Miles City to host Montana Range Days, June 15-17

Montana Range Days, the largest rangeland educational event in the region, will be held in Miles City, June 15-17. More than 300 youth and adults are expected to join rangeland experts for three days to discuss rangeland management and the ecology of Montana’s most abundant natural resource.

Montana Range Days provides hands-on workshops on plant anatomy, plant identification, range site evaluation, monitoring, stocking rate calculation and range management planning. A series of well-supervised activities are offered to teach 4-to-8-year-old children about soils, water, plants and the animals that live on rangelands. Following the workshops, competitions are open to youth and adults in four age classes beginning with 9-year-olds. In addition to prizes for the competitions, three $1,000 scholarships are offered for students planning to attend any Montana college to earn a degree in rangeland-related fields. The Office of Public Instruction is also offering continuing education credits for all kindergarten through 12th grade teachers attending.

Tours will be offered for adults each day of the event. The first tour will be to the Pine Hills east of Miles City, to discuss general rangeland ecology and the less obvious factors that affect range management. Participants will tour the facilities at the Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory and visit research sites with scientists examining fire, drought, range animal nutrition, and invasive weeds. The final tour discusses sage grouse habitat with experts on the birds’ food sources, mating grounds and nesting requirements.

Montana Range Days will begin 1:00 p.m., June 15, at the Eastern Montana Fairgrounds with a guided practice at the range study site and the Pine Hills tour. Camping space, restrooms and showers will be available at the fairgrounds. Registration is open at a discounted rate until June 1. For more information, contact Jan Pratt at (406) 853-3388 or visit the website www.cartercd.org.

“Making It Work in Tough Times” workshop to be held June 2 in Geyser

The 2009 Judith Basin County Range School will offer a day-long workshop June 2 in Geyser, Mont., on managing cattle and grazing lands in today’s uncertain economy.

The workshop, “Making It Work in Tough Times,” will feature speakers Gregg Doud, Chief Economist for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA); David Pratt, CEO of Ranch Management Consultants, Inc.; and Montana’s own Jon Siddoway, NRCS State Range Conservationist.

Mr. Doud currently manages top-level economic and international trade policy issues for the NCBA in Washington, D.C., and co-staffs the policy division of the NCBA International Markets Committee. Mr. Doud’s presentation is entitled, “Survival of the Fittest.”

David Pratt has extensive experience in Range and Livestock with the California Extension Service and has been teaching the international Ranching for Profit School since 1992. Mr. Pratt will speak on “The Three Keys to Profit in Good Times and Bad” as well as “Ecological Concepts of Grazing Management”.

Jon Siddoway holds a bachelor and masters degrees in Rangeland Management. He has been working with ranchers all over the state of Montana for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for 20 years. Mr. Siddoway will take attendees on a “pasture walk” aimed at helping them read the signs of over-rest and over-use on grazing lands.

“Making It Work in Tough Times” is brought to you in part by the Montana Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative. This event will be held at the Brett and Penny Noland Ranch, located 5 miles south of Geyser, Mont. Registration is $10 and includes lunch for the day. Registration is due by May 15, 2009, at the Judith Basin Conservation District. For more information please call Teresa Wilhelms at (406) 566-2311 extension 107.

Governor Vetoes Agriculture Funding

Montana’s Governor Brian Schweitzer line-item vetoed $2 million for deferred maintenance of Montana Agriculture Experiment Stations. Montana’s entire agriculture industry worked very hard to get this funding during the legislature. Agriculture is still Montana’s number one economic engine and this funding had bipartisan support to help keep our agriculture research experiment stations on the cutting edge of global agriculture production. Right here in Montana! I have talked to many in agriculture about this and they are very upset and very dissapointed. To read the full article go to: http://www.billingsgazette.net/articles/2009/05/15/news/state/18-governor.txt

Governors Fight Disease Plan

Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal and Governor Butch Otter of Idaho are asking USDA APHIS to slow down on their plans to implement the National Brucellosis Eliminations Zone. To read the full article go to the Billings Gazette website at: http://www.billingsgazette.net/articles/2009/05/07/news/wyoming/44-fightdisease.txt

The Montana Stockgrowers Association along with the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association and the Idaho Cattlemen’s Association are all supportive of the joint letter by the two governors. MSGA sent a similar letter on April 22nd to USDA APHIS.

MSGA Says “NO” to Mandatory NAIS

The Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) opposes any proposed mandatory government National Animal Identification System (NAIS) because the organization feels such a system cannot sufficiently protect producer data, and any government program is likely to grow into a large bureaucracy complete with red tape and unnecessary expense to producers. It has long been MSGA’s stance that a private industry solution would be better for Montana’s cattlemen, while still providing the government with the information it requires in the event of an animal health emergency.

MSGA has long recognized the importance and the need for a national livestock identification system for better livestock control and for disease surveillance. MSGA members want a system that operates at minimal cost and protects producer confidentiality, while also recognizing the hot iron brand as a method of cattle identification for individual states as they see fit. It all begins with a core philosophy. MSGA has long believed in limiting government interference in cattle ranching. MSGA believes in the entrepreneurial tradition of ranchers and that success comes from a rancher’s ability to make his own decisions about how to market his cattle and manage his resources. MSGA favors Congress and USDA working with the industry to develop market-driven solutions to a national identification infrastructure rather than a government mandated system.

MSGA has worked to develop practical cattle identification solutions through technology combined with the hot iron brand. MSGA has been actively involved in developing and promoting Verified Beef, a beef source and age database designed to assist producers in receiving added value for their cattle. This is accomplished by providing certification to the prospective buyer of the age and source of the beef being sold, a requirement for export purposes to many countries. Verified Beef does not require a producer to register for a USDA Premise I.D. in order to enroll. The process is easy and Verified Beef staff members are readily available to help producers through the process. Verified Beef also offers producers the opportunity to certify their cattle as USDA Process Verified, Non-hormone Treated Cattle (NHTC), Never Ever 3 (NE3)/Natural and Grass Fed. Producers can visit www.verifiedbeef.net for more information.

Industry driven solutions like Verified Beef are already USDA Process Verified and the producer’s information is kept confidential and secure by a private entity, not a government bureaucracy. MSGA is actively working with Congress to get them to see the value in working with the industry to provide value based identification systems that can also serve the purposes of livestock disease surveillance. If the industry is unwilling to participate or to bring proactive solutions to the national animal identification discussion it is highly likely that Congress will attempt to mandate a federal program. MSGA does not want to see this happen.

Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg Testifies Against NREPA

The Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana Public Lands Council and the Montana Association of State Grazing Districts all have been in opposition to The Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act, proposed in 2007 and again in 2009. Representing livestock producers, who make a living on operations of combined private, state and federal lands, we know this means fewer livestock in these designated areas. This piece of legislation, introduced by Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY),most recently on May 5th, would designate nearly 7 million acres of public land in Montana as wilderness. The livestock industry in Montana takes exception to this type of wilderness designation from a Representative that has never even set foot in our state.

Our organizations have historically supported the multiple use of public lands, but the designation of additional wilderness eliminates many multiple uses and will seriously curtail others, such as livestock grazing.

We support Congressman Rehberg’s statement, “This approach may work in Manhattan, New York, but it doesn’t work in Manhattan, Montana.” Any effort of this magnitude needs to be developed from the ground up. It is Montanans that know what is best for Montana.

Thank you, Congressman Rehberg, for your efforts in opposing The Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act.

Cattle Theft Bill Becomes Law

On April 28, 2009, Senate Bill 214, better known as the Cattle Theft Bill, became law. This bill set a minimum fine of not less than $5,000 or more than $50,000 for a person convicted of the theft of any commonly domesticated hoofed animal. This bill also allowed for a prison term not to exceed 10 years, or if deferred, the court shall order the offender to perform 416 hours of community service during a 1-year period, in the offender’s county of residence. In addition to the fine and imprisonment, the offender’s property is subject to criminal forfeiture pursuant.

This bill was the result of policy started at the local level from the Carter County Sheep and Cattle Growers, vetted through the MSGA policy process and finally through the Montana legislative session. This is a great example of the effective policy process MSGA has in place to address issues in our industry.
During the Session, this bill did face some real challenges and was met with some real opposition, with many thinking the penalties were too steep. MSGA took the lead on the bill, found acceptable compromises on the fine amounts and seizure of property and worked with both chambers to pass this legislation.
Many legislators did not realize the cattle theft is continuing occurrence in our industry. MSGA worked during the session to highlight some of the more recent cases in Poplar and Carter County to make our case. In the end, the point was made to the seriousness of this crime and Senate Bill 214 was passed into law.

Ranchers Have Been Paying for Conservation

In today’s Bozeman Daily Chronicle an opinion was published by a Belgrade, MT resident titled, “Everyone must be required to pay for conservation.” Essentially, the opinion was of the nature that the legislature did not devote enough money for the conservation of nongame wildlife. Perhaps that is true but the letter struct a deeper message with me. I extracted a message from the letter that suggested that conservation is only funded by anglers and sportsmen and that the general public should have to pay more.

Ranchers, who are tax paying members of the general public seem to rarely get a fair shake in the eyes of the environemental, conservation and sporting community for doing good conservation work. Media outlets like the Bozeman Daily Chronicle who often print opinions like the aforemention one will rarely recognize or report on the stewardship successes of ranching. As a result, the general public has a limited understanding of what ranchers do that is healthy for the land and the ecosystems which inhabit the Montana landscape. Ranchers are managing 65.2 percent of Montana’s agriculture land. Out of a total of 61.3 million acres. If the lands are not managed properly then the ranchers cannot sustain. Here are two examples of what the ranching and livestock community are doing to pursue good conservation. Visit www.undauntedstewardship.com and www.environmentalstewardship.org I hope media outlets like the Bozeman Daily Chronicle can begin to research sites like these and write positive stories about the ranchers being good stewards to the land and working to protect the non game species that inhabit the land. Ranchers are already paying for this conservation on their own with very little media recognition.

