Managing a Landscape to Increase Water, Forage and Habitat

Eleanor Fitzgerald, stands with her son, Joseph Utley, and her nephew Colin McKenzie, on a dusty outcrop among sage and bitterbrush. Behind them, 12 Mile Creek paints a dark green ribbon across the otherwise drab landscape. Sights like this are rare in Oregon's sagebrush country. Wet meadows occupy less than 2 percent of the sage-steppe region, yet provide habitat for over 350 dependent species, and support cattle grazing. Even during the driest parts of the year, the Fitzgerald Ranch can rely on the good grass down in the meadow for their cattle. The same applies to wildlife such as the sage grouse. Sustainable livestock ranching and landscape stewardship throughout the West has kept the bird off the endangered species list, and managing precious wet areas like this are key to both the bird’s survival, and the survival of the ranch. “The meadow is central to the operation," says Eleanor. "It’s next to the corral and we use it for our yearlings. Your replacement heifers are your next vulnerable group, so they get the best feed that you have as well.” It wasn't always like this. “In mid-July, some years 12 Mile Creek used to run dry. All the lower country had no water,” says Eleanor. Not today. Maintaining an “emerald island” in the middle of the desert is no small task. Here’s how the Fitzgeralds do it. Juniper Removal Unchecked, juniper trees can quickly dominate a landscape. They eliminate acres of good grazing land from production, restric

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One thought on “Managing a Landscape to Increase Water, Forage and Habitat

  1. In my region of British Columbia, there is no NRCS or anything similar, nor is there likely to be in the near future. This leaves individual farmers/ranchers with limited resources and options.

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