2012 DNR grazing lease and permit fees

The 2012 grazing fees for leases and permits on DNR-managed state trust lands have been determined.

Grazing lease rates for 2012 will use $9.72 per animal unit month (AUM) as the basis in determining rent. Rent on grazing leases is adjusted as specified in the lease (typically after five years), when a new lease is offered, or when a lease is expiring and entering the re-lease process.

Permit fees for 2012 will be $7.78 per AUM for cattle and $2.49 per AUM for sheep. Permit fees are adjusted annually and differ from lease fees in that they are set by formula in WAC 332-20-220.

By Pat Ryan, Agriculture Program Manager

Protecting water quality and habitat along streams in grazing areas

Pete's Creek

Pete's Creek in 1997 (left) and 2011 (right) after DNR implemented Best Management Practices to reduce the impact of cattle grazing.

Over the past 19 years, Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) land managers have worked to enhance the health of riparian and upland ecosystems on the state trust lands that we manage. One example is to continue to look for opportunities to mitigate grazing impacts to these ecosystems. Three projects serve to illustrate this effort.

In 1993, it was determined that water quality was being degraded in three watersheds within Carlton and Pete’s Creek permit ranges on state trust lands in the north central Washington. The three watersheds included Pete’s Creek, Cow Creek, and North Fork Texas Creek. DNR managers found that livestock seeking drinking water had damaged riparian areas and increased sediment into the streams. The reduced vegetation cover was so severe that normal spring runoff had eroded the stream banks, causing steep cut banks, had lowered the water table, and dried up formerly green lowlands.

Texas Creek

North Fork Texas Creek in 1999 (left) and in 2011 (right) after implementation of Best Management Practices.

To address these concerns, in 1994, DNR and our grazing permittees applied for a cost share grant (Centennial Clean Water Grant)—awarded by the Washington State Conservation Commission and Okanogan Conservation District. The project focus was to draw the livestock away from the streams to improve water quality by reducing their contribution to the pollution problem, using Best Management Practices (BMPs). These best practices include:

  • Proper grazing use
  • Planned grazing system
  • Spring development, at the collection point for water
  • Water troughs and tanks, placed in the upland between 100 and 2,500 feet from the stream
  • Pipe lines, laid to bring water  to the troughs, and fencing was used in key locations to prevent the animals from reaching the riparian areas and streams

By the fall of 1996 all practices were completed for this grant.

In 1995, a Jobs For the Environment grant was secured to further enhance the riparian areas with native vegetation planting and in-stream projects—native hardwood species in the riparian area and conifers in the uplands. Stabilization of head cuts — a sudden drop of the stream channel elevation, a ‘water fall’— in the Cow Creek drainage helped prevent further channel degradation. The head cut likely would have continued to move up stream causing an incised channel on two sites, lowering the water table and eliminating the natural flood plain. Crews also treated noxious uplands weeds, followed by seeding of native grasses.

Cow Creek lower reservoir: 1999-2011

Riparian restoration and other enhancements between 1999 (left) and 2011 (right) have improved Cow Creek's natural habitat while allowing grazing uses.

To gage the projects’ success, stream cross sections were established to monitor depth and width of channels. Hydro-thermographs were placed above and below project areas to record change in water temperature and photo points were established to monitor change in riparian vegetation. Monitoring has determined that the increase riparian vegetation has improved conditions by lowering water temperatures and increasing the ability of the streams to capture silt before it reaches the streams, resulting in clean water in the systems.     

This area is managed under the South Summit Coordinated Resource Management Plan (CRMP), which meets on an annual basis to insure the best practices still are being followed. Grazing of key forage is recorded annually, along with planned grazing rotation of the pastures. Photo monitoring continues to document changes in riparian vegetation over time.

By Brian Derting, South Okanogan District Land Manager

Duck heaven in Lincoln County

Telford wetland

Once a limited riparian area of Lake Creek, Telford Creek is now a restored 160-acre wetland, home to many species of waterfowl and other birds.

Ducks, geese, and a myriad other birds are frequently seen and heard in a newly established wetland on state and federal land east of Creston in Lincoln County known as the Telford wetland. The former limited riparian area of Lake Creek is now a restored 160-acre wetland, home to many species of waterfowl and other birds—some of which are federal or state ‘species of concern’, such as the black-necked stilt, and black tern. In the last 150 years, this bottomland, like so many others, was drained and then farmed. Later, the area was grazed by livestock.   

