Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012 12:00 AM
Dan Wheat/Capital Press
Birds fly over a marshy field at Whitehorse Ranch, May 30. Steens Mountain is in the background. Wildlife is more abundant in the region and cattle fewer than there were 20 years ago before the Trout Creek Working Group Agreement restricted grazing.
By DAN WHEAT
An environmentalist who was part of the original Trout Creek Mountain Working Group is wary of allowing more cattle grazing but defers to a colleague who is open to it.
Monty Montgomery was a fish and wildlife biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife who retired as deputy director in 1987. He then joined the Izaak Walton League, a natural resources conservation group. He was its representative in the original working group and attended the group's annual meetings until a couple of years ago.
Shifting high-country grazing a month later so it's from mid-June to mid-August, as ranchers want, shouldn't be a problem, Montgomery said. But he's concerned that grazing a given area for two years followed by a one-year rest, instead of two years on and two years off, may be too much.
But, he said, he will rely on the expertise of his friend and colleague Chad Bacon, a retired rangeland specialist for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
"It took a long time to get those riparian areas back in shape," Montgomery said. "Management brought them back and the ranchers did a good job in that."
The Oregon Environmental Council and Oregon Trout could not be reached for comment.
Bacon spent his entire career working in southeastern Oregon for the BLM. He's also an original member of the working group and remains active.
"We have excellent recovery of woody riparian vegetation and upland grasses. I do think it's time for change and we can increase the harvest up there," Bacon said.
But he attributes the restoration to the two years grazing followed by two years of rest. Rather than replace that with two years on and one year off, he proposes one year on and one year off, maintaining equal balance. That's the best way to maintain plant health, he said. The two-to-one proposition would work in the short-term but in the long-run would negatively affect plant health, he said.
More cattle could be allowed into the high country, he said.
The mid-May to mid-July restriction was needed at first because there was no woody riparian vegetation, he said.
The lahotan cutthroat trout remains listed as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and will until issues with it in Nevada and California are resolved, he said. But it's doing well in the Trout Creek Mountains, he said.
"I think it's time to change," he said. "I'd like to see us move in that direction."