The Custer-Gallatin National Forest stretches over 400 miles of south central, southeastern Montana and northwestern South Dakota, with 3.1 million acres under its banner, a million of which are designated Wilderness. The USFS website notes that it is the largest intact ecosystem in the lower 48 states.
It’s also home to 45,000 AUMs of grazing use on public land, and 15,000 AUMs of grazing use on private land that is intermingled with National Forest lands within grazing allotments. It contains private landowner access, timber, minerals, fire challenges, recreation opportunities and more.
To say the least, it’s important for resource based industries to know what’s happening with publicly managed resources.
Some grazing allotments in the western side of the forest have been retired over the years, and access priorities are ever-changing. These changes shouldn’t come as a surprise to landowners and users. The Forest Service maps out management plans and objectives that guide their decisions years in advance, and the planning process is about to begin again. The Forest management plans are Goliath documents — the 1987 plan, which has been updated through 2015, is 385 pages in all — but, it’s imperative agriculture shows up to advocate for the continued availability of these grazing resources and guide other uses of our public lands.
The Forest Plan is the comprehensive, overarching document that guides forest management, use, and protection providing broad direction, standards and guidelines for the Custer Gallatin National Forest for years to come. The four-year process for a new plan began this year.
(From a Jan. 29 USFS email) Forest Plan Revision meetings will be the first opportunity for the public to provide local knowledge and information about current conditions, trends, perceptions and concerns, while also introducing the Forest Plan Revision team to communities around the Custer Gallatin National Forest.
Meetings will begin with a brief introduction and overview of the Forest Plan Revision process and understanding the Custer Gallatin National Forest as a whole, along with the identification of important interests in communities. Following the presentation the Custer Gallatin planning team will be available for questions and to speak one-on-one with citizens.
- Monday, Feb. 22: Broadus, MT 6:30–8 p.m., Broadus Community Center
- Tuesday, Feb. 23: Ashland, MT 3–4:30 p.m., Tongue River Electric Co.
- Tuesday, Feb. 23: Colstrip, MT 6:30 – 8 p.m., Colstrip Public School Auditorium
- Wednesday, Feb. 24: Ekalaka, MT 5:30–7 p.m., Carter County Fair Building
- Thursday, Feb. 25: Buffalo, SD 5:30–7 p.m., Buffalo Recreation Center
- Monday, Feb. 29: Big Timber, MT 3- 4:30 p.m., Sweet Grass Co. Annex (adjacent to Extension office).
- Monday, Feb. 29: Livingston, MT 6:30–8 p.m., Duncan Hagemeyer Conference Room at the new Livingston HealthCare Medical Center
- Tuesday, March 1: Columbus, MT 3–4:30 p.m., Columbus Fire Hall
- Tuesday, March 1: Red Lodge, MT 6:30–8 p.m., Red Lodge Senior Center
- Wednesday, March 2: Bozeman, MT 6:30–8 p.m., pending final venue location
- Thursday, March 3: Big Sky, MT 2–3:30 p.m., Big Sky Chapel
- Thursday, March 3: West Yellowstone, MT 5:30–7 p.m., West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce
- Monday, March 7: Gardiner, MT 5:30–7 p.m., Yellowstone Association
- Tuesday, March 8: Cooke City, MT 5:00–6:30 p.m., Cooke City Chamber of Commerce
- Wednesday, March 9: Billings, MT 5:30–7 p.m., Billings Fire Station #1, Emergency Operations Center Training Room (2300 9th Ave North Entrance), plan time for on street parking.
Overview of grazing/range-specific portions of the current forest plan:
Here’s a few highlights from the summary of how various resources and activities are managed under the 1987-present Forest Plan. These resources include recreation, wilderness, visual quality, cultural resources, wildlife, fish, range, timber, water and soils, minerals, land ownership, facilities, fire, special areas and wild and scenic rivers.
Table II-1. Projected Outputs arid Activities by Time Period, from page II-7 of the 1987-present Forest Plan. Highlight added.
- Improved forage management will be used to maintain or enhance the range environment and to provide for increased AUMs.
- Development and use of available forage will depend upon the livestock industry’s ability and desire to make the necessary investments.
- The Plan calls for continuing to administer about 15,000 AUMs of grazing use on private lands that are intermingled with National Forest lands within grazing allotments.
