Fox Creek Farm is surrounded on three sides by Daybreak Ranch, a large cattle ranch, and by U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public land. The grazing rights on the BLM land are leased to Daybreak Ranch.
The upper two miles of the Fox Creek property was unfenced prior to 2003. In eastern Oregon, we have an open-range law, which means that cattle ranchers (and BLM) do not normally provide fencing to protect adjacent private land. As a result, tresspass cattle often entered the Fox Creek riparian zone for water and forage. Despite good cooperation from the Daybreak Ranch manager to push the cattle out of the canyon when asked, the presence of cattle resulted in significantly deteriorated water quality and the destruction of riparian habitat. (BLM’s own assessment of the Fox Creek watershed above our property is “FARD – Functioning at Risk, with a Downward Trend.”)
This problem is not unique to Fox Creek. But we were able to patrol the property and call the ranch for help when we found cattle, so the damage to Fox Creek, though significant, was far less than in surrounding creeks, where erosion is severe.
Our goal is to be a good neighbor to all those who may wish to learn from, and/or utilize, Fox Creek resources and the lessons we are learning here. This includes naturalists, researchers, students, farmers, rancher, hikers, hunters, fishermen, other visitors, and the public at large. We want to join in collaborative arrangements with all interested parties to develop an environment that can sustain itself for future generations.
In general, we believe that even in this fragile, high-desert environment, controlled grazing can complement programs to restore and preserve land, with particular reference to reducing the danger of range fire and to controlling weeds. However, we did not know how to accomplish this without fencing.
We applied for and received grant money to provide fencing to protect the creek and to restore the riparian planting. We collaborated with the adjoining Daybreak Ranch and BLM, plus other agencies to derive a fencing and restoration plan that meets everyone’s needs. A description of the restoration project may be found here. If all goes well, the protection and enhancement of Fox Creek should be greatly improved. Progress photos may be found here.
Cattle grazing on public land is an issue that involves and affects many people. It is quite gratifying to see that answers exist to long-standing problems.
Here are some resources for additional background information on the issues of open-range grazing and grazing on public land:
The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association policies on public lands.
The Public Policy Center of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
An article by the Christian Science Monitor: “Bidding wars escalate over ranch land.”
An organization that is advocating legislation to pay grazing permittees/lessees $175 per animal unit month to voluntarily retire their permit or lease and end grazing on public land.
Fox Creek Farm
34811 Snake River Rd.
Huntington, OR 97907
On the Web: FoxCreek.7GLT.org