The productive wetland was created in 2006 when a 3 foot tall, 1,500-foot dike was built on state school trust land, managed by DNR. An adjustable concrete drop structure in the dam controls the water depth behind the dike. The wetland spans the property boundary between DNR-managed state trust land and federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands upstream. There are areas of open water, but much of the area is in marshland ideal for waterfowl nesting. Cattle still have access to the edges of the wetland and are beneficial for keeping the undesirable reed canary grass in check.

This beautiful, productive wetland is collaborative effort between public land management agencies and private interests to benefit wildlife and the public. Funding and labor for the project came from several federal, state, and private sources, including the North American Conservation Act, BLM, Washington State Duck Stamp, and Ducks Unlimited.

A livestock water development project on the uplands portion of the state trust land is planned for 2012. It will provide water for cattle and help distribute them more evenly over the range. That development will be paid for with funds from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and a lessee contribution. 

By Dale Warriner, Ritzville Unit Land Manager

The art and science of rangeland grazing

Rangeland management involves assessing soil types, vegetation composition, land use history and other variable environmental conditions, and then and working with lessee ranchers or permittees on each season’s grazing schedule.

 Grazing livestock on native rangeland is a high-profile issue—especially grazing on public lands. Some say that livestock are to blame for degradation of natural resources. Others say that livestock grazing improves range by reducing dead grasses and keeping invasive non-native plants in check.

So which is it? And the answer is—it depends.

Over-grazing is a function of timing—number of animals, grazing duration, and the condition of the lands. Range can be grazed heavily for short periods of time under the appropriate conditions, and remain healthy; however, that level of grazing is not sustainable for long periods. If extreme grazing occurs in a single year, it is unlikely to degrade if appropriate recovery time is allowed (possibly multiple growing seasons).

Decisions regarding rangeland ecology are based in science. They consider environmental conditions such as soil types, moisture regimes, vegetation composition, invasive species, land use history, current weather and more. In Eastern Washington, our limiting factors for vegetation communities typically are precipitation and soil types—lighter sandy soils versus clay or heavy soils, and everything in between. Historical overgrazing in some areas also has negatively affected some state trust lands. It takes much longer to bring an ecosystem back to health after it has crossed that threshold into a severely degraded state in which invasive annual plants dominate.

However, nature is too dynamic to limit decisions to a hard and fast set of protocols year after year. This is where rangeland management becomes both a science and an art. The art involves assessing all these variable conditions and working with the lessee ranchers or permittees on the season’s grazing schedule.

What then determines the timing to start grazing livestock, and for how long? DNR writes a flexible grazing schedule in the lease agreement to allow for annual environmental changes. The key factors are the soil moisture conditions and determining when key species are able to sustain and recover from grazing. Soils need to have dried out enough to not risk compaction from livestock, and dominant forage species need to have developed enough photosynthetic material to allow recovery from grazing.

As an example, spring 2011 conditions in the Columbia Basin resulted in a grazing season that was about three weeks behind an “average” year due to later than normal precipitation and cooler temps. If a specific turnout date were required by the lease agreement, grazing could occur when there is very little new growth on the range, or the soils too wet and vulnerable to damage, resulting in livestock grazing below the potential production levels of that year or causing damage. Having a flexible schedule allows timing for maximum livestock benefits, and will still allow enough recovery time for vegetation.

And for early season grazing, research shows that use levels of less than 50 percent have little effect on root systems. Often, at flowering, distinguishing which plants have been grazed early is nearly impossible because they have recovered completely. Early season grazing also prevents livestock from grazing when the plants are at their most vulnerable stage, before flowering and seeds set. This is why we have strict standards for grazing during this critical period—only on one out of every three years.

This discussion is just the tip of the information iceberg when it comes to grazing livestock on rangeland. A balance of science and an understanding of the ecological driving mechanisms are required when planning a grazing strategy. DNR, in partnership with our lessees, strives to maintain mutually beneficial relationships resulting in healthy rangelands and good stewardship of state trust lands for current and future generations.

By Mike Johnson, Grazing Lands Manager, Southeast Region

Did you know? Washington ranchers help nonprofit food program

Did you know that Washington ranchers have pooled together to help eliminate hunger? Through the Beef Counts Program, they help supply high quality beef to Second Harvest Inland Northwest, which feeds more than 40,000 hungry people each week, 40 percent of whom are children. Local beef farmers and ranchers donate both cash and animals to the program.

Source: Washington’s Beef Industry United Against Hunger. Beef Counts. Retrieved at http://www.beefcounts.org/wa/NewsArchive.aspx?id=8