Hoeven: Forest Chief Agrees to Make Changes in the Management Plan for the Prairie Grasslands

Hoeven Follows Up on Grazing Associations Roundtable with Chief Tidwell

WASHINGTON – At a hearing of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell agreed to make changes in the management plan for the grasslands that Senator John Hoeven and area ranchers had asked for at a roundtable the senator hosted this past March in western North Dakota.

“Recently, I had Chief Tidwell out in western North Dakota to meet with our ranchers, and we’ve asked for some changes in the way the Natural Resources Conservation Service manages the grasslands plan,” Hoeven said. “We had the chief in front of our energy committee, and I asked if they’re going to make those changes. He indicated to me that he is, so we very much look forward to seeing what they produce.”

Tidwell said his staff would continue to work with the grazing associations and North Dakota State University (NDSU) range scientists to address their concerns. Specifically, Hoeven asked him to work with NDSU range scientists like Dr. Kevin Sedivek, not only because they are so knowledgeable and focus on the science, but also because they have a lot of credibility with the ranchers in the area.

The chief said he will work with ranchers and the grazing associations to modify the Environmental Assessment for the grazing plan and the Grazing Association Allotment Management Plan (AMP) and he thinks they can resolve their differences. He said he would continue to work closely with local leaders, grazing associations and NDSU researchers to make sure the final plan works for ranchers on the Little Missouri National Grasslands.

“I was optimistic after hearing about the work being done there by the university,” Tidwell said at the hearing. “I think it would provide a slightly different approach, one that would work for both ranchers and also address our needs. That was the think I left that meeting with is that a little different approach was being proposed there that could once and for all settle this.”

Tidwell also said Dr. Sedivek has come up with a different approach to the 3.5 inch Visual Obstruction Reading issue, which could resolve the issue.

“I left there (the meeting in North Dakota) more optimistic than I’ve been in a while that this is a better approach that the university is coming up with to answering the question” of which areas are able to produce that stubble height,” Tidwell said. “

The senator also told Tidwell that the Dakota Prairie Grasslands and Grazing Association Working Group is an important resource to get input from ranchers and asked if the chief needed legislation to continue meeting. Tidwell indicated that no legislation would be required and he would continue to use the group.

Hoeven also raised concerns about controlled burns in the grasslands owing to unseasonably dry weather in North Dakota. A significant portion of the state was designated as having increasing to above normal wild land fire potential for May. Tidwell said the Forest Service is working with local partners and fire departments to make the sure the resources are in place for wildfires and that he will seek the agreement of ranchers in the case of controlled burns.

“We’re only going to do controlled burns when we have the agreement and support of the grazing associations,” Tidwell said.