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Big Meadow Creek

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Activity (classroom) – Student HandoutBig Meadow Creek Watershed A Rangeland Planning SimulationObjectives:1. Experience the give-and-take that occurs when representatives of competing interests participate in a collaborative planning/management activity.2. Explore personal values of what is "good" or "bad" and compatible or incompatible uses of rangeland resources.3. Encourage creative solutions in disputes over rangeland resources.General Plan:The mayor of Westerly has called for the creation of the Big Meadow Advisory Panel (B-MAP) to solve environmental conflicts that arise in the Big Meadow Creek Watershed. This watershed does not exist, but is modeled on a real landscape in south-central Idaho. Conflicts will be addressed in the following steps:1. Overview the History of Big Meadow Creek Watershed.2. Meetings of the groups participating in the B-MAP.3. The first meeting of the B-MAP will focus on introductions of the groups represented and each group will present their values, beliefs, and preferences for rangeland use.4. The second meeting of the B-MAP will be dedicated to managing several problems that have arisen, and then, reporting back to the Mayor.5. Additional meeting of the B-MAP will address a serious issue that involves a conflict between and endangered bird species and the livestock that graze land in that bird's habitat. Final management plans will be developed and presented to a Judge that has been appointed to makea decision in the case.Overview and History of Big Meadow Creek Watershed:- The Big Meadow Creek Watershed is a 531,748 acre area which forms the drainage of Big Meadow Creek. This is roughly 860 square miles - imagine an area between parallel mountain ranges that's 40to 45 miles long and averages 20 miles across.- The creek got its name during the homesteading era by the pioneers and settlers who recognized therich grassy meadows in the valley. The meadows were excellent forage for cattle so the valley was quickly homesteaded by 81 homesteaders who each claimed 320 acres by the 1909 Enlarged Homestead Act.Activity (classroom) – Student Handout- The Morrill Act of 1862 claimed 2 sections (640 acres each) in each township (36 sections or 23,040 acres) to be used to create revenue for schools and Universities in the state of Idaho. This resulted in about 29 sections (21,270 acres) of the Big Meadow Creek Watershed being managed by the state ofIdaho through the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL). In the 1950's the IDL did some land swaps in thevalley that created a large block of rangeland in the southeastern part of the Big Meadow Creek Watershed.- A natural leader among the homesteaders was a young widow named Molly Westerly. Her ranch waslocated at the base of the valley which was also the location of the school. All social activities in the valley were held at the Big Meadow School and at Molly's house. Because of her hospitality and leadership, the town that grew up around the school was named "Westerly".- These early homesteaders raised hay on their homesteaded land to provide for livestock in winter. They grazed their stock on the foothills and mountains surrounding the valley during the grazing season. These foothill and mountain ranges were not controlled and were "open range" until the early 1900's.- It was quickly discovered that 320 acres of land in Idaho was just not enough land to make a living from ranching in Idaho. Many of the homesteaders went broke and the remaining livestock owners bought up their properties. These livestock producers either moved to another part of the country totry a new homestead of they started a business in the young town of Westerly. Years and years of buying and selling ranch property has resulted in only 11 livestock producers owning the land that was originally homesteaded. These ranchers each own 3,000-7,000 acres of deeded land and they have leases for grazing the State, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Forest Service land at higher elevations in the watershed.- In the late 1920's and 1930's, the U.S. Government claimed all the land that was not homesteaded. The forested lands in the mountains were declared to be administered by the U.S. Forest Service for timber production, grazing, and recreation. The sagebrush grasslands on the mountain foothills werenot valuable for timber but were recognized as important areas for grazing, recreation, and watershed management. They were designated for management by the U.S. Grazing Service which later renamed as the "Bureau of Land Management". In Big Meadow Creek Valley, this resulted in 207,838 acres of land administered by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and 218,016 acres administeredby the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).- Westerly, Idaho grew quickly to support the ranchers in Big Meadow Creek Valley and the farmland located south of Westerly.Activity (classroom) – Student Handout- Summary of land ownership in Big Meadow Creek:Acres % of WatershedPrivately-Owned Deeded 85,080 16%State of Idaho 21,270 4%Bureau of Land Management 218,016 41%US Forest Service 207,382 39%Total 531,748 100%Modern Developments:Ideas of what people want out of the Big Meadow Creek Watershed have changed over the years.- In the homesteading era, most people just wanted healthy cattle ranches to turn grass into money to fuel the economy of Westerly.- In the 1940's, people from other parts of Idaho started to visit Big Meadow Creek for the great fly-fishing that the locals had long recognized. There is one particular spot along the creek that iswell known for the big, tasty, and hard to catch "Chubby Trout".- In 1945, Route 200 was paved. This brought lots of travelers through Westerly and the Big Meadow Creek Valley. These travelers often go out of their way to visit the beautiful valley because it is so scenic.- In 1953, the USFS created the East Fork Campground so people could camp and overlook the beautiful valley. A few years later, the USFS established the "Loop Trail" that is now used heavily by hikers and horseback riders in the summer, and cross-country skiers in the winter. Currently, no motorized vehicles are allowed on the trail, excluding motorbikes and snowmobiles.Conflicts in the Valley:The past few decades have seen changes in how people value Big Meadow Valley, and how they believe it should be managed. Some people want growth; others do not. While some revere the area's ranching heritage, others are more impressed by its relatively underdeveloped condition.


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