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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
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Chapter 6
Livestock Grazing Management

Standards for Rangeland or Ecosystem Health

The following standards were developed to accomplish the four fundamentals of rangeland or ecosystem health, in-so-far as they are affected by livestock grazing practices. The Caliente Resource Area, however, intends to apply these standards to all public lands within its jurisdiction regardless if they are authorized for livestock grazing. The four fundamentals of rangeland or ecosystem health are:

A. Watersheds are properly functioning,
B. Ecological processes are in order,
C. Water Quality complies with State standards, and
D. Habitats of protected species are in order.

A "standard" serves as the criterion to determine if management actions are resulting in the maintenance or attainment of healthy rangelands per the four fundamentals of rangeland or ecosystem health. Standards are expressions of physical and biological conditions or degree of function required for healthy, sustainable rangelands or ecosystems.  "Guidelines" serve as the vehicle to implement management actions to accomplish rangeland or ecosystem health standards. Guidelines will indicate the methods and practices determined to be appropriate to ensure that standards can be met. The public should be an active participant in the application of these standards and guidelines. The specific "Guidelines" for livestock grazing management within the Caliente Resource Area are discussed in a subsequent part of this section.

Using the standards and guidelines, the local BLM managers, in consultation with lessees/permittees and other interested parties, will determine "terms and conditions" for each authorization. These terms and conditions are the specific practices that are appropriate for that area, lease or allotment. BLM lands vary so greatly in topography, climate, soils, water availability, size and distribution of parcels, and other factors, that local managers must have the flexibility needed to determine which practices will work best in each area, and to change those practices when necessary to achieve the desired rangeland or ecosystem conditions. The application of these standards and guidelines will emphasize using the best available information for a site-specific situation, and the results of historical use patterns should be given significant weight in any decisions about management practices to be followed on BLM lands. Where historical use has been compatible with meeting the standards for soils, species, riparian areas or water quality, no permanent changes should be mandated in the existing authorization without substantial scientific evidence that changing the existing use pattern will improve the ability to achieve the standards. For any standard, guideline, term, or condition to work, it must be capable of being achieved, based on sound science or good common sense, and be measurable, understandable, and economically feasible.

Successful application of these standards and guidelines will depend on BLM's capability to monitor rangeland conditions and implement management practices. A monitoring and implementation plan that sets priorities based on resource conditions, trends, and resource values will be developed.

Specific Standards of Rangeland or Ecosystem Health

Standard: SOILS

Soils exhibit functional biological and physical characteristics that are appropriate to soil type, climate, and land form.

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Meaning That:

Precipitation is able to enter the soil surface at appropriate rates; the soil is adequately protected against accelerated erosion; and the soil fertility is maintained at appropriate levels.

As Indicated By:

  • Ground cover (vegetation and other types of ground cover such as rock) is sufficient to protect sites from accelerated erosion.
  • Litter/residual dry matter evident, in sufficient amounts to protect the soil surface.
  • A diversity of plant species, with a variety of root depths, is present and plants are vigorous during the growing season.
  • There is minimal evidence of accelerated erosion in the form of rills, gullies, pedestaling of plants or rocks, flow patterns, physical soil crusts/surface sealing, or compaction layers below the soil surface
  • Biological (microphytic) soil crusts are in place where appropriate.

Standard: SPECIES

Healthy, productive and diverse populations of native species, including special status species (Federal T&E, Federal proposed, Federal candidates, BLM sensitive, or Calif. State T&E) are maintained or enhanced where appropriate.

Meaning That:

Native and other desirable plants and animals are diverse, vigorous, able to reproduce and support the hydrologic cycle, nutrient cycles and energy flows over space and time.

As Indicated By:

  • A variety of age classes are present for most perennial plant species.
  • Plant vigor is adequate to maintain desirable plants and ensure reproduction and recruitment of plants when favorable climatic events occur.
  • The spatial distribution and cover of plant species and their habitats allows for reproduction and recovery from localized catastrophic events.
  • A diversity of plant species with various phenological stages and rooting depths are present on sites where appropriate.
  • Appropriate natural disturbances are evident.
  • Levels of non-native plants and animals are at acceptable levels.
  • Special status species present are healthy and in numbers that appear to ensure stable to increasing populations; habitat areas are large enough to support viable populations or are connected adequately with other similar habitat areas.
  • Adequate organic matter (litter and standing dead plant material) is present for site protection and decomposition to replenish soil nutrients.
  • Where appropriate, biological soil crusts (also called microphytic or cryptogamic soil crusts) are present and not excessively fragmented.

