This area hasn’t been grazed by cattle for many years-

I took this photo in late May on Pocatello’s West Bench at the base of the Bannock Mountain Range. Because it is a mixture of city land and Forest Service and no maintained fences, it hasn’t been grazed by cattle or sheep for many years.

Too many people don’t know what healthy sagebrush steppe looks like. This is an example.*

Late May on Pocatello’s West Bench. Sagebrush steppe.

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* The West Bench is hardly pristine, however. It was overgrazed in the late 19th and early 20th century so badly that the hillside was contoured by FDR’s CCC. See photo of the coutours today.

In 1987 much of the Bench burned. The was followed by BLM and Forest Service efforts to “restore” the area. This included planting yellow clover, which now covers large areas and the “more fire resistant” Siberian Wheatgrass (an exotic). For years vehicles have also gradually spread cheat grass and bulbous blue grass into local infestations. You can see some cheatgrass beginning to ripen in the second photograph.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

3 Responses to How sagebrush steppe should look

  1. avatar montucky says:

    That’s so beautiful, and yet so bittersweet!

  2. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    It would be nice to see more places like that.

  3. avatar Red-Grouse says:

    That is a nice example fo a quality Sagebrush steppe community.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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