Monday, February 22, 2010

Rangelands could go off the sick list

Western history is replete with bloody chapters about the battle for control of vast stretches of rangelands. The legacy from countless land disputes with murky resolutions is polluted streams, noxious weeds, grasslands depleted from overgrazing and record wildfires. But in a rare display of cooperation, several government agencies and ranchers in northern Utah are working together to prove that the landscape can be healed and those ills combatted on a grand scale. A project has been proposed to improve 136,000 acres of rangeland in Rich County that's nearly twice the area of Salt Lake City. Livestock are an integral part of the plan, which would combine a patchwork of Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and state grazing areas into a single management unit. The number of cattle and sheep on public lands would remain the same. But under so-called, time-controlled grazing, livestock would be rotated across the range throughout the season. Only 20 percent of the land would be open for grazing at any given time, and herds would be frequently moved so that plants would be bitten once, rather than multiple times. Pastures also would be opened at different times each season, allowing a diversity of plant life to reseed. "No one agency, industry or individual is to blame for poor rangelands," said Bill Hopkin, who is director of the state's Grazing Improvement Program and is also spearheading the project. "It's going to take a cooperative effort to improve the landscape." more

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