Hoeven Hosts Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell for Grazing Associations Roundtable

Senator Urges Cooperation with Grazing Associations, Ranchers on Management Practices, Research

DICKINSON, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today hosted a roundtable meeting for grazing association leaders and U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell to address their concerns and make sure the grasslands management plan now under development by the agency works for ranchers on the Little Missouri National Grasslands. Representatives from other areas in the Dakota Prairie Grasslands also participated in the roundtable.

The Forest Service is currently doing an environmental assessment (EA) as part of up-dating the grasslands management plan. The senator pressed the chief to consider input from the ranchers who are actually using the land to raise cattle, as well as the latest research by North Dakota State University range scientists in deciding management practices.

Hoeven and members of the grazing associations discussed a range of issues with Chief Tidwell, including the:

  • The environmental Assessment’s impact on ranchers in the McKenzie County Grazing Association (allotments 2, 10, and 11) and how the Forest Service can work with the ranchers on this and future EAs.
  • Overall management plans for grazing on federal lands and
  • More flexibility in the Forest Service’s requirement that 20 to 30 percent of the pastures have a minimum of 3.5 inches Visual Obstruction Reading (VOR), a measure of vegetation density
  • The Sage Grouse Management Plan and Forest Service staffing.
  • The Forest Service’s need to do more to defer to local ranchers and area landowners when planning controlled burns.

“Ranching families in North Dakota have lived on and worked the grasslands for generations, and they have been good stewards because their livelihoods depend on good care of the land,” Hoeven said. “We are urging Chief Tidwell to continue to work with our ranchers and the capable range specialists we have in North Dakota to develop a reasonable plan for managing the grasslands.”

Attendees included Congressman Kevin Cramer; Chief Tom Tidwell, U.S. Forest Service; Jane Darnell, Deputy Regional Forester; Dennis Neitzke, Grasslands Supervisor; Tom Bodine, Deputy Commissioner, North Dakota Agriculture Department; Terry Steinwand, North Dakota Game & Fish Director; Commissioner Lance Gaebe and Mike Brand, North Dakota Department of Trust Lands; Dr. Kevin Sedivec, North Dakota State University; Gordon Gerbig, Medora Grazing Association; Tim Smith, Grand River Grazing Association; Brian Gerbig, Little Missouri Grazing Association; Mark Huseth, Sheyenne Grazing Association and Frank Tomac, Cedar River Grazing Association.

Hoeven also invited Tidwell to North Dakota last year to get input from ranchers and NDSU scientists to determine management practices for grazing and ranching on the Little Missouri National Grasslands, and specifically, to use third party mediation when deciding management practices for grazing.