Colorado Sheep Grazing

Last week the BLM issued the final Environmental Impact Statement for grazing permit renewals in southwestern Colorado.  Refer to Figure 1-A on page 6 of the document for a map of the project area.

Public comments can be submitted through February 10, according to the news release, at which time a decision will be rendered.  A 15-day protest period will then commence, followed by a 30-day appeal period for the final decision.

The EIS considered five alternatives, including the termination of grazing on all nine allotments.  Wild horses and burros are not allowed on those lands (denoted by a red border in the following map), although the tiny Spring Creek Basin HMA is about 50 miles to the west (blue border).

Colorado Sheep Grazing Map-1

Although wild horses are not involved, management of western rangelands is always of interest, because privately owned livestock might be treated differently than the horses.

Table 2.1-1 in the EIS, for the proposed alternative, gives the size of the allotments, the available forage and the grazing periods.  Those data were copied into a spreadsheet so the population densities (stocking rates) can be determined.

Colorado Sheep Grazing Calcs-1

The Cox Park allotment was omitted because it is small and only 51% on public lands.

The American Flats allotment included six horses (domestic), equivalent to 30 sheep, for a total of 580 such animals.

Although the allotments are permitted for sheep, converting them to cow/calf pairs puts the numbers into familiar territory and allows a direct comparison to stocking rates for wild horses.

Given that one cow/calf pair is equivalent to five domestic sheep, in terms of its resource requirements, the 1,230 sheep at American Lake convert to 246 cow/calf pairs.

Likewise for the other allotments.

The densities are reported in animals per thousand acres.  Note the huge advantage of livestock compared to wild horses, the same pattern seen at Challis HMA.  The target density for horses across all HMAs is one (27,000 animals on 27 million acres).

Folks, this is why the ranchers have to rotate pastures: They load these animals onto the land at rates that would destroy it in a matter of months.

It’s rape and pillage but they try to sell it as environmental stewardship.

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