JOSEPH, Ore. — For those driving by a pasture on Hwy. 350 Tuesday morning, they were probably a little surprised by what they saw there.
Instead of cows roaming around in an enclosed area, a group of about 35 people were taking notes, tossing circular rubber tubes around and making use of long, wooden stakes.
What passerbys saw was a group of ranchers and others taking part in a cooperative rangeland monitoring workshop, which was put on in conjunction with the Natural Resources Conversation Service, the US Forest Service, the OSU Extension office and the Bureau of Land Management. All told, 35 people, who represented 17 different ranches, attended the four-hour event.
Currently, the federal and state conservation objectives are being addressed through a variety of monitoring programs, which are not standardized for ranchers to adopt for sustainable range management on private land. Ranchers need consistent monitoring protocols to give assurance that their monitoring efforts on private lands and federal grazing allotments are compatible, acceptable, and credible to address livestock and wildlife grazing use, said OCA Science Advisor Pat Larson.
“The goal is to have all of the agencies and ranchers do all of the monitoring the same way,” said Conrad Bateman, a rangeland consultant who helped to on the event. “We wanted it to be simple enough that the ranchers could do it and that they, along with the agencies, are doing the same thing.”
The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association offers training sessions for ranchers and other interested parties in using the federal and state approved monitoring techniques that will result in scientifically valid sampling results. Those who attend and are trained can be certified by OCA to ensure their sampling data is accepted by the Forest Service and BLM for permitted grazing and on private property for Oregon Department of Agriculture issues.
Ranchers taking part in these workshops is critical, Larson said.
“I think it’s terribly important,” she said. “It’s hugely important. We are moving into a time when if you have a permit, you have to be on the same page as your range con and that agency. We need to have a lot of data and we need it to be very accurate … We’re in a new age and ranchers need to participate more. And they know more about their pasture and their cows than anybody ever could, so they ought to take advantage of that.”
Larson said an average of 10-15 people attend these workshops.
“But we’ve done it when there were only three,” she said. “This is a pretty big group, though. We had 10 at Izee and it was a beautiful day that day and that was a great number. I keep telling everyone, though, that we’ll work anywhere from 2-50 people.”
On Tuesday, 35 people attended because of the communication between the local agencies and area ranchers.
“It’s Wallowa County,” Larson said plainly. “They sent letters out and we had this date decided in June … There’s an emphasis on monitoring right now through the agencies and we’re trying to get our ranchers out to do it. So I think they’ve heard this for long enough now, but these agencies really helped to get the word out early.”
While much of Tuesday’s activities pertained to ranchers, there is ultimately a trickle-down effect to non-ranchers. Larson said it’s paramount that people know ranchers are taking responsibility and properly caring for the environment.
“It should give people comfort to know that we are managing our pastures and we are keeping track,” she said. “We don’t just let the cows out and we go home and have a nice summer. That’s not what’s going on, so this should help them understand that we’ve got very responsible ranchers who aren’t letting the cows graze too much or whatever the case is. We’ve got a diverse plant community out here, it’s not all falling apart and it’s in really good condition and when we find spots that aren’t, we fix it.