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  • Where appropriate, species composition contributes to the desired plant community objectives. 
  • Noxious and invasive species are contained at acceptable levels.

Standard: RIPARIAN

Riparian/wetland vegetation, structure and diversity and stream channels and floodplains are, or are making significant progress toward, functioning properly and achieving an advanced ecological status.

Meaning That:

The vegetation and soils interact to capture and pass sediment, sustain infiltration, maintain the water table, stabilize the channel, sustain high water quality, and promote biodiversity appropriate to soils, climate, and landform.

As Indicated By:

  • Vegetation Attributes:

  • Vegetation cover is greater than 80% or the percentage that will protect banks and dissipate energy during high flows.
  • Age-class and structure of woody/riparian vegetation is diverse and appropriate for the site.
  • Where appropriate, shading is sufficient to provide adequate thermal regulation for fish and other riparian dependent species.
  • Where appropriate, there is adequate woody debris.
  • A diversity of plant species with various phenological stages and rooting depths are present. Root masses are sufficient to stabilize streambanks and shorelines.
  • Plant species present indicate that soil moisture characteristics are being maintained.
  • There is minimal cover of invader/shallow-rooted species.
  • Adequate organic matter (litter and standing dead plant material) is present to protect the site and to replenish soil nutrients through decomposition.
  • Point bars are vegetated.
  • Physical Indicators:

  • Streambank stability, pool frequency, substrate sediments, stream width, and bank angles are appropriate for the stream type (using D. Rosgen's Stream Classification System).

Standard: WATER QUALITY

Surface and groundwater quality complies with California or other appropriate (e.g., Tribal) water quality standards.

Meaning That:

BLM actions do not contribute to pollution that violates the quantitative or narrative standards of the California and Nevada water quality standards (WQS). Approved Best Management Practices (BMPs) are used to protect water quality or restore water quality to water bodies not fully supporting designated beneficial uses, e.g., water quality limited segments.

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  • As Indicated By:
  • Chemical constituents do not exceed the WQS.
  • Water temperature does not exceed the WQS.
  • Nutrient loads, fecal coliform, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen do not exceed the WQS.
  • Aquatic organisms (e.g., macroinvertebrates, fish, algae, and plants) indicate support for beneficial uses.

Guidelines for Grazing Management

These guidelines were established to describe the types of livestock grazing management actions that are appropriate within the Caliente Resource Area and to ensure that the resource area objectives and the standards for rangeland and ecosystem health could be met while authorizing livestock grazing. These guidelines comply with those proposed by the Bakersfield Resource Advisory Council (RAC) and will be modified as deemed necessary to achieve the previously stated standards of rangeland health. Application of these guidelines to appropriate grazing allotments will occur with consultation of affected grazing lessees/permittees. These guidelines will become the terms and conditions of each authorization as appropriate..

The scientific evidence and collective knowledge of the public and rangeland managers shows a wide variety of grazing effects on plants, animals and watersheds. As a result, the application of these standards and guidelines will emphasize using the best available information for a site-specific situation, and the results of historical grazing patterns should be given significant weight in any decisions about grazing practices to be followed on BLM allotments. Where historical grazing use has been compatible with meeting the standards for soils, species, riparian areas or water quality, no permanent changes should be mandated in the existing grazing patterns without substantial scientific evidence that changing the existing grazing pattern will improve the ability to achieve the standards.

Mulch Management

The vast majority of the rangeland in the Caliente Resource Area is predominantly composed of annual grasses and forbs. Annual plants respond each year to conditions such as rainfall, temperature and soil type, which influence plant germination, early plant growth and establishment. California's annual grasslands vary considerably in productivity and species composition, reflecting the great geographical diversity of the state's average annual precipitation, temperatures, and soils. Although controlling these factors is unimaginable, seasonal management of other variables in conjunction with a knowledge of specific site differences can significantly influence the subsequent year's annual production.

One variable which can be controlled by management is residual dry matter (RDM) - the amount of dry plant material left on the ground from the previous year's growth, expressed in pounds of residual oven dried material per acre. By managing the amount of RDM, or natural mulch, we can effectively influence the soil's water holding capacity and organic content by supporting infiltration and maintaining soil organisms, which in turn support the hydrologic, nutrient and energy flow cycles. Proper RDM levels are also important to protect the soil's stability, and can maintain soil erosion at natural levels. All of these factors contribute to optimizing seedbed conditions and enhancing seed germination and seedling establishment. "Species composition and production of annual ranges is dictated both by the potential of a given site, each season's rainfall, and the appropriate management of the natural mulch" (Bartolome, et al. 1980).

