Frequent Questions

What is rangeland?

  • Land that is not farmed or irrigated.
  • Land that is not forested.
  • Land not covered by glaciers, solid rock, concrete or asphalt.
  • Rangeland includes grasslands, savannas, tundra and open woodland.
  • Is a "kind" of land~not a land use.
  • Is 44% of Idaho's land

What are the five rangeland types in Idaho?

  1. Pacific bunchgrass
  2. Salt desert shrublands
  3. Juniper woodlands
  4. Sagebrush grasslands
  5. Coniferous forest & Mountain meadows

What makes land range?

  • Precipitation amount and timing (usually between 10-30 inches per year)
  • Soil Types
  • Climate~temperature
  • Elevation

What are some of the benefits or uses of rangeland?

  • Wildlife habitat
  • Forage for livestock
  • Recreational uses--hunting, fishing, hiking, biking, off road vehicles, bird watching, etc.
  • Mining
  • Watershed
  • Energy development
  • General aesthetics--open space

What is "Open Range"?

This is a legal description of land in Idaho that is defined by Idaho code as "All unenclosed lands outside of cities, villages, and herd districts, upon which cattle, by custom, license, lease, or permit, are grazed or permitted to roam."  Basically, any land in the state that is not designated as a herd district and is not fenced is considered open range and thus, livestock can legally be on that land.

Many of Idaho's roads and highways are within open range areas.  In Idaho, nearly every town in the southern region of the state is surrounded by rangeland.  That is approximately 22 million acres! Of that 22 million acres, 80% is managed by government entities. A majority of that public land is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. It is impossible to ensure that every mile of fence was intact at all times. This necessitates the open range law. Drivers are responsible for their own safety. Obeying the laws and being aware of animals (wild or domestic) is very important in all western states. 

How many species call the range home?

  • 1,194,000 cattle
  • 270,000 sheep
  • 334,000 deer
  • 21,000 pronghorn
  • 115,000 elk
  • 3,000 goats
  • 55,000 horses
  • 4,000 bighorn sheep
  • 3,000 mountain goats
  • 4,000 moose

What are herd districts?

Herd districts typically occur only on land that lies within city limits, but are defined at the county level.  Any land not included in an active herd district is open range. 

As described in Title 25, Chapter 24 of the Idaho Code, a herd district:

  • Is designated by county officials to prohibit animals from running at large, as they are permitted to on open range.
  • Must be created, modified, or eliminated by county commissioners.
  • Must be enclosed by legal fences and cattle guards.  A "legal" fence is defined in Title 35, Chapter 1.
  • Does not apply to livestock that roam into the district from open range unless it is enclosed by lawful fences and cattle guards.
To find out about herd disticts and open range in a specific county, contact the local county commissioners office.

Who manages Idaho's public rangeland?

U.S. Forest Service

1905 The Forest Service was created to manage forest lands, which included grazing practices. It is a multiple use agency under the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is responsible for 191,644,936 acres of land in the National Forest System. This is 8% of the nation's land.

Bureau of Land Management
1934 Taylor Grazing Act.

This act recognized the importance of managing the use of public grazing lands and sought the improvement of rangelands.

Grazing Service, a Division of the Dept. of Interior established to work with ranchers and manage grazing lands.

1946 Grazing Service merged with the General Land Office to create BLM, to manage and improve rangelands. Manages 263,929,258 acres nationwide (11.6%)

Idaho Department of Lands

When Idaho became a state in 1890, the federal government granted 3.6 million acres of land to be managed for maximum gain in terms of both resources and revenues.

  • Original endowment were sections 16 & 36 in each township
  • Not actually owned by state of Idaho--held in trust for the specified beneficiaries.
  • Public school lands currently represent about 83% of the 2.4 million acres of endowment lands.

There are nine endowment land beneficiaries

  • Public Schools (85.02%)
  • Charitable Institutions (3.17%)
  • The Penitentiary (1.17%)
  • University of Idaho (2.28%)
  • The Normal Schools-ISU & LCSC (2.42%)
  • State Hospital South (1.26%)
  • Public Buildings (.29%)
  • Agricultural College (1.36%)
  • The U of I School of Science (3.03%)

Revenue for the endowment lands provides up to 10% of the annual costs of maintaining Idaho's public schools.

The Endowment Trust has two parts:

  • Permanent Fund contains over $700 million-the proceeds of land, timber, and mineral sales.
  • Income Fund contains interest from investment of the Permanent Fund-appropriated by the legislature directly to the beneficiaries.
  • Idaho's public range resources are continually improved with money from a designated improvement account, ensuring the land's long-term productivity.

Idaho's public range resources are continually improved with money from a designated improvement account, ensuring the land's long-term productivity.

What is the basic concepts rangeland management?

The planning process based upon 6 concepts:

  1. Rangelands are renewable resources; they can produce on a sustained yield basis if properly managed
  2. Rangelands supply man with food and fiber at very low energy cost compared to those of cultivated land
  3. Energy from the sun can be captured by green plants, which can be harvested most efficiently by grazing animals
  4. Rangeland production is determined by soil, topography, and climatic characteristics
  5. Rangelands produce a variety of products (I.e. forage, recreation, water) therefore principles of multiple use are important in range management
  6. Rangeland must be managed to maintain soil and water quality

What wildlife species live on the range?

Of the total species of animals in the U.S.

  • 84% mammals
  • 74% birds
  • 58% amphibians
  • 38% fishlive in non-forested rangeland ecosystems.

Why do we need range science for management of rangelands?

To understand the physical, biological, and social processes that affect rangelands.To discover principles upon which to base the wise use of rangelands. Managers must integrate scientific knowledge with ideas, hunches, traditions, etc., to make wise decisions.

What is grazing management?

A variety of systems have been designed based upon the following:

  • Grazing intensity
  • Grazing intensity~how much of the more important plants will the animal utilize. Season of use
  • growing season
  • seed-ripe
  • dormancy Deferment - allowing plants "rest" during the growing season.
  • Grazing during different seasons allows for deferment through a rotation system
  • In general, proper grazing use is removing no more than 50% of the annual growth by the end of the grazing season.
  • Dormant season grazing can be intensified, but short in duration Stocking
  • refers the number of animals a piece of land can support. This should always include wildlife utilization.

Grazing systems can:

  • Improve distribution
  • Give management flexibility for improvement activities such as burning
  • Improve range condition
  • Affect livestock production
  • Alter wildlife use of rangelands

Types of grazing systems:

  • Continuous Grazing (1 pasture:1 herd)
  • Rotational Grazing (1 herd:multiple pastures)
  • Deferred Rotation (Multiple herd:multiple pastures)
  • High Intensity/Low Frequency (1 herd:multiple pastures)
  • Short Duration Grazing (1 herd:multi-pastures)

How much forage for livestock does the range and pastures provide?

Range and pastures provide:

  • 83% nutrients consumed by beef cattle
  • 91% nutrients for sheep and goats
  • 72% nutrients for horses and mules