Baker City, OR: The Forest Service signed the Record of Decision for the Lower Imnaha Rangeland Analysis on September 3rd. This finalizes a six-year process that assessed five alternatives for authorized grazing within four allotments in the Lower Imnaha project area.
The signed Record of Decision gives a summary of the current conditions (within the project area), summaries of all alternatives evaluated, description of the public involvement process, and the chosen management strategy.
Grazing is an activity that is important to the rural lifestyle and economy of Wallowa County and is broadly supported by many members of the community. However, it is also recognized that grazing can have impacts on sensitive resources in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, but mitigation measures and specific design features can greatly reduce those impacts. The permittee worked closely with the Forest Service to develop a grazing strategy that could further reduce potential impacts on the significant issues, while still maintaining a viable grazing operation across the four allotments.
Forest Service Ranger Kris Stein said, “I selected Alternative C-modified because it best meets the purpose and need of the project, while providing the most balanced approach for mitigating issues and resource concerns, with a feasible and implementable livestock operation”.
Under Alternative C-modified a deferred rotation strategy was incorporated. This modification was based on discussions between the Wallowa County, the current permittee, Hells Canyon Preservation Council, and the Forest Service. An important design aspect in alternative C-modified is the movement of cattle through the pastures within the allotments based on seasonal resource conditions. The elevationally-determined rotational grazing system takes advantage of more sustainable resource conditions at different elevations in the canyon throughout the winter season. For instance, impacts on sensitive vegetation and ground resources can be reduced if cattle use pastures when the ground is frozen (hardened) rather than when soils thaw and remain wet.
This strategy will defer grazing in pastures with Spalding's catchfly and detrimental soil conditions every third or fourth year. The intent of this approach is to reduce impacts (especially soil displacement in Spalding's catchfly habitat) from cattle traveling across wet soils on steep slopes. Potential impacts are minimized when grazing occurs on soils that are dry or frozen (fall through winter season).
Forest Service policy is to contribute to the economic and social well-being of people by providing opportunities for economic diversity and by promoting stability for communities that depend on rangeland resources for their livelihood.
The Record of Decision will be available at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/projects/wallowa-whitman/landmanagement/projects