By setting minimum mulch or RDM levels and measuring these levels before livestock are allowed to begin utilizing the annual forage and towards the end of their grazing period, we can better ensure that the soil is

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protected and the range is highly productive for livestock and wildlife in the upcoming year. Managing for mulch will also allow the authorized grazing use to be adjusted with the annual forage production. Increased grazing could be allowed on good forage years, whereas less grazing may be allowed on poor forage years.

Established minimum RDM levels for the Caliente resource are area based upon U.C. Cooperative Extension Service guidelines, the Natural Resources Conservation Service guidelines, and knowledge of local precipitation and soils.  These minimum levels provide for natural deterioration by wind, rain, and wildlife or insects after livestock have been removed. Allocated minimum levels may be adjusted as we learn more about individual sites or refine our objectives.

Allotments within the resource area have been grouped into regions that have similar vegetation and rainfall characteristics. Prior to the beginning of grazing for the season, these regions will be sampled for "range readiness", to determine if initial mulch levels and the amount of green forage meets minimum readiness criteria prior to the placement of livestock on the allotments. Representative allotments may be used as indicator allotments for determining initial mulch levels and the amount of active annual grass growth within that region and during that particular season of use, although BLM will make an attempt to visit every allotment within the region.

Near the end of the authorized grazing season, allotments will again be sampled to determine if they are close to, or have already met the minimum threshold mulch levels allocated for that allotment. If mulch levels on the allotment have met or will soon meet the minimum threshold level, livestock will be removed from the allotment regardless of calendar date or the normally scheduled season of use.

Perennial Utilization

Information on utilization of perennial plants by livestock and wildlife can be valuable in determining the health and productivity of rangeland vegetation. Allotments that have been classified as having perennial forages will be monitored for utilization levels and other indicators of community vigor. Grazing administration will focus on "key" perennial species within "key" areas of the allotment. Both key species and key areas are determined during allotment evaluations in consultation with affected grazing lessees/permittees. Other perennial plants may have incidental livestock usage, but the key species will be indicator species which will show signs of utilization first, and are generally more sensitive to grazing pressures. Known indicator species include, but are not limited to, such plants as perennial grasses, Mormon or squaw tea, winterfat, iodine bush, saltbush, and bitterbrush.

Prior to the beginning of the grazing season, allotments with perennial forages will be checked for "range readiness" to determine if sufficient growth has been initiated and rainfall and soil moisture conditions are adequate to maintain plant vigor throughout the scheduled grazing season. During and toward the end of the grazing season, individual allotments will be visited to determine utilization levels and/or form class criteria on key perennial plants. Grazing will be terminated if key areas within these allotments show that the desired utilization levels and/or form classes have been reached.

Resource Trend Monitoring

Periodically, monitoring studies to determine resource trend related to impacts of livestock grazing will be established using various methods. Changes in perennial plant populations over time may by tracked with such factors as species frequency, cover, and composition, among others. Small study exclosures may be erected on selected representative ecological sites for comparison areas. General observations and photo points will also be employed to track trends over time.

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Specific Livestock Management Guidelines (Page 54)

 

San Joaquin Valley listed species habitat is based on the combined current and recent historical ranges of the San Joaquin kit fox, giant kangaroo rat, Fresno kangaroo rat, blunt-nosed leopard lizard, Kern mallow, San Joaquin woolly threads, Hoover´s woolly star, California jewel flower, and Bakersfield cactus.  Within this area certain grazing guidelines.

The giant kangaroo rate haystacking seasonal restriction will apply in "certain" years when early removal is determined to be necessary by USF&WS in conjunction with local species experts, based upon current knowledge of local population health and importance of the seed cache to the population for the year. Upon notification, grazing lessees/permittees will have 7 days in which to remove livestock from the areas of concern within the allotment. Removal may include livestock management techniques such as, water control or temporary fencing.

The Kern primrose sphinx moth is an endangered insect only known from a small area in the Walker Basin area of Kern County.  It was previously thought to be extinct until it´s rediscovery in 1974.  A potential problem for this species is that females consistently deposit eggs on filaree plants instead of the natural larval host plant.  Larva hatched on filaree do not feed and thus die o starvation after a few days.  The level of grazing could influence the amount of filaree in an area.  Filaree is more common on heavier grazed areas, thus our minimum mulch levels would reduce the amount of filaree available for the moths.  As we determine grazing allotments in the Walker Basin area contain suitable habitat for the Kern primrose sphinx moth, we will implement mulch readiness and threshold requirements as described for San Joaquin valley listed species habitat.  Parcels of public land near Walker Basin will be evaluated for the potential for Kern primrose sphinx moth habitat before changing any management prescriptions.

