Navajo Nation lands, located in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, are highly degraded from over 100 years of overgrazing by feral and managed livestock. Grazing permits were first issued on the Navajo Nation in the 1940s. The number of livestock initially permitted were based on livestock owned at the time and did not account for the carrying capacity of the land. This has led to high herd sizes, which expedited erosion, increased noxious weeds, and degraded the land. Currently, grazing permits are managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). While it is recognized that livestock are a vital part of the Navajo life and economy, the BIA and Navajo Nation identified the need to initiate range management for more sustainable livestock and forage production to reduce damage to soil and water resources.
To manage grazing on the Navajo Nation, the BIA conducts regular rangeland assessments on the quality and quantity of vegetation available for livestock. These assessments are used to establish grazing permit quotas and to develop grazing management plans for land users. In 2016, BIA needed to conduct rangeland inventories in District 3 of Western Navajo Agency and Precincts 1 and 3 of the Navajo Partitioned lands. These inventories, which totaled over 600,000 acres of land, required analysis of vegetation diversity, annual production, and coverage according to the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Technical Guidelines. These inventories help guide the BIA, Navajo Nation, and Natural Resources Conservation Service decisions in determining the carrying capacity of these areas to ensure long term ecological health of both the livestock and the land.
Fred Phillips Consulting was the lead contractor for this effort. This work included field crew management, implementation of GIS data analysis, and final project reporting. Our firm recruited a talented group of vegetation contractors for this project, including Sun Dog Inc., Edge Mountain Research, Sam Jones, and Steve Till. Over the course of three months over remote areas, the team successfully accomplished the surveys and reports used to guide the long-term health of these tribal lands.
Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Navajo Regional Office
Navajo Indian Reservation / 2016
BIA, Navajo Nation, Sun Dog Inc., Edge Mountain Research, Sam Jones, Steve Till