After revisiting a decision on allowing a hardship allowance for grazing cattle in Beaver Creek Park, the Hill County Park Board Monday reversed itself and ordered a new look at the policies and procedures for grazing on the park.
The board’s intent is to put a final version up for review as a new county ordinance.
The park board had previously approved having the Hill County commissioners take a look at a policy that would allow ranchers with a grazing allotment to pay 50 percent of the normal fee to keep their allotment, even if they could not put cattle on the park.
After Commissioner Mike Wendland, with agreement from other board members, said no other grazing lease programs in the state, including on state or federal land, allows a reduced fee to keep allotments, the park board agreed to repeal its policy recommendation.
The county leases grazing on the park from the day after Labor Day to the first of the following year, with exact dates and the amount of cattle on the park adjusted depending on the weather and amount of grass in the park.
Ranchers have allotments determining how many cattle they run in the park. The amount is based on a three-year rolling average of how many cattle graze each year.
If a rancher pays to have fewer cattle than the maximum allowed on the park, the next year’s allotment is reduced due to the average number that actually grazed.
The board had proposed letting a rancher who could prove some sort of hardship to pay half of the normal allotment price to keep the average up, while the rancher or county then could find other ranchers to pay to let their cattle take up the space.
Wendland said that the normal procedure is that if a rancher wants to keep the allotment in a grazing program, the rancher pays the full amount whether the cattle graze or not.
Several board members said that, after the discussions on the topic in the last two meetings, they also had heard similar comments.
Commissioner Jeff LaVoi also asked if all changes that had been made or suggested about changing the grazing policies or procedures were actually written down in the policy manual or in county code.
Commissioner Kathy Bessette said the policies actually are not part of the county ordinances, and to be fully enforceable, they should be added to the code.
“We need to sit down with our county attorney and see what we have to do to straighten it out, so we are all the same, ” she said.
Part of the discussion included some changes proposed by the grazing committee and passed by the park board in 2010, some of which the commissioners spoke against at that time. The changes passed by the park board never were passed by the county commission.
One of those changes opposed by the commissioners was a requirement that all cattle be trailed into the park, rather than trucked in. Another dealt with how reductions in grazing allotments by ranchers would be spread out among new or existing allotment holders.
Park Board member Robbie Lucke said he wasn’t on the board when the changes were passed, but they did pass.
“Those policies were passed by this park board, and they came to a screeching halt in the commissioners’ office because there were things that you guys didn’t agree to, ” Lucke said. “So we’ve got to go back there, resolve those … and get it done, bring it in here, hash it out, vote on it … and go.
“This could go on for 20 years, ” he added, saying something should be prepared to bring to the park board’s next meeting.