Riparian streams within the resource area were inventoried in 1987 and given riparian site function ratings at that time.  The riparian site function rating provides an overall rating of the hydrologic function for the riparian site being monitored.  The rating, a numerical mean, is based on the evaluation of three independent factors the subsurface water status rating.  Each factor was rated from 1 (poor) to 4 (excellent) using established criteria.  The three ratings were averaged to obtain the overall riparian site function rating for that stream reach.  These 1987 ratings will be used until further classification or observations show a need to change management.

There are several allotments, which were part of the now discontinued Walker Pass CAMP, whose season of use may not currently comply with the guidelines for riparian areas (these are shown on allocation table with Y* in RPRN column).  The allotments whose seasons of use show major deviations from the proposed season of use for their 1987 condition rating will be reviewed and re-evaluated within the first season after issuance of the RMP record of decision.  If these allotments now rate as good to excellent, they may retain their existing season of use, otherwise theier seasons of use will be adjusted to comply with the guideline.  Allotments whose season of use, otherwise their seasons of use will be adjusted to comply with the guideline.  Allotments whose season is not in compliance with the riparian guideline by only a one month deviation will be reviewed and re-evaluated within two seasons from the issuance of the record of decision with the same consequences as above.

Riparian prescriptions can be accomplished by treating the entire allotment or pasture, or by fencing out the riparian area completely.

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Selective Management Categories for Grazing Allotments

The Bureau began categorizing allotments upon the issuance of Instruction Memorandum No. 82-292 on March 5, 1982. That memorandum established the selective management approach to rangeland management. The selective management policy is intended to provide a logical and consistent system of prioritizing management implementation needs by identifying those allotments needing the most management emphasis in regards to capabilities at hand. Currently, this policy is used only at the option of area offices. The Caliente Resource Area has redefined the categories and criteria described in the Draft RMP to put emphasis on values to prioritize management efforts. The following three categories have been developed:

(I) Intensive: Concentrate effort in areas which require intensive management.

(M) Moderate: Provide moderate level of effort to maintain condition or effect change.

(C) Continue: Manage custodially, while protecting existing resource values and condition.

The following standard and optional criteria are being used in the Caliente Resource Area to place allotments into the three identified categories.

Standard Criteria Used to Categorize Grazing Allotments

 

Selective Management Category  (Page 57)

After evaluating an allotment and selecting a management category for each of the standard criteria, an obvious category assignment is usually indicated.  However, in the instance that the scores between two management classes for a given allotment are even after applying the standard criteria, then the optional criteria are used to make the final category assignment.

The identification of management categories is a dynamic process.  When the resource situation of an allotment changes following the implementation of management decisions, the allotment may be recategorized.  The monitoring to support recategorization need not be limited to the type of monitoring typically used to manage livestock grazing (i.e., utilization, mulch, actual use, weather, trend and condition).  Information from any source apparent and justify the need for recategorization.  The categories printed in the allocation table of this document reflect previously determined categories.  The Resource Area staff, in cooperation and consultation with affected grazing lesses/permittes and interested parties, will re-evaluate and categorize each allotment in order to determine management emphasis for the future.

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Grazing Allocations (Page 58 - 60) 

Guidelines for New Grazing Allotments

1. Applicant must be qualified as per 43 CFR 4110.1 and 4110.2-1. Conflicting applications for new allotments will be handled as per 43 CFR 4130.1-2. (Priority will be given to those applicants who have had a previous authorization canceled for reasons other than non-compliance with 43 CFR.)

2. Public lands applied for are shown as available for grazing in map packet.

3. The use level applied for is within the estimated carrying capacity for the public lands as determined by the authorized officer.

4. The season of use applied for is compatible with the forage resource requirements for good vigor, reproduction and sustainability.

5. Monitoring can be accomplished at the appropriate levels to verify prescription implementation and effectiveness.

6. Range improvements needed for proper management must be in place or constructed prior to activation of grazing authorizations.

7. Residual impacts to sensitive resources are not significant.

8. Livestock grazing will be managed in a manner to meet the standards for rangeland health.

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