The project was designed to train permittees and other interested parties in range monitoring and management techniques.
“We want to assess the impacts of individual range users and develop strategies to minimize those impacts,” says Dennis Moeller, project coordinator. Among the ranch impacts to be addressed are those from wildlife, private landowners, special use permittees (such as trail drives), sheep permittees, fishers, campers, bikers, hikers and hunters.
The decisions livestock producers make each summer affect soil erosion, water, the ecosystem’s health and all other users of the national forest. The members of the Cumbres and LaManga Cattle Association, with those concerns in mind on the condition of the rangeland under their Forest Service grazing permits, brought in evaluation and monitoring expert Charlie Orchard from Montana to help them set up transects. The association is composed of 22 members whose 2,500 cow-calf pairs graze 54,000 acres of Forest Service land. Seventy-five percent of the members are full-time ranchers and the other 25% derive a substantial share of their income from ranching.
Antonito livestock producer Dennis Moeller and Marvin Reynolds, area extension agent with Colorado State University and technical advisor for the SARE grant, organized the project.
Orchard conducted a two-day clinic in the summer of 1999, setting up transects designed to show year-to-year and long-term results from livestock grazing. Cages were also set up and used as day-to-day measuring tools showing how the feed was holding up, which would then signal the producers when it was time to move the cattle. In addition, Natural Resources Conservation Service personnel unable to attend the clinic visited the transect sites later that summer and helped the project participants set up another transect.
The program educated not only the permittees in the association but also the Forest Service personnel and others who attended the field days.
“The Forest Service became aware of what we were doing,” says Moeller. “They were very interested and supportive of the results and also the involvement. It taught most of the permittees what is really out there in the field and earned us a little respect with agency personnel.”
The NRCS has also become involved. On their visit to the transects, Ben Rizzi and Dave Sparks of the local NRCS office taught the permittees more about monitoring the range and provided them with additional materials to accomplish their goals. In addition, following completion of the project, the cattle association incorporated, changed its management and elected a board of directors. Moeller says the grant helped the permittees realize how much is happening on the ground.
“You have to get off your horse and on your knees and look to see what really is there,” he says. “When you learn how to identify the plants and the relationship they have to the ground and then how the moisture affects all, you can better manager your operation.”
Based on the comments and feedback from the clinic, the impact of this project on local permittees has been positive. It provides a blueprint for others who may want to improve their rangeland and their relationships with government agencies with whom they interact.
“Some said it was the most they have learned about this subject at one time in their whole life,” says Moeller. “But the positive response from the Forest Service personnel was great for us because we have a better working relationship now.”
FARMER ADOPTION AND DIRECT IMPACT
Using the resource handouts obtained during the clinic and the experience of actually setting up and observing the use of evaluation and monitoring techniques, local ranchers are trying to apply what they have learned on their own operations.
FUTURE RECOMMENDATIONS OR NEW HYPOTHESES
Deeming the project a success, Moeller says there is little he would do differently other than to try to involve all members of the cattle association. “To do it in better weather would have been nice,” he adds.
DISSEMINATION OF FINDINGS
Most of the information was disseminated during the two-day clinic to members of the Cumbres and LaManga Cattle Association. In addition, members of surrounding cattle associations, including several from New Mexico, attended the clinic. An average of 25 producers and agency personnel attended each day of the clinic. To encourage attendance, Moeller advertised the clinic in the local newspaper.
In addition, Reynolds gave a presentation on the project during the valley-wide Alfalfa and Beef Seminar attended by 44 people.
The project involved members of the Cumbres and LaManga Cattle Association as well as members of other area cattle associations.