Ranchers who have taken their land out of production in exchange for government payments will soon be able to open property for their own livestock and their neighbors' cattle in Juab, Cache, Box Elder, Millard and San Juan counties.
The number of conservation lands to be released and how long cattle can graze will be determined by local managers, said Bruce Richeson, Utah director for the U.S. Farm Service Agency, which overseas the conservation program.
"This is a little bit of help," said Kevin Stanley, Juab County director for the Farm Service Agency. "But in this situation, anything we can do is important."
The federal government paid nearly $7 million to landowners enrolled in the reserve program in 2005, and more than $112 million during the past decade, according to the Environmental Working Group, a farm watchdog organization.
Government payments to ranchers for land held in the Conservation Reserve Program will be reduced by 10 percent during the emergency grazing period.
The measure comes at a time when nearly half of all state cattle have been forced off fire and drought-stricken ranges. Ranchers will have to come up with $3.8 million for hay needed to feed their animals, say state officials.