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A Rich History of Grazing and Multi-Use

By Mavrick Farnam, UC Cooperative Extension Modoc

Range allotments are pieces of public land that are typically used by a permittee for livestock grazing. Vacant allotments are rangeland allotments that are not currently being used for grazing. In the Double-head Ranger District there are three large allotments totaling nearly 70,000 acres that have been vacant since 1992. These allotments are known as the Glass Mountain, Timber Mountain, and Mud Lake allotments. In 2006 data collection began on these allotments to determine if they were fit for beginning livestock grazing again. Not only was rangeland health considered, but threatened plants, archaeological sites, and historical value were also analyzed to determine if reestablishing grazing would be beneficial to the rangeland and all parties involved. A detailed range report on the three allotments was submitted after compiling all of the research and data collection done. Ultimately the allotments were not used for grazing purposes and remain vacant.

This area of the Modoc National Forest has some unique history and importance. These allotments are historically vital winter deer range for the Modoc Mule Deer. Plentiful feed and cover make this area optimal for deer and other wildlife in the winter season. These have historically been part of the hunting grounds for Native American Tribes in the area due to the optimal deer habitat. Modoc Mule Deer herds have greatly decreased in size compared to historical numbers.

There are over a thousand recorded archaeological sites on these allotments with many more not yet recorded. Many historical sites are recorded from early Native American Tribes through early settlers looking to homestead. The Burnett trail also runs through these allotments in a few sections. The Burnett trail was a break away from the Applegate trail that led south and was often used by people seeking their fortune of gold in California.

Threatened, endangered, and endemic species are also of concern in these allotments. Slender Orcutt grass is a California endangered annual grass that is native and endemic to Northern California. It grows in vernal pools which are common on the Modoc National Forest and within these allotments.

Glass Mountain, Timber Mountain, and Mud Lake Grazing Timeline

  • Livestock grazing use in the Doublehead region began in 1873.

  • An estimated 75,000 – 80,000 cattle and horses were in the area until 1920.

  • As early as 1900 sheep were brought to the area for winter range and left to lamb in the spring.

  • From 1917 to 1920 up to 100,000 sheep are estimated to have been brought through the area.

  • In the 1950s and 1960s management of the area increased and livestock numbers were reduced.

  • The allotments switched to cattle use from sheep in the 1950s

  • Sheep use returned in 1980

  • Last use by cattle 1972

  • Last use by sheep 1991

The use of sheep has been dominant to cattle in these allotments because of the rugged terrain as well as lack of permanent water sources. In the past, water has been hauled to new locations within the allotment to encourage sheep to utilize larger areas while moving to the new water sources. Without the ability to move livestock to balance their utilization across the allotments, potential overuse near permanent water sources becomes an issue.

These vacant allotments offer a rare opportunity to collect data on rangelands that have not been grazed recently. Updating much of the data collected in 2006 with new information that follows the same methods will be beneficial to allow more recent data to be used in future decisions regarding these allotment uses. It can also provide insight into how the land reacts to changes in management over time.

The Caldwell Fire limited our ability to collect significant amounts of data on these allotments this year but we look forward to digging in the archives and collecting data next year.

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