DESIRED FUTURE CONDITION OF THE FOREST
End of first decade (1997)
Livestock grazing is expected to increase slightly in the first decade. This increase will be accomplished through more intensive management on existing allotments and possible initiation of stocking on a few new allotments. This increase could be from 43,400 AUMs to 44,900 AUMs and will be accomplished to protect or enhance other resource values.
End of the fifth decade (2035)
It is anticipated that the moderate growth in livestock grazing will level off at about 45,000 AUMs per year.
E. FOREST-WIDE STANDARDS
The following Forest-wide Standards apply to National Forest land that is administered by the Gallatin National Forest. These standards are intended to supplement, not replace, the National and Regional policies, standards, and guidelines found in Forest Service manuals and handbooks and the Northern Regional Guide
Excerpt of Forest-wide standards for range management in the 1987-present Forest Plan, page II-23
Of course, in a 385-page document, you’re bound to be interested in more than just grazing and range management objectives. The plan also outlines how private-public relationships and agreements are reached and used, and much more.
Excerpt from Forest-Wide Standards of 1987-present Forest Plan, under ‘access and easements,’ page II-29. Highlight added.
Again, with detailed documents like this publicly accessible, there’s no reason public land management should come as a surprise to informed landowners and stakeholders. We all have a great stake in how these land are managed. It impacts our ranches, our rural communities and our livelihoods in big ways. Please take the time to plan to attend one of the public meetings in February and March. Listen, learn, ask questions and share your voice. And as always, our team is here to help you do that!
Hopefully by now you’ve read the post on how to create a Program of Work and why every county Farm Bureau needs one. If not, check it out here. In this second post, we begin highlighting a few great events that every county Farm Bureau can try.
The divide between rural and urban living is ever increasing. Those of us in agriculture are finding it more and more difficult to connect with and relate to those outside our industry about what we do and why we do it. Enter farm fairs.
Farm Fairs are the one-stop-shop for efficiently and effectively teaching kids about agriculture. On how many field trips do you get to milk a cow, make your own ice-cream, spin wool, and ride on a horse drawn wagon? All in one day, mind you. Farm fairs are an excellent tool to teach about agriculture, but they are a labor of love and require lots of time and volunteers.
Jay and Colleen Meyer wrote the manual on how to run a farm fair, literally. They have been organizing and hosting the Ravalli County Farm Fair for the last 23 years and are quick to share their how-to tips for getting one started in your own community.
Step One: Know Your Audience
The first step in organizing a farm fair is securing your audience. Jay was an elementary teacher who implemented the Ag in Montana Schools curriculum into his fourth grade classroom over 25 years ago. They say the farm fair evolved from there. Today, the farm fair includes many other schools throughout the Bitterroot Valley and they see between 400-500 visit the farm fair each year.
- Utilize your local school boards and administration to engage teachers in the concept of a farm fair.
- Create a rough draft of the plan so they can visualize what the students will be learning.
- Research available agriculture based curriculum resources to incorporate into developing your farm fair.
Step Two: Find Volunteers and Presenters
Depending on size, farm fairs can range from 1-3 days. This means you’re going to need at least some volunteer help to pull it off.
- Start early and ask often.
- Having more help is better than having too little.
- Start by asking local FFA Chapters and 4-H leaders for help.
Next, you’ll want to focus on securing presenters to do the actual teaching. Think about what you want the kids to really gain from this experience. It will be important to make sure you offer a variety of topics. A few examples are beef & dairy cattle, homemade ice cream, bee keeping, and noxious weed control. But the possibilities are really endless depending on the interests and talents of local ag folks.
Remember, it’s OK to start small; the Ravalli County Farm Fair is a well-oiled machine using 200 volunteers and 16 presenters. Your farm fair doesn’t have to be this big the first year, or two, or ever. A half-day of presentations is a great place to start if you’re just getting your feet wet.
Step Three: Secure Funding/Sponsors
Farm fairs cost money. It’s important to utilize your connections to make sure you have the financial resources to pull this off. Usually, presenters are lumped in with volunteers and don’t ask to be paid for their services. That said there are many details that cost money along the way:
- Some school districts will ask for help with the busing costs.
- Providing lunch for the students will cost money (unless you can get it donated).
