Testing conservation-oriented livestock management
The Kane Ranch and the Two Mile Ranch operate under separate grazing permits, however they are both owned and operated by North Rim Ranch LLC, a subsidiary of the Grand Canyon Trust. North Rim Ranch, on behalf of the Trust, acts as the livestock grazing permitee across approximately 850,000 acres of public lands administered by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Arizona State Land department. The permits include important conservation areas such as the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, the Paria River Wilderness, and the Marble Canyon Area of Critical Environmental Concern. The ranches also include about 1,000 acres of deeded land, numerous water rights, buildings, and range improvements including stock water pipelines, fences, corrals, tanks, and wells.
Working with North Rim Ranch, we have developed a set of strategies to graze livestock in the most ecologically responsible manner possible, given the stipulations of our grazing permits. Many of these strategies have involved modifying ranch management and infrastructure to decrease the impacts of our livestock on wildlife species and sensitive habitats. For example, we have worked closely with federal land management agencies to reduce stocking rates across sensitive pastures, and with the help of our volunteers, we have built and installed bat and bird escape ramps in water troughs and tanks, modified fences to make them pronghorn-friendly and have identified other fences to remove completely. In other areas, we have helped the agencies construct new fence to protect sensitive riparian habitats by excluding livestock.
We are implementing several research projects that should lead to a better understanding of the impacts of livestock across this landscape. We are conducting ongoing research on the relationship between livestock and post-fire forest regeneration, wildlife habitat improvement projects, and grassland restoration that will inform adaptive strategies for livestock management across the ranches. In the near future, we hope to install a network of livestock exclosures across the ranches to monitor long-term effects of grazing.
Because the Kane and Two Mile ranches span a highly diverse landscape and a broad range of conservation issues we are in the process of developing a specific and comprehensive Livestock Management plan to strategically guide our ongoing management decisions. At its core, this plan is designed to achieve the ecological objectives identified in our recently completed Restoration Plan. We have begun systematically identifying differences between the current livestock management plan on the Kane and Two Mile, and a livestock management plan that achieves our ecological objectives, with regards to ecological, operational, political, and economic dimensions of ranch management. We are also working to identify likely stressors and opportunities that will affect ranch management over the next 5 years. This will help us predict how to best achieve our ecological objectives under a series of future scenarios that we believe are most likely to influence ranch management.