U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT

Rangelands

Rangeland Management

Rangeland

The Taylor Grazing Act (1938) was passed to protect public lands and their resources from degradation, to provide orderly use to improve and develop public rangelands, and to stabilize the livestock industry. It established a system for allotting grazing privileges on Federal land to livestock operators based on grazing capacity and use priority, and for the characterization of allotment boundaries. The Act also established standards for rangeland improvements and implemented grazing fees. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA; 1976) and the Public Rangelands Improvement Act (PRIA; 1978) also provide authority for managing grazing on public lands.

The 1996 rangeland reform process modified the grazing regulations in 43 CFR 4100. Specifically, 43 CFR 4180 was added to address the fundamentals of rangeland health to "...promote healthy sustainable rangeland ecosystems; to accelerate restoration and improvement of public rangelands to properly functioning conditions... and to provide for the sustainability of the western livestock industry and communities that are dependent upon productive, healthy public rangelands."

A summary of the rangeland management program in Oregon/Washington BLM can be found here.

Rangeland Health Assessments

The Standards for Rangeland Health and Guidelines for Livestock Grazing Management for Public Lands Administered by the Bureau of Land Management in the States of Oregon and Washington were approved in 1997 and serve as the basis for assessing and monitoring current rangeland conditions and trend. The five standards are as follows:

  • Standard 1: Watershed Function - Upland soils exhibit infiltration and permeability rates, moisture storage, and stability that are appropriate to soil, climate, and landform.
  • Standard 2: Watershed Function - Riparian/wetland areas are in properly functioning physical condition appropriate to soil, climate, and landform.
  • Standard 3: Ecological Processes - Healthy, productive, and diverse plant and animal populations and communities appropriate to soil, climate, and landform are supported by ecological processes of nutrient cycling, energy flow, and the hydrologic cycle.
  • Standard 4: Water Quality - Surface water and groundwater quality, influenced by agency actions, complies with State water quality standards.
  • Standard 5: Native, Threatened and Endangered, and Locally Important Species - Habitats support healthy, productive, and diverse populations and communities of native plants and animals (including special status species and species of local importance) appropriate to soil, climate, and landform.

Assessments have been completed on most allotments within the Lakeview District. Copies of completed assessments for these allotments are available here.

Ecological Site Inventory

Ecological Site Inventory or ESI is the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) rangeland vegetation and (Order 3) soil survey method. In the early 1980s, the ESI methodology replaced several other forms of rangeland survey.

In order to inventory and assess the conditions of rangelands they must be divided into basic units of study. On rangelands and some forest lands this is called an ecological site. An ecological site is a distinctive kind of land with specific physical characteristics that differs from other kinds of land in its ability to produce a distinctive kind and amount of vegetation. An ecological site is the product of all the environmental factors responsible for its development, and it has a set of key characteristics that are included in the ecological site description.

Ecological sites have characteristic soils, hydrology, and plant communities. The development of the vegetation, the soil, and the hydrology of a given ecological site are all interrelated. Each is influenced by the others and influences the development of the others.

Ecological site descriptions describe the best estimate of the Historic Climax Plant Community for that specific ecological site following the parameters and guidelines noted above. It is generally the plant community that existed before European immigration and settlement. It is not a precise assemblage of species for which the proportions are the same from place to place or from year to year, but rather defines a range of variability that would be expected in the absence of "unnatural" disturbance. This vegetation community is more commonly called the Potential Natural Community (PNC).

When describing current vegetation, the existing plant community is compared against the ecological site description, to see how much it has in common. In other words, how close does the current community comes to the PNC? The classes are defined as follows:

  • Potential Natural Community: 76-100% like the PNC
  • Late Seral: 51-75% like the PNC
  • Mid Seral: 26-50% like the PNC
  • Early Seral: 26-50% like the PNC

An ESI was completed across most of the Lakeview District between 1983 and 2004. This inventory was performed in cooperation with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The BLM had the lead responsibility for collecting data on BLM-administered lands while the NRCS was responsible for private and some Forest Service lands within Lake, Klamath, and Harney Counties.

The NRCS published the soil data in paper format for the southern third of Lake County (officially referred to as the "South Lake County Survey"). Copies of the soil maps/reports are available at local NRCS Offices. Soil mapping for Klamath and Harney Counties was not published in paper form. Instead, the NRCS digitized all of this soil survey data for use in a digital geographic information system (GIS). This data is available from their website at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/site/soils/home. The vegetation data is available in a digital GIS format from the Lakeview District Office.

The results of this inventory have been used for rangeland health assessments, allotment evaluations, grazing permit renewals, and both land use and project scale planning efforts. For more information on this inventory, or to request a copy of this data, contact Paul Whitman or Shannon Theall at 541-947-2177.

Grazing Permit Renewals

The issuance or renewal of an individual term grazing permit represents a "step-down" action that implements the grazing management direction previously approved in the governing land use plan or an allotment management plan. Permits may be issued for up to 10 years and include specific terms and conditions. In a given year BLM receives a number of requests to issue new grazing permits, renew expiring permits, or transfer permits from one party to another. The following link contains a list of allotments where permit authorizations will likely be considered in the current fiscal year.