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EQIPing for Success

June 22, 2012

Photo of producer, Charlene Rich, at her EQIP-contracted water tank.
Charlene Rich, producer near Jordan, MT, stands with her EQIP-contracted water tank.

“Out here on my property, we have three major limiting factors: water, access, and fire danger,” says Charlene Rich, a cattle producer near Jordan, Mont., and former executive director of the Montana Beef Council. By working with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Rich was able to receive assistance to reduce these factors and while improving the health of her land. In 2007, Rich signed up for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) by contacting her NRCS district conservationist, Sue FitzGerald. FitzGerald, along with her team at the NRCS field office, designed a system that would improve the health of Rich’s rangeland while addressing current concerns. With help of NRCS, Charlene was able change the limiting factors to productive factors.

To alleviate the water concern, a group of engineers helped Rich develop an alternative water source for her cattle. Before working with NRCS, Rich watered her cattle out of six marginal reservoirs and always feared losing that water during a dry year. By putting in two new water tanks at key sites, the cattle were enticed to utilize the rangeland in a more even manner, and Rich was relieved to have obtained a reliable water source.

In order to create the most efficient grazing management system possible, NRCS also worked with Rich to develop about 4,700 feet of cross-fence to be built in 2013. The fence, like the water tanks, will be installed according to NRCS design specifications in order to ensure it is long lasting and not a danger to wildlife. NRCS rangeland management specialists inventoried Rich’s land in order to design a grazing system that was both practical for the producer and good for the soil. The fence will provide the cattle access to grass that had previously gone untouched.

The final concern, fire danger, required a bit more work for both Rich and the agency. The property had tree cover as dense as 1,900 trees per acre. With the trees this crowded, they posed a fire hazard, the excess shade prevented grass from flourishing, and the new trees had too much competition to grow to their full height. NRCS helped cost-share a tree thinning project, reducing the fire hazard and restoring grass land. By following the recommendations given by NRCS, the trees were thinned in a sustainable manner, and her whole ranch could be utilized to its full potential.