Ranching

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

Before the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area became a backcountry paradise for outdoor adventures, families up and down the Snake River called it home.

Plucky families, including Lem and Doris Wilson, made a go of sheep ranching in a very primitive environment that had no electricity, no refrigerators and no modern conveniences. In 1951 the family of four moved onto a 4,000 acre ranch in the canyon, several miles away from Grangeville, with 1,200 sheep for company.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife / Associated Press

Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife Department is holding a second hearing on a wolf plan Friday in Portland. The plan is unpopular with ranchers and wolf supporters alike.

Oregon didn’t have documented wolves before 2005. Since then, thanks to the animals crossing over the border from Idaho, Oregon now has 11 packs, totaling at least 112 wolves. Twelve years ago, the state adopted a plan to manage the wolves but wants to revise it now that the population is growing.

John Locher / AP Images

The trial of six men accused of federal crimes during a standoff at a Nevada ranch divided a Las Vegas jury Monday.

The jury found two men guilty of crimes connected to the armed standoff at Cliven Bundy’s ranch in 2014. A group critical of federal land management gathered at Bundy's ranch to defy agents there to round up his cattle, which were grazing on public lands. The armed standoff ended without injuries.

Kelsie Kitz / Pioneers Alliance

Rancher Jim Cenarrusa says he sold 9,000 acres of his central Idaho ranch to the Nature Conservancy because he knows the conservation group will take care of it. The land is at the base of the Pioneer Mountains, and is home to sage grouse and pronghorn.

The family will keep a small parcel for their next generation to farm, but Cenarussa says his kids aren’t interested in carrying on the family ranch.

s. Hellstrom / InciWeb

The Soda Fire along the Oregon border has burned 440 square miles. The majority of those miles is rangeland in Owyhee County and that’s bad news for ranchers. There could be long-term effects to ranchers in the area.

More than 26 percent of jobs in Owyhee County come from agriculture, two-thirds of which comes from livestock operations. There are 145,000 cows in the county — 36,000 of them are beef cattle.

InciWeb

The Soda Fire has burned more than 400 square miles of sage brush and rangeland 40 miles west of Boise. It’s just eight miles from Jordan Valley.

Ranchers and farmers are building firebreaks to protect their property. Power poles have burned up, leaving some without power. Despite the danger, the communities throughout the area are coming together to help those in need.

gray wolf, wolves
U.S. Fish & Wildlife

Washington fish and wildlife officers are recommending a misdemeanor charge against a farmer accused of illegally shooting a wolf last month.

Whitman County Prosecutor Denis Tracy tells the Moscow-Pullman Daily News that he'll review the investigation report and the law before making a decision about whether to file charges. The wolf was shot southwest of Pullman on Oct. 12.

Under Washington law, a wolf can only be shot if it is in the act of attacking pets or livestock.

This Reader's Corner interview initially was broadcast in January, 2014.

During the summer of 2007, a city kid from Seattle lived out an adventure most wannabe cowboys only dream of.

Bryce Andrews spent a year working on the Sun Ranch — an expansive area of rangeland in the breathtaking wilderness of southwest Montana — mending fences, riding horses, roping cattle and transforming himself into a true ranch hand. It fulfilled his heart’s desire to live among the wild. And, as Andrews writes, it “might have been a simple, pretty story, if not for the wolves.”

rancher
Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

For years there's been a battle raging between Idaho ranchers and the federal government over whether ranchers should be able to fight wildfires.

Ranchers say they've always just gone out there, with their trucks and tanks of water and try to put the fires out themselves. The feds have said, leave it to the pros and don't make yourself a liability.

At times it's almost come close to blows. But now a truce has been struck that could change the way fires are fought every summer.

High costs of wildfires

ranching, cattle, trough
Julie Rose / For Boise State Public Radio

In a couple of weeks, Logan Alder will marry his girlfriend and move into a small house on the family ranch in Malad, Idaho. In another year, he’ll have an agriculture degree from Utah State University. But right now, he’s just a 25-year-old kid, knee-deep in muck.

Mud regularly builds up on the bottom of this large watering trough in a field where Alder’s keeping some of his 500 cattle. Usually a spigot keeps the trough full so muck can’t build up as easily. But lately, the well underneath is running so low the spigot merely sputters.

Castle Peak, Baker Ranch
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

If Hollywood needed a setting for one of its westerns, this spot along the East Fork of the Salmon River just might be it. In fact, one of Clint Eastwood’s famous westerns, Pale Rider, was shot not too far from here.

For the dwindling number of ranchers who still earn their livings on this land, this valley is nothing like a romanticized western – it’s gritty, year-round work.

The Baker family has lived, and ranched here for more than 125 years.

According to newly-released data from the USDA's agricultural census, the number of farms in the Northwest is dropping.

Over the last 20 years, the number of sheep in the U.S. has plummeted by half. The sheep industry has actually been declining since the late 1940s, when it hit its peak.

The sharp drop in production has left ranchers to wonder, "When are we going to hit the bottom?"

Some sheep are raised for their wool, others primarily for food. Consumption of both products — lamb meat and wool — have been declining in the U.S.

How Cheatgrass Could Soon Be In Your Pint Glass

Sep 28, 2012
TurasPhoto / Flickr

Much of the acreage lost to wildfires in Idaho and the West this year means miles and miles of land opened up to cheatgrass.

For ranchers, this invasive species spreads quickly and requires time and resources to remove.

So what can ranchers do? How about making beer?  Home brewer Tye Morgan explains why cheatgrass is the perfect ingredient for beer.