Thursday, November 30, 2023

BLM Recognizes Ranchers for Exemplary Stewardship at Public Lands Council Meeting

by Colter Brown

Today, the Bureau of Land Management recognized the outstanding contributions of two ranches with federal grazing permits for their work to manage, maintain, and restore the health of public rangelands across the West.

For many years, BLM has announced the recipients of the Rangeland Stewardship Award and the Sagebrush-Steppe Award at the Public Lands Council’s annual meeting in recognition of the BLM’s partnership with ranchers whose grazing permits provide critical management of millions of acres of western rangelands.

The 2022 Sagebrush-Steppe and Rangeland Stewardship Awards were presented to the Cedar Creek Grazing Association (CCGA) of Montana and Charles Hibner of New Mexico, respectively.

The CCGA’s work includes the dedication of 20 members who work collectively to improve sage grouse habitat through their grazing activities and have outlined wildlife habitat improvements, riparian protection, and noxious weed mitigation as high priorities during their 55-year history.

The Cedar Creek Grazing Association, established in 1967, has over 20 members. It is managed by a board and employs an experienced ranch manager focused on positive outcomes for the landscape and the ranchers in the association. The association’s allotment includes general habitat for sage grouse, five sharp-tailed grouse leks, and 7,500 acres of crucial mule deer winter range. The association sustains native plant and animal communities through grazing management practices that maintain or promote physical, ecological, and biological functions and conditions, including through its members voluntarily reducing their grazing use by over 30 percent for the last two years to reduce impacts during drought. 

The association regularly volunteers to spread flea beetles as a biological control for leafy spurge and spray private and public lands to help mitigate the spread of noxious weeds. With support from the Miles City Field Office, the association has planted native trees and shrubs along Cedar Creek to encourage bank stabilization, native species recruitment, improve water quality, and improve wildlife habitat.

“The Cedar Creek Grazing Association’s proactive and collaborative management has enabled improvements in rangeland conditions, even in severe drought,” said BLM Miles City Field Office Supervisory Range Management Specialist Reyer Rens. “The association’s close communication with their on-the-ground manager and the BLM enables them to make real time adjustments to adapt to changing range conditions, and that approach is exemplary.”

BLM touted Hibner’s longstanding work as a soil conservationist at the Natural Resources Conservation Service and 50-year status as a grazing permittee as part of his work to improve native vegetation and promote biodiversity near Cebolla, New Mexico.

“These awards recognize outstanding investments and the people who continue to demonstrate that livestock operations are critical to sustainability and resilience of Western landscapes”, said Public Lands Council President Niels Hansen. “PLC is proud to continue to work with the BLM to support the work these ranchers do to protect sage grouse habitat, encourage retention of native grass stands, and improve diverse wildlife habitat. Congratulations to these recipients for this well-deserved recognition of their work that supports food and fiber production while making western public lands healthier for us all.”

“The BLM has worked for over 80 years with generations of American ranchers whose livestock graze public rangelands to provide food and fiber for the nation and who are the backbone of many rural communities,” said BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning. “The exemplary stewardship demonstrated by these awardees create new benchmarks for locally led and locally designed conservation.”


Public Lands Council

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