- Infrastructure for the farm fair i.e. use of panels, fairgrounds facilities
Lots of people and businesses are willing to donate their time and products to help make the event happen, but someone still has to ask.
Step Four: Invite Local Business People and Media to the Event
In order to build some awareness and excitement for your event, it’s important for the community to know what’s going on. It’s a good idea for the fearless leader to schedule some time during the farm fair to walk local media and businesses through the presentations and answer questions.
Doing this is important for a couple reasons:
- Media coverage helps spread the word about your event, plain and simple. A local newspaper or TV channel can help with that.
- Inviting local businesses helps increase interest in your event and may lead to potential support in the future. Who knows, some of them may want to be more than sponsors too—they might ask to be presenters for you in the future.
Organizing a farm fair is no small task. It takes a high level of organization and lots of man power. But the rewards far outweigh the costs. Farm fairs expose youth to a world many of them have never experienced. It gives farmers and ranchers a chance to teach and relate to these kids in a fun, interactive environment. Bringing a farm fair to life in your community is a great answer to teaching kids about agriculture and keeping our farmers and ranchers inspired and motivated about what they do each day.
Don’t miss the full Ravalli County Farm Fair planning guide, complete with planning timeline, sample promotional letters, presenter ideas and much more: http://mfbf.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Myers-Farm-Fair-Guide.pdf.
With the New Year upon us, it’s time to get serious about planning your County Farm Bureau events and activities. You have great ideas for new programs and we want to help you implement them, but first you have to have a plan. Without a written plan, big ideas and good intentions have a way of evaporating right before our eyes.
What’s a Program of Work and why your county Farm Bureau needs one:
A Program of Work (POW) is a pretty straight forward concept. The main idea is for the County Board of Directors to collectively decide what events and activities you’re going to complete each year. A POW is a very fluid document and should be adjusted to meet your county Farm Bureau’s needs. However, the most important requirement for every POW is to simply put pen to paper and actually write out your plan.
A written Program of Work increases:
- Follow through and helps county leaders track progress.
- Helps identify your county’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Keeps you organized.
A POW helps your County Farm Bureau evolve into a well-oiled machine that is innovative, effective, and organized. Not sure if you need a POW in your county? Complete this quick survey to find out if your county Farm Bureau would benefit from creating a POW.
Tips and tricks for writing your team’s POW
Don’t Complicate the Process. Creating a POW doesn’t have to be hard. It can include as much or as little detail as you like. Do what works for your County Farm Bureau. If you want to use a calendar and write events and meeting dates month by month that works great! If you want to be more detailed, try using this handout at your next meeting.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel. This process might feel intimidating the first time your county Farm Bureau tackles it. Keep it simple. Build off of what you’re already doing and make it better. Gradually increase the number of events you take on and current projects you expand — don’t spread your members too thin by tackling numerous new events.
Grow your event portfolio. When you see meeting dates and events on paper, take a hard look at what you’ve been doing. Are those events effective? Do you still have the volunteers to run them? Do members like these events? Use your POW to review what has and hasn’t been working for your County Farm Bureau. Maybe it’s as simple as moving an event to a different month. A good rule of thumb is to try one new event every year. If it doesn’t work out, well fine, but at least you tried!
Spread the events out. Consider what time of the year you hold the most activities and events. If your county Farm Bureau has numerous events back to back; it is worth moving one (or more) of those events to a different time of the year. Nothing spells volunteer burn out better than cramming three county Farm Bureau events into an already jam packed summer. Besides, it creates more activity and visibility for your County Farm Bureau within your communities to hold events throughout the year.
Start it early, check it often. January and February (or earlier!) is a great time to create your POW for the year. Refer back to your POW regularly, every board meeting if you have to. If you create it and then never look at it, it’s useless. The whole point of the POW is to create a plan and gauge your progress through the year.
Events every county Farm Bureau should be doing
Sometimes brainstorming new ideas for events can feel overwhelming. A great resource to help get the ball rolling is the Excellence in Achievement Awards application (AKA, the Golden Windmill Awards). Use the application during the planning process to help you get ideas for new events and projects.
Looking for more ideas? Stay tuned for a blog series highlighting innovative event ideas and how you can implement them in your County Farm Bureau.