Range & Natural Resources

Rangelands account for approximately 1.4 million of the 1.9 million total acres which make up Crook County.  Rangelands are composed of the non-irrigated, non-tillable, non-forested lands. In Crook County, rangelands are influenced by three primary ecological provinces.  The Mazama, John Day and High Desert ecological provinces are each unique in their combination of soils and plant communities. 

Average annual precipitation varies from 10 inches on the west end of the county to 15 inches on the east end. These lands are important in their production of forage for wildlife and livestock.  Rangelands provide important and unique habitats for species such as sage grouse and offer aesthetic beauty for recreation.  Vegetation found on the desert can be combined into four major plant groups: grasses, forbs (flowering plants), shrubs and trees. Common native grasses found on Central Oregon rangelands include bluebunch wheatgrass, Idaho fescue, Thurber's needle grass, Sandberg's bluegrass, June grass and bottle brush squirreltail. Common forbs include phlox, locoweed (Astragalus species) and crepis. Shrubs include big sagebrush (basin, Wyoming, mountain), low sagebrush, bitterbrush and rabbitbrush. Juniper is the tree species most commonly found on eastern Oregon's rangelands.

Private rangeland ownership accounts for approximately 700,000 acres in Crook County. These lands are used primarily for livestock grazing and provide forage and habitat for wildlife. Wildlife management units established by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife include the Ochoco, Grizzly, Paulina, Maury and Silvies.

Livestock production is a major industry accounting for over 50 percent of the farm gate receipts.  Livestock grazing on rangelands is important to the stability of the industry. In addition to grazing private rangelands, grazing also occurs on lands managed by state and federal agencies.  Grazing permits are issued by the Division of State Lands, State of Oregon, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. Permit holders pay an annual grazing fee to the appropriate agency.  Permit holders are usually responsible for maintenance of fences, and water developments.   Land management agencies work with permit holders and other interested parties to develop grazing management plans.  Grazing plans guide how grazing will occur and address a variety of issues including the numbers of animals to be allowed on the allotment, season of use, and forage utilization levels.

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