Fencing project breathes new life into tribal rangelands

Project manager Bill Gwinn holds a small yellow flower known as yellow alyssum, a non-native weed that can grow in disturbed or overgrazed areas. While rangelands may look green from a distance, the quality of the vegetation for grazing purposes can be deceiving.
An employee of Crossfire LLC walks the newly constructed fenceline.
Gloved hands twist wire while constructing the fencing project.
An employee of Crossfire LLC works to put the finishing touches on a robust section of fenceline near Alamo Canyon.
The new fenceline cuts a more direct line through rocky, forested areas. Reinforced sections will help to deter livestock. The project is scheduled for completion by the end of June.
An aging fenceline skirts a section of the Aztec Freeway. Built almost half a century ago, livestock and wildlife have managed to bowl over many sections, pushing against the loose wire in search of greener pasture.
Project manager Bill Gwinn illustrates the disrepair of aging fenceline.
Views across Southern Ute range units yield stunning views of the La Platas, white with spring snow cover.
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Project manager Bill Gwinn holds a small yellow flower known as yellow alyssum, a non-native weed that can grow in disturbed or overgrazed areas. While rangelands may look green from a distance, the quality of the vegetation for grazing purposes can be deceiving.
An employee of Crossfire LLC walks the newly constructed fenceline.
Gloved hands twist wire while constructing the fencing project.
An employee of Crossfire LLC works to put the finishing touches on a robust section of fenceline near Alamo Canyon.
The new fenceline cuts a more direct line through rocky, forested areas. Reinforced sections will help to deter livestock. The project is scheduled for completion by the end of June.
An aging fenceline skirts a section of the Aztec Freeway. Built almost half a century ago, livestock and wildlife have managed to bowl over many sections, pushing against the loose wire in search of greener pasture.
Project manager Bill Gwinn illustrates the disrepair of aging fenceline.
Views across Southern Ute range units yield stunning views of the La Platas, white with spring snow cover.
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Thumbnail image of Project manager Bill Gwinn holds a small yellow flower known as yellow alyssum, a non-native weed that can grow in disturbed or overgrazed areas. While rangelands may look green from a distance, the quality of the vegetation for grazing purposes can be deceiving.
Thumbnail image of An employee of Crossfire LLC walks the newly constructed fenceline.
Thumbnail image of Gloved hands twist wire while constructing the fencing project.
Thumbnail image of An employee of Crossfire LLC works to put the finishing touches on a robust section of fenceline near Alamo Canyon.
Thumbnail image of The new fenceline cuts a more direct line through rocky, forested areas. Reinforced sections will help to deter livestock. The project is scheduled for completion by the end of June.
Thumbnail image of An aging fenceline skirts a section of the Aztec Freeway. Built almost half a century ago, livestock and wildlife have managed to bowl over many sections, pushing against the loose wire in search of greener pasture.
Thumbnail image of Project manager Bill Gwinn illustrates the disrepair of aging fenceline.
Thumbnail image of Views across Southern Ute range units yield stunning views of the La Platas, white with spring snow cover.
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The Beef/Alamo fencing project, which will span 22,000 feet across the Southern Ute Indian Reservation, began in April 2013 and is slated for completion by the end of June.

The tribally funded project, awarded to Crossfire LLC, will replace existing fence line that bisects the Trail range unit.

The new fence line will help the tribe’s Range Division manage livestock within tribal range units, said Bill Gwinn, project manager.

The existing fence dates back to the 1960s. What remains of the original fence is in disrepair and is often overgrown, Gwinn said.

“It’s important so that we can establish a sound grazing rotation up there,” said Range Division Head Jason Mietchen. “The surest way to achieve a sustainable system is to rotate — indefinitely.”

Overgrazed range units lead to environmental degradation, Gwinn said. Native grasses cut too close to the surface are less likely to recover, leaving an opening for more opportunistic species, such as cheatgrass, knapweed, Canada thistle and fillaree, he said.

The invasive weeds are often passed over by grazing animals. Left to flourish, they proliferate across once-healthy rangelands, replacing more desirable grass and “browse” species such as shrubs, sagebrush and bitterbrush, he added.

Jason Cole, crew foreman for the Crossfire fencing team, said extra care was taken in constructing and reinforcing fenced areas around flood zones and stock tanks — sections where the structure is likely to endure greater pressure.

The new fence line will cut a more direct line through rocky, forested areas. A right-of-way is cleared on either side of the fence, useful for long-term maintenance, Gwinn said. The right-of-way is also often adopted by wildlife as a natural access corridor, he said.

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