Habitat & Conservation  |  11/29/2022

Outcome Based Grazing and What it Means for Conservation

Photos by Hunter Vandonsel

Working with livestock operators on those open landscapes extends the PF mission westward

By Adrienne Hoskins, Idaho Program Coordinator - Outcome-Based Grazing

For many, thinking about “The West” brings images to mind of cows grazing on open landscapes and cowboys watching over their herd.

As Pheasants Forever works to expand their upland habitat mission in the West, these cows and cowboys are a large part of that expansion. Working with livestock operators on those open landscapes extends the PF mission westward.

These landscapes are largely made up of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In 2017, the BLM started to look at how to provide flexibility in livestock grazing authorizations. Those authorizations historically had rigid terms and conditions, with few options to adjust plans based on current conditions on the ground. The ability to incorporate flexibilities in the terms and conditions is available through current and existing policy once properly analyzed in the appropriate NEPA (National Environmental and Policy Act) document. Enter the outcome-based grazing program!

When developing these authorizations, BLM personnel and the authorized grazing operator develop SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Trackable) objectives, a monitoring plan that looks at long- and short-term rangeland indicators, and incorporates cooperative monitoring and consultation with the authorized grazing operator. This program allows for flexibility to be incorporated into the annual grazing management plan to respond to current on-the-ground conditions facing the individual rancher’s grazing operation.


Examples of the flexibilities these ranchers are allowed to implement include adjusting the timing of their pasture moves, and leaving a pasture earlier some years when the vegetation objectives are met. Another example: The grazing season shifts, and turnout of livestock to graze could be later to accommodate a cool, dry spring when rangelands are not yet ready to be grazed. Still more examples come into play when ranchers are dealing with the effects of drought; this allows flexibility to use water haul sites, or to adjust pasture rotation to avoid areas affected by the fire.

How does this all feed into PF’s goal of improving habitat for wildlife? When livestock operations are managed with ecological and economic benefits in mind, it is a win-win. Small changes can have large implications over time to the health of the rangeland and the wildlife habitat they provide.

Now, when you envision livestock grazing with a cowboy watching over them, add to that vision the cowboy collecting data and working with government and non-government agencies to preserve working landscapes that provide for the livestock, rangeland health and wildlife habitat. With partners like Intermountain West Joint Venture, the Bureau of Land Management and Pheasants Forever working together towards a common outcome, the rangelands of the West are in great hands.

By Adrienne Hoskins, Idaho Program Coordinator - Outcome-Based Grazing

This story originally appeared in the 2022 Fall Issue of the Pheasants Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to be the first to read more great upland content like this, become a member today!