Cliff Creek pasture. SCCD, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Sublette County Weed and Pest, United States Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, and local ranchers worked together to obtain a grant for funding to build and maintain this fence for two years. The grant funding also helped SCCD provide a seasonal rider to patrol the area for noxious weeds and move cattle out of the burn. By actively pursuing the rehabilitation of the Cliff Creek fire in this area, local conservation groups and public resource managers will succeed in minimizing the effects of erosion, combating the spread of noxious weeds and providing for the most efficient recovery of wildlife habitat.