BURLEY, Idaho — Idaho ranchers could get more support on rangelands if a proposal to establish a grazing improvement program is successful in the next state legislative session.
The idea was hatched by some cattle ranchers whose operations straddle the Utah state line, Rep. Jerald Raymond said during the Idaho Cattle Association summer conference on Monday.
In 2018, a group of Idaho ranchers and personnel from the state Department of Agriculture spent a day in Utah finding out more about Utah’s program, which is coordinated by the Utah Department of Agriculture & Food.
“We came home excited about the possibility of bringing some ideas home to Idaho,” he said.
One year, the Utah program spent $20 million on improvements to 2.5 million acres, he said.
“We’re talking meaningful projects on the ground that really improve grazing,” he said.
The projects are aimed at better utilizing resources to better manage livestock on the range, he said.
Patterned after Utah’s program, an Idaho program could be coordinated by ISDA to provide cost-share funding, technical resources, project planning, workshops to get ranchers involved with landscape health and proper monitoring techniques and additional assistance for National Environmental Policy Act assessments, he said.
Ranchers and ISDA are currently doing photo monitoring on rangelands, but is it enough? he asked.
ISDA believes it currently has enough staff to coordinate the program, at least initially, and they willing to carry some extra load, he said.
Idaho’s program could use regional advisory boards or Taylor Grazing Act boards to guide the program. Landowners or permittees would submit applications to those boards, which would score projects for funding, he said.
Utah’s program provides project funding of 50% on private land and 75% on public land, with funding paid after the project is completed within the allotted time, he said.
Funding is available from numerous agencies, such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Projects might include seeding, reseeding, water development, fencing, managing invasive species and grazing management planning, he said.
Projects would support ranchers and local economies, improve the sustainable use of rangeland and increase coordination between ranchers and agencies, he said.
“It’s critically important we support grazing and our local communities,” he said.
The state legislature is going to lose rural representation in the years ahead, and conservation groups have tried to divide and conquer when it comes to grazing, he said.
“It makes it harder for radical groups to pick us off one at a time if the state’s behind it (grazing improvement),” he said.
He and others have developed draft legislation for a grazing improvement program that would create a place to put project funding and provide program auditing, he said.