Funds are requested to provide financial compensation for the permittee (on a willing seller / willing buyer basis) to waive his allotment complex grazing permit back to the USFS. USFS will then close 5,115 acres to livestock grazing, and place 53,560 into Forage Reserve (i.e. “grassbank”) status, with strict language/terms/conditions under which this portion of the allotment complex could be grazed by domestic sheep. Project implementation will ensure the long-term, sustainable health of vegetative communities and create a forage reserve to facilitate future treatments to benefit fish and wildlife habitats. Improvement of watershed/vegetative conditions in upland and riparian habitats on 58,657 acres throughout the project area will be accelerated.
The project is located in the Wyoming Range. The entire project area is located on public lands managed by the Bridger-Teton National Forest. The project includes both upland and riparian habitats.
This project provides an opportunity to restore the tall forb, aspen and riparian communities through rest from grazing and improved livestock management. Watershed conditions on 58,675 acres will be allowed to improve, which will enhance habitat for CRC and SRC. Livestock removal (i.e., domestic sheep) from riparian and upland habitats in the 5,115-acre Lake Creek Watershed would ensure full recovery of this area to its natural potential and reduce sediment inputs into North Piney Lake. This closure would affect 32% of the southern most allotment (North Piney S&G), and 9% of all the land area within TPFR. The remaining 91% of the area (53,562 acres) will be held as a forage reserve, which will be available for grazing by domestic sheep under certain conditions specific vegetative criteria are met indicating recovery of these plant communities. Restoration of these plant communities will reduce sediment inputs into area streams, benefiting native trout and the assemblages of other native aquatic species inhabiting these streams.
Because the ecological health of stream systems are directly and indirectly related to the ecological health of upland and riparian plant communities, improvements to the watershed (uplands and riparian habitats) will assist in restoring the lateral and longitudinal drainage networks that connect the floodplains, wetlands, uplands and headwater tributaries. Ultimately, implementation of this project should lead to fully functioning watersheds in the project area. Not only will fish and wildlife habitats be enhanced and protected, but hydrologic and geomorphologic processes will be allowed to function naturally. This will enhance riparian condition, floodplains and overall ecological conditions. Furthermore, improved function and conditions in these headwater drainages will ultimately benefit the ecological conditions and aquatic habitats in the entire lower sections of these watersheds.
The TPFR provides spring, summer and fall range for mule deer, elk, and moose. The area contains important summer range and parturition habitat for the Wyoming Range mule deer herd unit, which is currently the largest herd unit in the state, and also provides both summer and parturition habitat for a portion of two distinct elk herd units. The Sublette moose herd is the largest herd in Wyoming and 2-3% of the herd use Triple Peak, South Sheep Creek, and North Piney Creek allotments during spring, summer, and fall as well as a parturition area. TPFR also provides spring, summer and fall range for a portion of the Darby Mountain bighorn sheep herd.
TPFR is an important migration corridor for big game migrating out of the Grey’s River and Wyoming Range to their winter range located in sagebrush steppe communities of the Green River basin near Daniel and LaBarge, Wyoming.
Improved ecological conditions of tall forb and aspen communities would likely lead to increased survival of mule deer fawns, elk calves, and bighorn lambs. High quality nutrition can increase lactation of dams, which will improve growth rates, predator avoidance, resistance to diseases and parasites, and ultimately winter survival of juveniles.
TPFR would likely benefit ruffed grouse, blue grouse, black bears, mountain lions, wolverines, lynx, mule deer, moose, elk, bighorn sheep, CRC, SRC, nonnative game fish species, nongame fish species, amphibians, snowshoe hare, nongame terrestrial species, neotropical migrants and various other wildlife species.
Once specific vegetation criterion have been met and the forage reserve is available for use, the direct benefits discussed above would expand onto other BTNF lands by providing opportunities for recovery from disturbances in those areas. Temporary relief from grazing on enhancement projects will help ensure that vegetative objectives can be met.
Purchasing grazing permits on federal lands is a progressive and innovative management tool that will facilitate resolution of identified conflicting uses, while also providing economic benefits to the parties and interests involved.
The permitee has agreed to waive his grazing permit for 2,726 AUMs of domestic sheep use back to the BTNF. The down payment of $104,952 was made in September 2006. Balance of payment and project completion are anticipated by June 1, 2007, pending available funding. USFS will then close the 5,115 acre Cutthroat Trout area (North Piney Lake and Lake Creek drainage) to livestock grazing and place ~53,560 acres into Forage Reserve (i.e. grassbank) status, with strict language/terms/conditions under which this portion of the allotment complex could be grazed by domestic sheep. The acres below 9,700 feet may be available by 2008 for grazing 3 out of every 10 years pending data collection to evaluate the existing vegetative condition and ground cover. To complete the action the USFS will adopt a management plan for the forage reserve. Completion is anticipated by June 2007, or when sufficient funding is available. Fund raising began in 2006 and has continued into 2007. The final vegetative criteria and monitoring methods, time frames, and locations will be cooperatively developed with TU, WGFD, the USFS, and other project proponents once the final payment is made.