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BLM’s grazing fund benefits ranchers in Montezuma County

Permittees get reimbursed for range improvements
Garth Nelson, a Bureau of Land Management range scientist, discusses conditions on Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in 2015 as the Wallace family listens in.

The Board of Grazing Advisors for the Southwest BLM District swung through Montezuma County last week.

The board doles out funding for range improvements needed by local ranchers. The funds are derived from fees paid by ranchers to graze BLM lands.

“Twelve percent is returned to the counties, where the fees are generated to pay for infrastructure improvements,” said board member Ross Allen.

The fund has a budget of $50,000 and typically pays $500 to ranchers with qualifying rangeland projects, including fencing, stock trails, habitat improvement, predator control, wells, livestock tanks, pond construction and pond cleaning.

“If it benefits grazing and helps the permittee, we will consider it,” Ross said.

This year, local ranchers have received $5,000 to clean out 10 different ponds of silt. Last year, seven ponds were maintained using the funding.

Officials said approval of projects can get delayed by required environmental reviews. But including the projects in grazing-permit renewals is seen as a solution to the backlog.

It was noted that the fund does not help pay for fencing separating private from federal grazing allotments because that is seen as a benefit for a landowner. However, funding for fencing between allotments, or between different categories of federal lands is allowed.

Robbie LeValley, public lands director of the Colorado Cattleman’s Association, reported on lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., for grazing funding for public land agencies.

“Lobbying at the nation level protects range dollars at the local level,” she said.

The group promotes good grazing practices and fights national standards and range-science methodologies that are not considered practical.

“We explain that a one-size-fits-all standard is not effective,” LeValley said, such as for grass height.

An update on the status of grazing allotments in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument was given by Mike Jensen, a range specialist for the Tres Rios BLM District.

An initial plan to restock allotments in the monument was challenged in 2015 by environmental groups, including Western Watersheds, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, and Grand Canyon Trust.

As a result, additional land-health assessments and monitoring are being done to determine what level of grazing the land can support.

“We received push back on an earlier decision to authorize grazing there, so we put the breaks on and are reassessing so we are in a better position moving forward,” Jensen said.

He said there are 16 applicants from local ranchers interested in grazing the land if it is opened up, including one for sheep.

For more information on funding from the BLM Board of Grazing Advisors, contact Mike Jensen at (970) 882-6828 or email m50jense@blm.gov


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