Project Status: Completed 2017
The Little Medicine Bow River Upland/Riparian Grazing Management Plan project is designed to restore over-utilized vegetative communities in two phases. The WLCI is funding the Medicine Bow Conservation District’s proposal for added infrastructure in 2014 as part of phase two. The primary objective of the project is to develop a grazing plan that optimizes the health and vigor of both the upland and riparian communities to maintain ranching operations while improving upland, riparian, and aquatic habitat for a diversity of terrestrial and aquatic species.
Phase one included the installation of 1.8 miles of wildlife-friendly fence that limits grazing within a 139.5-acre riparian pasture. The fence protects natural springs and allows a stunted willow community to rejuvenate. Phase two will shift the timing and intensity of grazing away from areas that need rest. Range assessments, vegetation inventories, and plan development in 2012 for the area rapidly identified that added infrastructure (i.e. cross-fencing, water development, and fence tagging) is needed to provide significantly higher habitat benefits over the entire project area. Infrastructure needs include the installation of approximately 7 linear miles of wildlife-friendly fencing with intermittent sections of lay-down fence that will pass mule deer, pronghorn (crucial range), and elk to ensure overland migration corridors are maintained. A mile of new fencing was installed in 2014 to protect riparian vegetation and to facilitate cattle and wildlife access to water and to implement a river crossing. During late summer/early fall of 2017, a request for bids was released for fencing contractors. The final phase of this project completed approximately three miles of wildlife friendly fence to break down a large pasture that has under-utilized upland areas by fencing off the riparian area and linking up with other fencing creating three pastures. The fencing allows managers to utilize rotated grazing systems for better recovery periods. Monitoring in this area has been developed and implemented.
Fencing from both phases will allow the existing 11,256-acre pasture unit to be broken into three upland and two riparian pastures which will further expand range planning capabilities. The riparian pasture will be rested from grazing for several years to promote the recovery of existing riparian plants and lower water temperature in the aquatic habitat. Potential water development for upland pastures is being explored by a NRCS geologist. The WLCI project proposal includes funding needed to drill two test wells, provided this is not cost prohibitive. Water development in the uplands would eliminate the need for water gaps in the riparian fence that would otherwise be needed to sustain cattle. Access to water in distant uplands will allow the grazing planner to expand their conservation strategy and further improve the health and vigor of upland grasses. Additional intended outcomes of the project include improved thermal cover for fish, and river and riparian zone stabilization on the Medicine Bow River and Rock Creek.