My window was pretty clear regarding what is going on with the government agencies in and around Rio Blanco County after attending the Rio Blanco County Woolgrowers Association annual meeting on March 6 in Meeker.
If one really wants to find out where the bodies are buried, the county Stockgrowers’ and Woolgrowers’ association meetings are great because both groups bring in the county commissioners, the White River and Douglas Creek Conservation Districts, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, Community Connections, among others, who take turns touching on what is going on, giving updates and answering questions offered from the association members.
It is an informative time that is open to the public; not just the members of the two associations.
Perhaps the most important information to be gleaned from these meetings is just how many of the major issues are intertwined between the agencies and how many of these various agencies touch everyone involved in ranching or farming.
For instance, one of the major issues to come out of these two groups’ meetings is the wild horse management issue.
Most of these wild horses are located on BLM land, and we all know that the BLM has not lived up to the Wild Horse and Burro Act, which specifies how many horses should be maintained where and how the excess should be handled.
The White River and Douglas Creek Conservation Districts are concerned about the high numbers, often more than double what there should be on these BLM lands, and what the horses are doing to the habitat “out there,” particularly in relation to the Greater Sage Grouse.
The BLM, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the county commissioners and several legislators in Colorado as well as most of the counties in Northern Colorado are trying to figure out what to do to keep the Greater Sage Grouse off the Endangered Species List, something the environmentalists are trying to have done.
So, many are trying to say that if the BLM would handle the wild horses, which do a lot of damage to Greater Sage Grouse habitat, then the grouse would likely be able to recover and the entire situation would be improved.
The BLM faces, according to Callie Hendrickson, the executive director of the White River and Douglas Creek Conservation Districts, one sentence in the Wild Horse and Burro Act, that states the wild horses that have been captured can’t be sold commercially.
So the BLM can’t act to round up many more horses because there is no place to put them, and they don’t have room in the pens because they can’t get rid of the horses they have.
This is a real Catch-22 because the only way that sentence can be removed is through an act of Congress, which doesn’t seem very interested in dealing with the issue.
Predators are another subject that crosses many agency barriers.
Rio Blanco County has a predator problem with bears and lions.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife gets caught up with this problem because it is involved in mitigating the damages caused.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is involved because the area falls under that domain, and Mike Urie, who has been serving as director of wildlife services with APHIS, announced he is leaving with a promotion and that the current area trapper is leaving.
Dave Moreno, who will be replacing Urie, said a new trapper is desperately needed and that the current trapper will be replaced.
Livestock, be it calfs or lambs, can be a serious expense when predation runs high.
Woolgrowers Association Secretary/Treasurer Connie Theos contends that the cost can be quite high.
She said that in one recent year, a claim for $14,533 was turned in for the loss of 43 lambs and 24 ewes that had been confirmed bear kills. She also said that in one year, claims were turned in for 77 lambs, confirmed as killed by lions.
“We are lucky to have a trapper,” she said. “With our own trapper now, he gets there much quicker and can help eliminate the problem much sooner.
“Before we had our own trapper, there was one year when we reported sheep killings on June 5 and it wasn’t until July 9 that the trapper showed up,” Theos said.
There are a number of other instances in which issues involve several different agencies, such as future plans for Colorado River water, where a new dam may be placed along the White River in Rio Blanco County to help replace water that can no longer be stored in Kenney Reservoir. There is also the issue of how the number of animal unit measures (AUMs), which are the number of mother/calf or mother/lamb units will be allowed on the land, as well as, according to Mike Lopez of the BLM Grazing Board, who said that grazing fees are increasing but that 50 percent of the AUMs available in 2002 are no longer being utilized for grazing.
These are just a few of the topics that came up at the Stockgrowers’ and Woolgrowers’ meetings. It is good to know what is going on, and there is no better place to learn what is going on than to attend one of these two groups’ one day meetings.
As a person with only a rudimentary knowledge of the actual livestock business, it is frustrating to see what these stock and wool growers have to go through in dealing with state and federal government issues when the state and federal agencies (and a lackadaisical Congress) can’t and won’t take care of their own business.
Another of the major happenings right now is the BLM’s Northwest Colorado Sage Grouse Environmental Impact Statement, which is pulling in almost every known regional entity, such as the conservation districts, who are participating as cooperating agencies. For instance, the conservation districts are working with the governor’s office and monitoring the Colorado BLM Plan as it is being reviewed and amended by the Washington, D.C., BLM office.
The districts are actively engaged in the conversations regarding the top-down approach of management, the role of predator control in the grouse’s protection and the BLM’s lack of active management of feral horses that overlap the sage grouse habitat.
This by no means covers all the issues that area agencies are involved in, but suffice it to say that these agencies are staying busy—sometimes battling each other—but they are not just standing by in most cases.
Thanks to the county stockgrowers and county woolgrowers for their annual information-filled meetings. They work hard to keep us up to date.
Congratulations of the highest order go out to the Meeker High School boys’ basketball team, which just wrapped up its season.
The boys never did get on a roll at the state tournament, and they lost to the Simla team in the first game.
The Cowboys, not a team to curl up and die, followed that loss, only the second of the team’s season, with another victory. Then they entered the game to name the No. 5 and No. 6 teams in the state. The game went back and forth and was tied many times, including at the end of the third period.
Well, the Meeker boys lost that contest by a single point, ending up No. 6 in Colorado in their enrollment division.
Any way you look at it, ending up No. 6 in the state of Colorado is a darned exceptional accomplishment. The Cowboys and coach Klark Kindler have nothing to be ashamed of, and, I would say, quite a bit to be proud of.
They fought hard through league, division and region with only one loss all season, and to end up with a 23-3 overall record against the other seven best teams in the state makes for a darned good season.
Well done, gentlemen.