Regulations prohibitive for ranchers
A new plan for the Colville National Forest that will set policy for at least the next 10-15 years has layers of regulations that will force ranchers off the 1.1 million acres of public land, according to the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association.
The Colville National Forest Plan Draft, released in late February, puts forth requirements for the 58 grazing allotments that will be impossible for ranchers to meet, according to SCCA. The association notes that the plan is full of arbitrary rules that will make it difficult, if not considerably confusing, for ranchers to manage their grazing allotments per USFS requirements.
In regards to grazing, the draft CNF forest plan prevents ranchers from having water developments or salting near “endangered or sensitive plant species” areas, requires grazing managers to “maintain conditions for snowshoe hairs in lynx habitat areas”, requires ranchers to “prevent livestock access to fish redds” and a number of unrealistic standards for riparian areas.
“Our members strive to be good and conscientious stewards of these grazing lands that they use on a seasonal basis. The expectations in the forest plan are not only unnecessary, but they are unrealistic and taken altogether will mean the end of grazing on the Colville National Forest,” said SCCA President Justin Hedrick.
In addition, grazing will not be possible on the over 69,000 acres of proposed Wilderness in the plan. Since Wilderness requires “little evidence of human developments” like stock tanks, corrals or fences and prohibits motorized vehicles like trucks or chainsaws, modern cattle management would be impossible.
The current CNF plan that would kill grazing by rules and regulations would be a serious blow to the local community. SCCA notes that public land grazing is not only a beneficial practice in its ability to reduce fuel loads for wildfires, but it is also a necessary part of the local economy.
“In the CNF plan, it recognizes that over 690,000 acres are suitable for cattle grazing and the 58 allotments in use now create 98 jobs and generates $1.5 million into the local economy each year,” said Hedrick. “That means cattle ranching is right behind timber extraction in its contribution to local jobs. “
Hedrick said SCCA will be asking CNF planners to revisit the grazing section and make some key changes.
“We do not need a plan that creates unobtainable standards like having 6 to 8 inches of stubble height in a riparian area,” said Hedrick. “We need a plan that has guidelines that reflect the consistent effort ranchers make to keep their allotments in good condition and gives them the latitude to work with USFS range managers for the best possible care of the land.”
For more information on the CNF plan draft and how it impacts grazing, visit