Drought May Force Some Cattle Off Nevada's Rangelands

RENO, NV - While the current drought is being described in historic terms elsewhere in the nation, here in the high desert, dry spells are nothing new.

Our current drought is not unprecedented, but in pure numbers it is remarkable.

"Since the beginning of July last year, a year ago, we've had less than 3 inches which is about 40 per cent of our long term average, notes Kelly Redmond, of the Desert Research Institute and the Western Climatological Center.

Redmond says ground water reserves from the big winter before last got us through the first half of that dry spell, but the continued lack of moisture and now the summer heat and wind have accelerated matters.

By April, he says, soil moisture conditions were what we would normally see in the middle of summer. And, he sees no immediate relief in sight.

"Climatologically, we don't really expect relief until October."

While the reservoirs still have enough to get urban areas through this summer, out here it's approaching emergency conditions for the landscape, the wildlife and livestock.

The Bureau of Land Management administers most of Nevada's public lands including it's grazing range. and with the expectation of continued dry conditions, they're getting ready to act.

"We may to pull some of the livestock off some of the harder hit areas to lessen some of the impacts of the drought conditions," says BLM plant specialist Mark Coca.

Coca says the BLM has little choice. When things get this dry, continued grazing will cause more lasting damage to the range.

We've just started discussions with some of our ranchers to notify them this may happen," Coca says. "We are always asking for voluntary responses to these conditions first and foremost.

Those orders could come in the next few weeks.

Others in neighboring states face even worse conditions. Recent wildfires destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres of range land in Oregon.

Coca says ranchers there have asked if they could move their herds to Nevada for grazing. The answer has been no.

"We're in the same shape," he says.

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