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RangeNet Project
Project WPLGAlbum


Page 1: Livestock Grazing in the Blue Mountains of Oregon
by: Christopher "Chris" Christie
October, 1999

Disclaimer: The locations of photographs in  this album have not been determined through survey. Due to the intermingled nature of land ownerships throughout much of the west, some photographs where the context or caption imply or otherwise indicate government ownership may actually be located on intermingled or adjoining private lands.


Pictures 1a-1through 1a-4 [11/8/99] show Summit Creek on the Sagehen pasture of the Summit Prairie allotment of the Prairie City Ranger District before, during, and after it passes through an old exclosure. The exclosure excludes cattle but not other native herbivores. It is Fall, after the grazing season, so most leaves have fallen from the deciduous shrubs, and the grasses and sedges are mostly dormant and straw colored.

Picture 1a-1 is at the fenceline (shadow of exclosure fence on lower right) looking at the shrub-less, wide (4 to 10 feet), shallow channel with unprotected and damaged banks as well as cow mown terraces where the stream enters the exclosure. These changes, common to all overgrazed low gradient streams in the Blue Mountains, represent abusive and serious impacts to riparian and aquatic life and leaves the stream much less prepared to deal with the stream power of high flows. Too many miles of wide, shallow streams also reduce water quality by increasing water temperature to levels that are harmful for native fish.

Picture 1a-2, taken inside the exclosure, reveals the narrow (2.5 to 3 feet) and deeper channel characteristic of mid (to late) seral riparian development. Protected from grazing here, Summit Creek has adequate vegetation to protect its banks, dissipate stream energy during high flows, trap sediments, keep water cool, perform other normal hydrologic functions and develop morphological and other features necessary to support fish production and increased biodiversity.

Picture 1a-3 looks back into the exclosure from the downstream side. Cattle have severely damaged the willow plant in foreground (and others nearby) while native wildlife have left the willows in the exclosure largely undisturbed except for light browsing. Compare remaining grass stubble to that inside the exclosure at the fenceline.

Picture 1a-4 shows a stretch of Summit Creek below the exclosure. It is well grazed with a wide (4 to 10 feet), shallow channel, has inadequate quantities of down wood, trampled and flat banks, poor expression of bank stabilizing woody vegetation, and over-utilized “greenline’ sedges and bluegrass on flood plain terraces. The ruler on the right shows sedges at 2 to 3 inches, while grass-like plants are almost a foot high inside the exclosure (Pics 2 & 3). Pacfish/Infish and/or National Forest standards were implemented in 1995 to protect and restore the habitat of threatened steelhead, salmon and bull trout. They call for zero to light use of new willow branches, greater than 90% bank stability, more than 75% undercut banks, 4 to 6 inch stubble height on sedges and 4 inch residual stubble on bluegrass terraces. A review of pictures 1 through 4 shows that only the ungrazed section of this stream, the exclosure, meets the standards, provides for good fish habitat and conditions that would lead to recovery, even though it has been over four years since the Pacfish/Infish standards were to be implemented. Salmon, steelhead and bull trout represent an important portion of nature’s aquatic legacy that don’t have time to wait for grazing permittees and the Forest Service to quit destroying their habitat - they need productive riparian and aquatic habitat now to ensure their recovery - and that’s why cattle must get out of the streams and riparian zones of these public lands.

Pictures 1a-5 and 6 show two degraded meadows on the Malheur National Forest. The first (“Nightmares on the Malheur #1”) is at the begining of the Middle Fork of the John Day river, near the confluence of Summit and Squaw creeks, on the Long Creek Ranger District. The nearby river and tributaries connected to this area are used by threatened bull trout and steelhead as well as the sensitve spring chinook salmon. This was once a wet meadow/beaver pond area and can be viewed from U.S. highway26. The beaver are gone and the water table has dropped due to 4 to 5 foot gullies and the loss of beaver dams. The short grey bushes are dead willow. When I asked the range conservationist about this situation he told me that he didn’t know anything about it. It is not mentioned in the alloment folders, the watershed analysis or the stream survey for Summit creek, but the Upper Middle Fork Watershed Analysis does openly acknowledge that “Concentrated livestock use in the riparian areas has been the single most significant negative impact on riparian vegetation.” While the District hydrologist has shown concern for the area, it is not presently being restored and cattle continue to graze and degrade it in violation of the Pacfish/Infish grazing standards.

The last picture on this page (“Nightmares on the Malheur #2”) was provided by a Blue Mountains conservationist. It shows the gully formed in Knox meadow, on the Prairie City Ranger District, by over 100 years of cattle grazing.


NANCY GRAYBEAL - Acting Regional Forester,
Pacific Northwest Region
PO Box 3623, Oregon 97208-3623
Fax: 503-808-2210
Email: rf/;
Janet Newberg - Executive Assistant, 503-808-2201

Malheur National Forest
PO Box 909, John Day, OR 97845,
Fax: 541-575-3001
Email: mailroom/;
Bonnie J. Wood - Forest Supervisor

Ranger Districts - Malheur National Forest

Burns - District Ranger Jim Keniston, Hines, OR 97738,
Email: jkeniston/

Long Creek/Bear Valley - District Ranger Douglas Robin, John Day, OR 97845,
Email: drobin/

Prairie City - District Ranger Richard Haines, Prairie City, OR 97869,
541 820-3800,
Email: rhines/