Grazing EA is out

© 2017-Sublette Examiner

SUBLETTE COUNTY – Right on schedule, April 11, the environmental assessment (EA) and proposed decision record are complete for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to authorize temporary grazing permits “when there is above-average snowpack” affecting livestock grazing.

The EA was required as a foundation for BLM Pinedale Field Office Manager (PFO) Caleb Hiner to issue “temporary nonrenewable” permits (TNR) – and in an unusual partnership, the deed was achieved within a very short time frame for this spring.

Hiner issued his draft decision letter April 11 with a “finding of no significant impact” (FONSI). The PFO includes Sublette and part of Lincoln counties.

An EA was sufficient for this action and gives the PFO authority to shift the season of use up to 30 days on the end of a permit. The BLM is not authorizing any changes in number, kind or class of livestock or roads.

The announcement is followed by a 15-day comment period through April 26.

“The feedback has been fairly positive,” Hiner said Monday.

Permittees must apply for the TRNs, to be considered case by case. They also must show the actual delay and report use at the end of the TNR.

BLM permittees start on the high desert “usually in the first part of May” with staggered dates for going on and off allotments, and the dates were as good as set in stone.

In early March, BLM’s Kyle Hansen told a Green River Valley Cattlemen’s Association audience that those with BLM permits might not be able to turn out their livestock in the first part of May, due to heavy and deep snowfall last winter that is still melting and flooding in some places. The hard winter will likely lead to late “green-up” and he wanted ranchers to be aware there might be a delay.

Even harder on those with permits would be a delay in turning out on Forest Service (FS) allotments, usually June 15, which many move to when their BLM grazing permits end. Hansen warned ranchers that if the FS spring forage wasn’t high enough to accommodate livestock, they would not be able to leave their cattle (or sheep) on the BLM past their permitted dates.

With different herds mingling on large common grazing allotments away from home pastures, bringing them home or finding temporary pasture would be a costly and time-consuming enterprise. If the livestock was left longer than permits allow, the ranchers could also be fined for trespass on the BLM.

Conservations began that day with officials and ranchers mulling over next month’s potential roadblock, which could arrive in less than two months.

After speaking with Hiner and county commissioners, Sublette County Conservation District (SCCD) manager Mike Henn asked his staff about developing the EA in a very short time to provide a foundation with Eco Research Group filling in the socioeconomic portion.

“It was a big group effort,” Henn acknowledged.

Hiner said his PFO staff is extremely busy but he wanted to accomplish this as soon as possible: “I really appreciate the SCCD being able to assist us.”

To read the EA, FONSI and decision letter, use the link http://tinyurl.com/k315h58.

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