The president of the Cache County Cattlemen's Association says a U.S. Forest Service plan to close summer rangeland in the Cache-Wasatch Forest could devastate many struggling ranchers.

Darrell Kunzler said he received a letter from the Forest Service saying that unless sufficient moisture is received by the first of this week, cattle will have to leave the ranges.Joyce Richey, acting Logan district ranger, said the rangeland is so dry it cannot tolerate the tramping of some 5,000 head of cattle that roam the mountain pastures.

"With the lack of moisture in the area, feed has been tramped down, and cattle are congregating in specific areas where there is water. Permitees were all mailed letters informing them of the strong possibility of removing the cattle early because we feel we have no other choice," she said.

Kunzler said he believes the Forest Service is overreacting.

"The Forest Service should be listening to us and trying to work with us," he said.

About 300 of the cattle grazing in range areas belong to Kunzler. He said there still is good feed in the range.

"It has been hurt by the drought, but it would be a mistake to force cattlemen to remove all their animals now, and I don't know what we would do," he said.

Normally the cattle remain on the summer range until October, when they are brought out of the mountains. Kunzler said there is no pasture in the lowlands if the cattle are brought out, and feed prices are too high for ranchers to maintain their stock.

"Cattle numbers already are down in Cache County because of many years of low prices, and the situation will force many more to go to market this fall," he said.

Kunzler said that could mean a real shortage of beef in the coming months with wide price fluctuations, which would be bad for consumers and producers alike.