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Grazing

Grazing Results at Pond 1 photo "Create the conditions that will allow for the restoration, maintenance, and distribution of native grassland and shrubland species (such as rabbitbrush, needle and thread grass, Junegrass, and hairy golden aster) to provide healthy lands for a diverse group of target species and to educate visitors about the historical plant and animal diversity of the valley" (Refuge CCP-Goal for Grassland and Shrubland Habitat and Associated Wildlife).

Grazing Cattle photoThe Service has used cooperative farming and prescriptive livestock grazing in the past as a management tool to manage a variety of upland, riparian, and seasonal wetland habitats. These tools will be used to meet habitat objectives, control vegetative litter, promote native plant production and diversity, control the spread of invasive plant species, and help convert disturbed grasslands back to native plant species.

Grazing by livestock has been a preferred management tool because the effect on habitat is controllable and measurable. Grazing may occur throughout the year as management needs dictate. For wetland units, the purpose of grazing will be to consume portions of emergent vegetation and to break root rhizomes with hoof action. This will likely result in enhanced aeration of soils, removing portions of monotypic emergent vegetation. For upland units, grazing will be used to mimic the historical grazing patterns, most likely employing short-duration, intense grazing pressure with extended rest periods.

 

Historically, the Bitterroot River Valley was grazed and browsed by native ungulates such as white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose, and elk. Following Euro-American settlement, these valley lands were used for cattle grazing, primarily as winter range as cattle were moved in the fall from the summer grazing and calving locations in the mountain slopes and foothills (Clary et al. 2005). Cattle grazing on the refuge grasslands continued until 1975. Between 1993 and 1997 sheep and goats were brought into the refuge in an attempt to control cattails and invasive species; however, prescriptive cattle grazing was not consistently used as a management tool until 2006.

Grazing Energizer for Electric Fencing photoCooperative farming and prescriptive grazing as habitat management tools are compatible uses on Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. To ensure consistency with management objectives, the Service will require general and specific conditions for each cooperative farming and grazing permit.
 

Last Updated: Feb 20, 2014
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