This year's dry weather may mean earlier than usual removal of livestock from summer ranges on federal lands.
Fishlake National Forest Supervisor Toby Martinez said the lack of moisture and unusual warm dry winds earlier in the season resulted in little growth of forage plants in the national forests.The conditions have affected feed for both livestock and wildlife. "This simply means that livestock in some allotments will be heading home early," Martinez said.
Forest supervisors across the state have expressed concerns in recent discussions. They conclude that significant improvement in range conditions won't happen this year even if moisture is received before fall.
Division of Wildlife Resources officials are also concerned about range conditions and have pledged to work closely with the Forest Service. They are paying particular attention to riparian areas and winter range, it was reported.
Martinez said Utah forest supervisors are notifying permittees early so they can make plans to provide for their livestock when animals are removed from the ranges. He added that strong emphasis on stewardship of national Forest Service lands was expressed in a recent rangeland hearing in Richfield as well as throughout the state.
Livestock permittees have shown a willingness to cooperate in protecting the rangeland resource for future years, it was noted.
Dixie National Forest Supervisor Hugh Thompson said range managers have no control over such conditions as are being experienced this year and are obligated to make necessary adjustments to protect public land resources. "It's unfortunate that reduced grazing availability will have a significant impact on some livestock owners during this difficult time for the industry."
Forest officials will make their decisions on an allotment-by-allotment basis regarding early removal of livestock from the ranges and not as a general policy. Martinez said forage conditions vary within each forest because of different amounts of moisture and livestock commitments.
"We don't want to cause additional stress on forage through the use of rested pastures or deferred pastures to keep livestock on the mountains longer," the supervisor said.
"These units have been rested to maintain plant vigor and productivity for future years. It is our intent to continue livestock management systems that will meet this objective."
He concluded "We know livestock permittees recognize the diminished forage production and will agree with decisions made in the best interest of the soil, water and vegetation resources of the national forest system."