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On the Range in Central Asia

by Mitch Iverson, South Dakota Field Office
photos by Tim Burke, BLM California

BLM employees meeting with village leader

Mitch Iverson and Lou Hagener talk with a village leader about Protected Areas. 
Iverson and Tajik officials talking about water quality issues

Mitch Iverson discusses water quality and riparian issues with Tajik officials.

BLM employees inspect range conditions

Lou Hagener, Mitch Iverson and interpreter Backhtiyor Nakhshiniev inspect range conditions near the Tajikistan/Uzbekistan border. 

Two Montana/Dakotas BLM employees got out of their normal range last summer through the DOI’s International Technical Assistance Program (ITAP).

In August 2008, Mitch Iverson (South Dakota Field Office) and Lou Hagener(retired, Havre Field Station) spent nearly a month in Tajikistan working with Tajik officials on rangeland management issues. 

Tajkistan is a former Soviet republic bordered by Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, and other former Soviet republics. It is very poor and densely populated. Mountains dominate the landscape; the highest peak is more than 27,000 feet in elevation. Tajikistan is a Muslim country influenced by Asian and Middle Eastern cultures. Land within and around “Protected Areas” is administered by the Tajikistan government and has varying degrees of management; commercial uses such as grazing and logging are allowed in some areas, while others are fully protected from all human activities. 

The Protected Areas functioned fairly well under Soviet rule. Unfortunately, a civil war that erupted soon after Tajikistan declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1993 resulted in their uncontrolled use. They have been heavily impacted by wild fires, poaching, overgrazing by livestock, refuge settlements, and excessive firewood harvest.

After the cease fire in 1998, management of the parks remained ineffective. In 2008, CARE International sent in an ITAP team of BLM range specialists to assess the situation and recommend solutions. The BLM range specialists met with Tajik forestry personnel, Protected Area staff, the Agriculture Ministry, village leaders, and university officials to identify problems and search for solutions.   

The ITAP team hiked into the protected areas and camped in the Gissar Mountain Range to look at conditions and talk with herders and locals. The team found the Tajiks to be friendly, gracious people. Most Tajiks the team met were very surprised to see Americans as travel to this country was limited until recently.

At the end of the tour, the team met with Tajiki officials to present its findings and recommendations. Tajik officials were receptive to the ideas brought forth to create orderly and controlled grazing while providing benefits to local communities. After returning to the states, the ITAP team developed and presented a report to CARE International and Tajik officials. The report was given wide distribution to other relief agencies working in the country. Although conditions were very primitive, all team members found the experience worthwhile and rewarding.

The United National Development Program is now taking over the project to implement many of the recommendations of the ITAP Team.



Last updated: 06-28-2012