CONTINUED DROUGHT IMPACTS PUBLIC LAND GRAZING IN EASTERN MONTANA
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: December 13, 2021

(MILES CITY, Mont.) – Bureau of Land Management Miles City Field Office range managers are concerned about the ongoing drought conditions which worsened through the 2021 growing season, resulting in varying degrees of impact.

Public lands across the entire portion of Montana managed by the Miles City Field Office are currently in severe to exceptional drought. According to data from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, some areas of the field office received only 40 to 60 percent of the normal average precipitation for 2021.

“The Miles City Field Office appreciates all the efforts by grazing permittees to mitigate drought conditions through 2021,” said Field Manager Eric Lepisto. “We are also thankful for the continued diligence of permittees going into the 2022 grazing season.”

In 2021, many Public Land grazing allotments did not grow enough forage to fulfill the total authorized Animal-Unit-Months. Therefore, the BLM is asking affected permittees to communicate any adjustments to their 2022 grazing operations before Feb. 1. This way, the BLM can adjust the permittee’s bills or work with them on other options prior to the start of the grazing season.

The BLM can use the following options to manage grazing on Public Lands under current drought conditions:

Non-use

Permittees may request temporary non-use for any grazing year or season. Temporary non-use does not affect the grazing preference on the permit. It simply allows for flexibility in times of operational need such as financial conditions, fluctuations in the livestock markets and adjustments in range drought. Delaying turnout, reducing numbers, removing livestock early and adjusting pasture rotations are all possible changes.

Refunds

If a permittee applies for full use and pays their bill in full but is unable to make full use of the grazing preference, they may request a refund. In this situation, the permittee must notify their range specialist prior to the period of use.

Imposed Drought Restrictions

When resources on Public Lands require protection because of drought conditions, the BLM can enact measures to protect those natural resources. To do this, permitted use may be suspended –in whole or in part– on a temporary basis. This means that if current drought conditions persist, a permittee may not be able to make full use of their permitted use, regardless of their application or paid grazing bill. In this situation (where restrictions are necessary) the BLM would issue the permittee a refund based on actual grazing use.

The Miles City Field Office will continue to monitor conditions in conjunction with permittees and other state and local government agencies. If drought conditions persist or worsen through the winter, the Miles City Field Office will be contacting affected permittees in February to discuss options to conserve Public Land rangeland resources.

Questions can be directed to range specialists at the Miles City Field Office at (406) 233-2800. For more drought-related information go to: http://drought.mt.gov or http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu.