The Forest Service, Ochoco National Forest, Crooked River National Grassland has prepared a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Vegetation Management and Grazing.
Copies of the Draft EIS are available for public review and comment at the Crooked River National Grassland Office in Madras and on the Central Oregon Forest Service website at: http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/centraloregon/projects/units/crooked/grassland-eis/index.shtml .
A public open house is scheduled for April 16 from 7-9 pm at the Jefferson County Fire Department at 765 S. Adams Drive, Madras, OR 97741. Maps of the project area will be posted and specialists from the interdisciplinary team will be available to answer questions.
Written comments concerning the Draft EIS will be accepted at the public meeting or may be mailed to: District Ranger, Crooked River National Grassland, 813 SW Highway 97, Madras, OR 97741. Comments will be accepted through May 24.
The Draft EIS proposes a set of management actions that would:
• bring native vegetation conditions back to where they more closely resemble pre-settlement conditions. This would be accomplished by reducing the density of western juniper and re-seeding previously farmed and seeded sites;
• meet the requirements of Section 504 of the 1995 Rescission Act requiring National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis and decisions for all grazing allotments by 2011;
• leave a greater diversity of grass stubble heights at the end of the grazing season to improve habitat for ground nesting birds such as the California quail; and
• close livestock grazing on three allotments because of downward ecological trends, non-functional or non-existent fences and water developments, private in-holdings which are currently being developed and ten years of vacancy (non-use) on two of the allotments.
“The release of the Draft EIS provides an important opportunity for public comment on our management proposals for the Grassland. Our intent is to restore the health of the sagebrush steppe habitat and local watersheds while providing sustainable levels of livestock grazing,” said District Ranger Kristin Bail.
The 111,571-acre Grassland was created from failed homesteads that were purchased by the Federal government under the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act of 1937.
Initial settlement in the area of the Grassland began in the mid-1800′s. To facilitate settlement of the West, Congress enacted the Homestead Act of 1862 that authorized the disposition of 160-acre parcels of public domain land to those willing to live on and cultivate it.
Most of the homesteaders on the Grassland were dryland grain farmers. Flatter areas were cleared of sagebrush and native grasses to create farm fields. On steeper slopes, sheep and cattle grazing occurred. Juniper trees were harvested for firewood, fencing and other purposes. Lumber for homes was often obtained from the nearby sawmill on Grizzly Mountain.
Settlement flourished for a time, but drought conditions, crop failures and the Depression took its toll. By 1934, fewer than 50 families remained out of the nearly 700 that had existed some three decades earlier. Mortgage foreclosures, tax delinquencies and personal hardships were commonplace.
In the 1930′s, the federal government began a nationwide program to buy land, retire it from cultivation, and develop it for pasture, forest, range and other uses.
In 1938, management responsibility for these purchased lands was transferred to the Soil Conservation Service (SCS). Intensive improvement and development activities began almost immediately; when these activities were halted on the Grassland in the 1980′s, about 65,000 acres of previously farmed lands had been seeded to crested wheatgrass or beardless bluebunch wheatgrass to help stabilize soils.
In 1954, management responsibility was transferred to the USDA Forest Service. Today there are 23 allotments on the Grassland which are grazed under a permit issued to a single permittee, the Gray Butte Grazing Association.