Cattle grazing on public rangeland managed by the Bureau of Land Management in Northeast California. Photo courtesy of Bureau of Land Management

BLM monitoring drought impacts, assessing changes in use

With drought impacts expected to intensify over the coming summer and fall months in California, resource management specialists in northeast California’s high desert rangelands will be paying close attention to conditions, including plant health and water availability, to determine if changes in land uses will be necessary, the Bureau of Land Management announced in a statement.

In an initial action for this effort, BLM managers in Susanville and Alturas have advised public land ranchers that many reservoirs are already dry, spring flows are lower than normal, and forage production is well below normal on public ranges. Ranchers who hold permits to graze cattle and sheep on BLM-managed public ranges have been advised that range conditions might not support their normal numbers of livestock, and that early removal of cattle and sheep from public ranges might be necessary.

“Many permittees have already postponed livestock turnout or are planning to take partial voluntary ‘non-use’ on their grazing allotment due the current and foreseeable drought,” stated letters from Emily Ryan and Craig Drake, managers of the BLM Eagle Lake and Applegate field offices, respectively. “We encourage your early involvement in planning for this grazing season with a goal of conserving the long-term productivity of the public lands while providing stability for successful grazing operations.”

To help inform decision-making, the BLM said that all personnel will incorporate drought condition monitoring when working in the field. They will report on reservoir levels, condition of riparian areas, spring flows, and availability of forage for livestock, wildlife and wild horses and burros. In addition, personnel from the fire program will be reporting on fuel and soil moisture conditions as indicators of fire danger levels. When fire dangers increase, the BLM will implement restrictions on outdoor use of fire, such as campfires and other activities such as internal combustion engine use and off-road driving that could spark wildfires.