Jerald Raymond, a former Idaho Cattle Association president and state legislator, proposes a state-supported grazing improvement program.

SUN VALLEY — Idaho cattle producers straddling the Utah border are working with their neighbors implementing range-management practices through Utah’s Grazing Improvement Program and are confident a similar plan would benefit Idaho.

Armed with legislation, Jerald Raymond, a former Idaho Cattle Association president and state legislator, talked about establishing a program in Idaho.

He and other ranchers, along with personnel from the state Department of Agriculture, took a trip to look at Utah’s Three Creeks projects outside Randolph in 2018, he said during the ICA annual convention last week.

The project was pulling 300,000 feet of water line to distribute water across a large allotment and installing water troughs, as well as putting up fence to protect riparian areas and creeks.

Similar projects to better manage resources and livestock on the range could be incorporated in an Idaho program established by the legislature, he said.

“It would give us a place to house and distribute funding,” he said.

Such a program would take the state many, many steps beyond current rangeland monitoring by ranchers and the state Department of Agriculture, he said.

“Utah combined some grazing associations together to make these projects feasible and possible,” he said.

Conceptually, there would be regional boards to review projects on public, private and state-endowment lands that would make recommendations to a state board that would score the projects for funding, he said.

A range improvement program could use a portion of Bureau of Land Management grazing fees as seed money and leverage other funds from agencies such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, he said.

“This is a program that’s working well for our neighbors,” he said.

He thinks it will work in Idaho, but cattle producers will have to put in sweat equity and cash, he said.

“As a rancher, think about what happens when you go to do NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) assessment or something else and have the state legislature and the governor behind you,” he said.

He thinks legislation would get through the Senate and the governor would sign it, but the House is a wildcard, he said.

Raymond’s speaking time at the convention was limited, but he provided more detail at ICA’s mid-year meeting in 2020.

He said Utah’s program is coordinated by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, and an Idaho program could be coordinated by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.

The agency could provide cost-share funding, technical resources, project planning, workshops to get ranchers involved with landscape health and proper monitoring techniques and additional assistance for NEPA assessments.

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.

Utah put seed money from the state’s general fund into the program with additional funding every year.

Projects would support ranchers and local economies, improve the sustainable use of rangeland and increase coordination between ranchers and agencies.

Projects might include seeding, reseeding, water development, fencing, managing invasive species and grazing-management plans.

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