BLM Logo
Release Date: 08/11/14
Contacts: Nika Lepak (BLM) , 208-373-3810  
  John Biar (ISDA) , 208-332-8566  

BLM and ISDA Partner with Ranchers to Monitor Rangeland Health in Idaho

BOISE, ID – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) announced the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will provide a framework for cooperative monitoring by ranchers and public land managers to improve the health of Idaho’s public rangelands. The MOU demonstrates the proactive partnership effort by the agencies and participating grazing permittees for the cooperative collection and use of photo monitoring data, which are used to track changes in the health of public rangelands managed by the BLM in Idaho. The effort will be coordinated and facilitated by the ISDA, with the participation of the University of Idaho Cooperative Extension Agency (U of I) and the Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission (IRRC).

BLM Idaho State Director Tim Murphy said the overall purpose of this MOU is to increase the level of participation and coordination between the agencies and permittees in collecting Rangeland Health Assessment monitoring photos and data. The information supplements data collected by BLM and is used in ongoing adaptive rangeland management and for making management decisions on public land allotments during BLM’s grazing permit renewal process.

“Repeated photographs taken at permanent locations are an effective and efficient component of rangeland monitoring,” Murphy explained. “Repeat photographs of landscape locations and photo plots help provide basic documentation of range trends and help us interpret quantitative data. Ranchers are out on grazing allotments managing their livestock and fixing fences throughout the year; participation in photo monitoring increases the focus and emphasis on range conditions in their day-to-day management activities.”

ISDA Director Celia Gould said, “All parties involved will benefit by realizing an increase in the frequency of photo monitoring at established sites, as well as an increase in the number of allotments and acres being monitored with photos. Photo points are especially well adapted for use by permittees who are interested in monitoring their allotments. The photo points require minimal equipment and are easy to set up and retake.”

In signing the MOU, Gould said the Idaho State Department of Agriculture is excited about this new cooperative initiative and is committed to it because of the invaluable benefits the annual, long-term trend data will afford both the agencies and the ranching community in making timely, well informed resource management decisions based on credible information. “This additional information will provide us greater opportunities to collectively share and better interpret real-time, visible range conditions,” she said.

Murphy said, “In working cooperatively like this with Idaho’s ranchers, ISDA, the University of Idaho and the public, we are seeing a promising new era of collaboration and cooperation where together we are able to make more timely and effective management decisions and better utilize our collective resources.”

“Another recent example of effectively working together is the continuing development of Idaho’s Rural Fire Protection Associations (RFPAs),” Gould said. “RFPAs are eligible to apply for grants from the State of Idaho for additional firefighting equipment, while the BLM is providing the associations required firefighting training. By working together with ranchers, we are gaining additional firefighting resources in Idaho for quicker, more efficient first-response local rangeland firefighting capabilities.”

Murphy said that while the professional expertise of rangeland resource professionals is used to evaluate and interpret all of the information collected and available during the Rangeland Health Assessment Evaluation and Determination process, photo monitoring data, historic knowledge and practical experience from the permittees is crucially important in the permit renewal process.

The BLM and ISDA are joining together to encourage grazing permittees and other interested parties to consider participating in this program, which will assist in maintaining the healthy rangelands and sustainable livestock grazing practices. Participating permittees would coordinate with ISDA and BLM to complete photo monitoring at selected sites on their grazing allotments each year throughout the term of their grazing permit(s). Expected benefits include increasing the amount of information available to BLM for grazing permit renewal decisions, and increased mutual understanding of grazing allotment conditions and trends.

The IRRC and University of Idaho Cooperative Extension Agency have held several workshops since 2013 to provide photo monitoring training to ranchers and permittees. These workshops will be available again in 2015 in multiple locations throughout Idaho. In 2014, approximately 80 people participated in the workshops, which were held in Salmon and locations in the Magic Valley. Participants in the cooperative monitoring program will be expected to attend one of these one-day workshops to ensure training needs are met.

Anyone interested in participating in or learning more about more about the cooperative photo monitoring program is encouraged to contact: Brooke Jacobson, ISDA Rangeland Program Monitoring Specialist, at (208) 332-8561 email or John Biar, ISDA Range Program Specialist, at (208) 332-8566 email

Read the MOU.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to manage and conserve the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations under our mandate of multiple-use and sustained yield. In Fiscal Year 2014, the BLM generated $5.2 billion in receipts from public lands.

Last updated: 08-13-2014