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BLM reviews proposed Gypsum Valley grazing, sage grouse project

Tours offer officials and public ground-level view of projects

The Tres Rios Office of the Bureau of Land Management will host an informational field trip May 18 on two proposed projects.

BLM wildlife and range conservation officials will lead tours of the Dry Creek Landscape Restoration Project and the Gypsum Valley Grazing Permit Renewal project.

“The field trips are intended to address questions and facilitate discussion,” said Joe Manning, Assistant Field Manager for the Tres Rios Office.

Interested public not already invited by the BLM are asked to RSVP by calling (970) 882-1120. BLM pandemic protocols will be in place for the tour.

The tour begins at 9:30 a.m. at the Basin Store at the intersection of Highway 141 and County road U29 in San Miguel County.

Dry Creek Basin site will be visited from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The Gypsum Valley grazing site will be visited from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. Information and maps will be provided for participants.

The Dry Creek Landscape Restoration Project is proposed to improve habitat for the Gunnison sage grouse in San Miguel County. The bird is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The proposal calls for land restoration and removal of piñon and juniper trees in Dry Creek Basin to allow for more sagebrush habitat relied on by the ground-dwelling bird.

About 7,500 total acres northeast of Dove Creek would be treated over the life of the project, with about 500 acres treated annually. If approved, work would begin this year, and last for 10 to 15 years. BLM wildlife biologist Nate West will lead the tour.

The Gypsum Valley Grazing Permit tour will explain a new range health assessment study and environmental assessment, said BLM range conservationist Mike Jensen. The assessment is expected to be released in early May prior to the tour.

The current grazing allotment permit includes two permittees and allows for a maximum of 312 head of cattle from November to May. However, because of impacts of ongoing drought on the range, livestock numbers were reduced to 226, Jensen said.

A previous BLM decision to renew the Gypsum Valley grazing permits was opposed by Western Watershed Project, and the environmental group appealed the decision in court. A district court decision remanded the case back to the BLM for a new environmental assessment, which is expected to be released soon.

The court denied a request by Western Watershed to stop grazing on the allotment while the new environmental study is done. There will be a public comment period on the new environmental assessment.