In 2009, Rich County sheep and cattle ranchers approached former UDAF Grazing Improvement Program (GIP) director Bill Hopkin, about doing something to improve the rangelands within Rich County. The rangelands they wanted to improve were private lands as well as federal and state lands on which these ranchers held grazing permits. The outcome of this initial conversation has resulted in one of the most unique and one-of-a kind collaborative efforts to conserve rangelands and watersheds in the western United States.
Recognizing that the accepted management practices of the past within federally managed grazing allotments weren’t producing desired results, a change to public lands management was needed. Thirty-eight producers from across the 10 neighboring grazing allotments formed a new entity, called the Three Creeks Grazing LLC. This newly formed group of producers then teamed up with federal and state land managers to work through the process of environmental permitting to change the style of grazing management. Most of the 143,000 acres being grazed within the Three Creeks watershed was public lands.
The focus of this new public-private partnership was to implement a grazing technique called time-controlled grazing, which had seen success on neighboring private rangelands held by Deseret Land and Livestock (DLL). Specific changes on Three Creeks would include rest from grazing on about 20% of the rangelands and offset grazing timing on pastures that had been used the same way for multiple decades. Activities would also include building infrastructure for better distribution of water, additional fencing for more pastures and other management practices aimed at balancing the landscape to improve resources.
The Three Creeks Project not only created a pattern of public-private partnership for other areas of the state and across the country, it opened up opportunities for the next generation of ranchers in Rich County to stay on the land they love and become the next stewards of the land grazed by the Three Creeks Grazing LLC.
“Well-managed grazing is definitely important to our small rural communities, for both economic and environmental sustainability” says Taylor Payne, a GIP regional manager who lives in Randolph, Utah. “By using updated technology and better grazing techniques, we can improve public lands grazing from the old single allotment style to a broader landscape approach. We can improve both the health of our public lands and the sustainable production of food for our country.”
Learn about UDAF’s Grazing Improvement Program from the Conservation Division here.
Return to the January 2021 Cultivating Connections newsletter here.
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