Grazing a major threat to wildlife on Western public lands?

Last week the WildEarth Guardians, a group that “protects and restores the wildlife, wild places and wild rivers of the American West” sent out a press release detailing the results of its recent report “Western Wildlife Under Hoof.” The report claims that “incessant, ubiquitous public lands livestock grazing has contributed to the decline of native wildlife” and “public lands grazing continues within the much reduced current ranges of these species, complicating their recovery and in some cases, threatening them with extinction.” The report also claims that “There is a greater economic value in non-consumptive uses of public land — hunting, fishing, birdwatching, hiking, camping — than livestock grazing.” Check out the press release below and click on the link at the end to view the entire report. Post a comment here if you would like to chime in on this report.

New Report Finds Western Public Lands Grazing as a Major Threat to Wildlife Geographical Analysis Depicts Extensive Grazing in Wildlife Habitat

Date: 4/30/2009
Press Release Author: WildEarth Guardians
Contact: WildEarth Guardians (505) 988-9126
Email: msalvo@wildearthguardians.org
Additional Contact: Mark Salvo, WildEarth Guardians, (503) 757-4221

SANTA FE, N.M. – Dozens of species of wildlife, ranging from wolves to the Sonoran Desert tortoise, are threatened by public lands livestock grazing in the West, according to a report released today by WildEarth Guardians. The report, Western Wildlife Under Hoof, documents, for the first time, the expansive overlap between federal grazing allotments and distribution of iconic species in the region.

Livestock grazing is permitted on approximately 80 percent of public land in the historic range of numerous native trout, more than 75 percent of the historic range for four prairie dog species, 84 percent of the current range of the Gunnison sage-grouse and 91 percent of the current range of greater sage-grouse, according the geographical analysis. The direct and indirect effects of livestock grazing, amplified by its ubiquitousness, are a threat to each of these species.

“It’s confirmed: public lands grazing is permitted all over the West, and it’s nearly impossible for displaced wildlife to escape the impacts of domestic livestock production,” said Mark Salvo, WildEarth Guardians’ grazing program specialist and author of the report.

WildEarth Guardians conducted the analysis by overlaying its comprehensive Geographic Information System data of active grazing allotments with current and historic range of selected focal species. The report confirms that millions of cattle, sheep, goats and horses are permitted to graze approximately 260 million acres of public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, significantly degrading wildlife habitat—even for far-ranging species.

The analysis found a high potential for conflict between livestock grazing and large carnivores such as wolves, given that ranchers often call for wolves to be killed where conflicts with livestock grazing occur. Almost 2,600 grazing allotments covering more than 19 million acres of public land are located in estimated gray wolf current range in the northern Rocky Mountains, while 82 percent of the Mexican gray wolf recovery area in the Southwest is on public land permitted for livestock grazing.

The report also analyzed the overlap between active grazing allotments and current, historic and/or potential range of northern aplomado falcon and lesser prairie chicken in New Mexico; Columbian sharp-tailed grouse; Mexican spotted owl; Chiricahua leopard frog and jaguar.

“The species included in our report are representative of the hundreds of wildlife species that are threatened by public lands grazing on our forests, grasslands, and deserts in the West,” said Salvo.

To counter the effects of public lands livestock grazing, WildEarth Guardians and partners are working to protect imperiled species under the Endangered Species Act and institute voluntary grazing permit retirement programs to reduce grazing conflicts on public land. Conservationists hope that listing wildlife and encouraging voluntary grazing permit retirement will help recover declining species and restore ecosystems.

“Voluntary grazing permit retirement will become an increasingly important tool for managing grazing conflicts on western public lands,” Salvo commented.

View the Western Wildlife Under Hoof report here or contact Mark Salvo at msalvo@wildearthguardians.org.

Schweitzer Vetoes Coal Bed Water Measure

Governor Schweitzer was quick on the draw with his veto pen this week and struck down HB 575. The bill sponsored by Represenative Bill McChesney, a Democrat from Miles City was designed to revise water laws in Montana relating to coal bed methane water use. Currently, as a result of litigation ranchers cannot be permitted to use coal bed methane water for watering their livestock. Nor can ranchers use the water for any other beneficial use.

Many ranchers from southeastern Montana came to Helena to testify in favor of the measure. They said the use of this water could make a positive difference in the productivity of their ranches and their livestock. The water is already permitted to discharge into rivers and holding ponds but it would not be allowed for watering cattle. From a livestock watering perspective this bill made sense!