By Jeffrey P. Repp, State rangeland management specialist, Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The rangeland in the park is in the Cascade Range of Central Oregon. Approximately 5 percent of the park is rangeland. The rangeland is in the cold alpine and subalpine climatic regimes in the higher elevation alpine areas and in meadows and fens interspersed in the extensive subalpine forests. Seasonal wildlife use patterns in summer reflect the value of the forage. The inherent productivity and diversity of the vegetation in the subalpine fens and meadows is especially high.
The vegetation produced on rangeland helps to control erosion, conserve water, and maintain watershed; provides habitat for wildlife; and offers scenic and recreational value. Rangeland is an integral part of healthy, functional watersheds. Range plant communities protect and stabilize soils during periods of runoff. They contribute to soil structure and improve the soil water intake rate. Clean water slowly released from uplands over a period of time, recharged aquifers, and excellent riparian areas are indicators of healthy rangeland.
Historical use of the rangeland in the park has been limited to transient livestock use and seasonal wildlife use. Domestic livestock grazed sporadically in the area before it became a National park. The rangeland at the lower elevations and in the alpine meadows near the caldera rim was used for grazing in summer. Expansion of the park in the latter part of the 20th century added land that was seasonally grazed by livestock, particularly the grassy meadows in the southeastern and southwestern parts. Native tribes used the area extensively in summer for hunting, gathering, and other cultural activities.