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Last year’s combination of drought and wildfire will have a long-lasting impact on western ranchers.
Frustration with agencies
Many Nevada ranchers report frustration in trying to work with federal agencies. J.J. Goicoechea, a rancher and DVM near Eureka, NV, says cattle numbers on BLM land have been reduced in his area, and the cuts continue.
“Last spring, the Battle Mountain BLM came out with a drought environmental assessment (EA) promising more flexibility to permittees to haul water to cattle if stock water dried up, but that flexibility didn’t happen. They just started removing permittees’ cattle,” he says. “They said they had to save remaining forage for wild horses.”
Goicoechea says he received a letter Aug. 20 preventing him from hauling water to cattle if the allotment was designated by BLM as primary sage grouse habitat. “This took nearly everyone off their ranges. Ranchers brought thousands of cattle home to their meadows, and didn’t have any fall/winter pasture,” he says.
“Many ranges burned early. We lost a lot of acreage in White Pine County in June and early July. Then in August, we lost a lot in Elko, Eureka and Humboldt counties. Then the BLM said they’d have a two-year grazing closure after these fires. Yet many of these areas had cheat grass, and were not sage grouse habitat. They will burn again if they aren’t grazed,” Goicoechea says.
Adding insult to injury, BLM began hauling water to wild horses – at taxpayer expense. “The Battle Mountain district was also contracting helicopters to move wild horses to areas with forage remaining, which means into ranchers’ winter cattle allotments. BLM says the EA gave them the authority to do it,” Goicoechea says. “All these things are working against producers, along with $200/ton hay.”