Ranchers

Land Report Editors

Sublette County ranchers say a lawsuit challenging a U.S. Forest Service grazing permit could run them out of business along with additional negative consequences.

The pandemic has beef markets on a roller coaster, and Shohone, Idaho's Amie Taber is among the ranchers along for the ride.

 


Brandi Forgey

Part of a rancher's daily life is dealing with threats to their livestock. And one of the almost impossible threats to try and solve is depredation - especially if the culprit is a protected species, like the golden eagle.

Chris Descheemaeker ranches black angus, red angus cross with her family outside of Lewistown, Montana. The coronavirus pandemic, she says, comes after a few tough winters and an already tough market.


Kagan Sims; Ian McGivney


It's a calm Wednesday afternoon with snow falling down over a ranch in southern Wyoming. Normally, high school sophomore Kagan Sims would be sitting in English, but due to COVID-19 he's outdoors feeding pregnant cows. He said he's figuring out a new balance between work and school.

The Trump administration has spent the past month announcing sweeping changes that could benefit ranchers on public lands, including a proposal to overhaul grazing regulations for the first time in 25 years. 

JIM PEACO (CC-BY-2.0)

On January 12th, 1995, the first truck loaded with grey wolves from Canada arrived in Yellowstone National Park. Livestock producers, outfitters and other people who live near the park waited to see what would happen. But one of those groups that hasn't been too happy about the reintroduction: livestock producers.

USGS

The Wyoming State Engineer's Office recently heard a proposal to drill eight high-capacity water wells in Laramie County, and now 17 ranchers and farmers in the area are protesting.

Wyoming Women in Ag

When people think of women involved in agriculture, maybe they think of them paying the bills or raising children and keeping the workers fed, but the stereotype for Wyoming women is changing.

This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting

The Promise And Peril Of Environmental Philanthropy | A Privately-Funded Park For The People | Save The Cowboy, Stop The American Prairie Reserve | A Hunter’s Paradise | The Buffalo Is A Symbol of God

The northern Great Plains aren’t much to look at. It’s the drab, boring part of a cross-country interstate drive between Seattle and Chicago. 

No trees in sight. No water. But Sean Gerrity, founder of American Prairie Reserve, has always seen something more out here. 

Melodie Edwards

It's late May in Wyoming. It snowed last night, and more snow is predicted. That's why it's good that Big Piney Rancher Chad Espenscheid is behind the wheel of the truck. The roads are sloppy and Middle Piney Creek is running high.

As one of his last acts in office, ousted Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed off on returning grazing rights to the eastern Oregon ranchers whose prison sentence led to a 2016 standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

 


Public Domain

Ranchers and farmers living in the Mountain West are vulnerable to all kinds of things—drought, fluctuating crop prices, trade wars—and in part because of those things - depression and suicide. But there's some help out there, from an unlikely source.


CC0 Public Domain

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to move forward with a bill that would remove federal protections from gray wolves and limit judicial review of listing decisions.

Norman M

At a legislative meeting in Laramie last week, ranchers called to abandon efforts to introduce the endangered black-footed ferret in Thunder Basin National Grasslands. The ferret’s need a healthy population of its primary food, the prairie dog, but ranchers say too many prairie dogs would compete with livestock for grasses. 

According to a new report by the World Wildlife Fund, recent low crop prices mean some ranchers are shifting their lands from crops back to grassland for cattle.


Cooper McKim

It’s a hot day south of Wheatland, near the small town of Chugwater. Dirt kicks up around passing cars on a long driveway as the sunbeams gold on waving fields of wheat. At the end is the Baker Farm, with old water tanks and rusted antique farm vehicles in front of the home. 

Hay prices are spiking this year, driven up by a drought-induced shortage of the crop. It’s affecting ranchers across the board, but horse owners in particular are feeling the pinch. Horses eat higher quality hay, so it’s harder to get. It’s forcing horse owners in Colorado to buy more hay from neighboring states like Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana and that’s driving the cost up even more.  


This week President Trump pardoned two Oregon ranchers serving five-year prison terms for arson on federal lands. The two men had become a cause celebre in the ongoing fight between ranchers and the federal government over water and grazing rights.

 


A house subcommittee is focusing on grazing on public lands on Thursday. Republican leaders want to discuss what they call the regulatory burdens on the industry.


Public Domain / Jean Beaufort

The House did not pass its version of a farm bill last month, but the Senate may have a better shot this week when they consider the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.

National Park Service

Japan is considering hitting back against the U.S. in retaliation for America's steel and aluminum tariffs. A Japanese levy could hurt our region's agricultural industry.

  

This is about two very different visions of how we should use land in the American West.

On the Great Plains of Montana, conservationists and tribes want to rewind the clock and return wild bison to the shortgrass prairie. But cowboys and ranchers say if that happens, their way of life – their very culture – will disappear.

Following Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke's repeated calls for more management of public lands, this spring the Bureau of Land Management is giving certain ranchers more say and options in grazing their cattle on public lands.


Cooper McKim/Wyoming Public Radio

Winds were gusting over 45 miles per hour on an overcast day at the Dunmire Ranch in southeastern Wyoming. Black cows grazed in the distance with wind turbines lined up on the horizon. At the center of ranch, young colts milled around the corral. Gator, a 14-year-old blind and deaf dog, barked, guarding the home of rancher Les Dunmire. 

 

Inside the house, Dunmire put on his dirt-caked cowboy hat and boots, as he told me how he’s owned this ranch for just over 30 years and that this lifestyle goes back generations.

 

Pioneer Cunningham Ranch Historic Cabin Wyoming
CC0 Public Domain

Organizations in the region are encouraging ranchers and farmers to think ahead about how to pass their land on to the next generation so the way of life doesn’t disappear. As property values outpace the potential revenue from agriculture, it’s harder for families to pass down their land or even sell it to another rancher. 

The Modern West 29: Home On The Range

Nov 21, 2017
Theo Stein / USFWS

There’s a reason the cowboy hat is a symbol of Wyoming: ranching is woven into the state’s cultural fabric. On this episode, we’ll take you out on the wide open Wyoming range.

Melodie Edwards

In 2015, Wyoming passed the Food Freedom Act, giving the state the most lenient local food regulations in the country. It allows Wyoming farmers to sell things other states can’t, like raw milk, eggs and poultry direct to consumers. But many Wyoming food producers say, there’s still one road block: beef. The issue is that federal regulations make it hard to market Wyoming branded beef outside the state where all the customers are.

Alanna Elder

Wyoming’s sheep industry relies on foreign labor from the Department of Labor’s H2-A visa program, which applies to agricultural jobs. When that agency raised wage requirements for sheepherders in 2015, ranchers complained that the rule change could put them out of business. But worker’s advocates argued that the new regulations were not enough. Wyoming Public Radio’s Alanna Elder met with a rancher and a shepherd  just after the latest round of raises went into effect.

 

Ladder Ranch

Wyoming Ranchers are among those who are pleased with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s decision not to list the Greater Sage Grouse as an endangered species.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in her announcement that one of the main reasons the bird wasn’t listed was the cooperation among individuals, industry, and government in conservation efforts.

Pat O’toole runs the Ladder Ranch in Savery, Wyoming. He says his ranch took several steps to help Sage Grouse – from putting land in conservation easements to creating more sage brush habitat.

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