Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Refuge takeover renews old feuds

...For others, this remote refuge has become a very different sort of symbol, one that shows how federal agencies can reach out to different groups with different agendas – tribes, environmentalists and ranchers – and find common ground on how to manage the nation’s public lands. These efforts involved a dialogue that stretched over half a decade as people struggled to reach consensus. Their work culminated in a landmark 2013 plan to guide management of the 187,757-acre refuge that – set amid the desert lands of the northern Great Basin – is a crucial stopover for hundreds of migratory bird species. The plan affirmed that cattle, if carefully controlled and monitored, could help achieve refuge management goals, such as knocking back invasive plants. It called for rigorous and ongoing reviews to find out which strategies work, and which don’t, for the federal grazing leases now extended to 13 area ranches. This “adaptive management” is part of a broader American philosophical tradition that celebrates both democracy and the scientific method, according to Nancy Langston, author of a book about the refuge. The plan also has earned the respect of the cattleman whose herd has grazed on refuge pasture over the past couple of weeks...more

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