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Range monitoring catches on with Idaho ranchers

Carmen Creek, Salmon, ID

Seth McFarland grew up on his family's ranch in Carmen Creek, just north of Salmon, Idaho. Last year, he graduated from the University of Idaho with a range management degree. McFarland was eager to apply what he learned from college in managing the ranch.

He's set up more than 10 range-monitoring transects on their private land and nearby Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service grazing allotments. Today, McFarland is recording information from a line-point intercept monitoring transect on the Badger Springs BLM allotment adjacent to their ranch.

"What I do is collect cover data right at every 4 feet along this 200-foot transect," McFarland says. "The cover data will indicate long-term trend. And I will repeat this every 4-5 years."

At the monitoring points, McFarland is finding native bluebunch wheatgrass, Idaho fescue, wildflowers and sage brush, among other species. His Dad found a grouse nest under a sage brush a few feet away.

"The line point intercept is essentially like an inventory," McFarland says. "So this method is just a rapid quick assessment, a quick inventory of what's here, and it's useful for trend over time."

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