Jim Hagenbarth to speak on Range Days tour

J.P. Plutt
Wednesday, May 26, 2021
Hagenbarth on Hogsback

Dillon rancher Jim Hagenbarth will join forces with Montana Range Days and serve as a featured on-site speaker of one of the two tours open to the public on June 22 and 23. Hagenbarth will discuss his research and implementation on how to manage grazing with reduced precipitation. His family has worked the land for decades. J.P. Plutt photo

After a year’s delay due to COVID, Montana Range Days returns to Beaverhead County June 21-23. The event is a rangeland educational event and contest for youths of Montana, but it is also open to the public. Adults in particular have enjoyed the tours held in conjunction with the threeday event.

This year, two tours are included on the agenda. On June 22, the venue will be the Fleecer Wildlife Management Area and deals with Cheatgrass treatment and control. Those going on the tour will load the buses at 8 a.m. at the Beaverhead Fairgrounds and return by 5 p.m. The tour includes a stop and lunchtime talk at Crystal Park with food and beverages provided. A third stop will unload the buses at Badger Pass for a talk on fire history and recovery.

The June 23 tour leaves the fairgrounds at 8 a.m. and returns at noon. The bus will travel to the Hogsback north of Dillon and features Jim Hagenbarth and a discussion on managing grazing during years of reduced precipitation.

To register for the tours at $20 each, you can go online to www. montanarangedays.org or call (406) 683-3802. The registration deadline is June 1 but may be extended.

“As a person who has managed range all of his life, and actively for the last 52 years, it is important folks understand what rangeland is,” said Hagenbarth last week. “These young folks, some of them, don’t have the benefit of being around range scenarios where they can learn this on their own. Those of us that have been around for a while would like to impart to those young folks how important that range is to the ecology, to society and to nature.”

Hagenbarth added that not only can he rely on the knowledge he has gained working the range for 52 years, but he benefited from the knowledge shared by his father that the elder had gathered over his 60 years working the land.

“Mother Nature has changed the area out there and the climax grasses that can persist under that moisture regime with those soils, we manage those in a way that promotes the grass and doesn’t break through a vegetative threshold,” explained Hagenbarth. “For instance, if you use it too much, you’ll go from say a blue bunch feed grass to blue gramma, a matted, warm season grass.”

The area of which Hagenbarth speaks is the Hogsback, which he says in the 1900s enjoyed a moisture regime of 16 inches and homesteaders were growing grain in the area. Hagenbarth explained that since the 1900s, the precipitation has reduced by six-tenths of an inch per decade to a 4 to 9 inch water regime.

“One of the things people don’t understand is you’ve got to be really patient when you’re dealing with Mother Nature,” said Hagenbarth. “You’re lucky to make a change maybe once or twice in a lifetime when you’re managing a resource.”

As an example, Hagenbarth recalls Wilson’s Springs, a small spring in sagebrush country.

“Every 20 years I have to either burn the brush or manage it with herbicides or that spring will get down to one gallon a minute, Hagenbarth explained. “I’ve done it twice in my life and I won’t get to do it again. I was just there the other day and it was running 25 gallons a minute. The first year if you go from 1 to 15 and if you do the math, you increase water flow 11,000 gallons per acre. That is huge.”

Hagenbarth will share his vast knowledge on rangeland on June 23.

“The first thing that we must do is work with Mother Nature,” said Hagenbarth. “The second thing on the range, and society doesn’t understand this, but they gave us the right to manage that ground for society. It is important that society truly understands who we are and it is important for those kids to understand who they are and how important their role is to society.”