Range units help tribal members keep livestock fed year-round

The Southern Ute Indian Tribal Council approved on Monday, May 13 the Range Division’s 2013 grazing permits, renewing an annual service that helps a relatively small number of tribal members — but in a big way.

Each year on June 1, the Range Division opens its range units — tracts of reservation land it manages and improves — to tribal members who have applied to graze livestock on them. Overall, the division manages about 124,000 acres, divided this year into 14 available for grazing and five set aside as wildlife habitats. Ten grazing permits have been approved for this summer, said Range Division Head Jason Mietchen.

In a typical year, the units are open until the end of September, giving livestock owners a chance to relocate their animals while they use their own properties to raise and store feed for the winter months.

Angela Abeyta, who has grazed cattle primarily in the Trail and Beef canyons for the past seven years, said the service is a boon.

“I think they do a good job of offering that to us,” she said. “Really I’ve never had any complaints about it.”

Abeyta said she plans to range 56 mother-calf pairs and four bulls this year.

While the program is offered as a service to tribal members, the provisions of each year’s permits necessarily change with weather conditions, Mietchen said. In dry periods, such as 2013, the division imposes restrictions on the number of livestock allowed and the length of time they may graze.

This year, the range units will close Aug. 1 unless weather conditions improve, Mietchen said. The allowable number of animals has also been cut by 25 percent from last year, he said.

“That’s all for resource protection,” he said. “The Department of Natural Resources spends a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money managing tribal range land.”

Clifton Baker said he has ranged cattle since the early 1980s, when the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs oversaw permitting. The tribe took over in the mid-1990s, Mietchen said.

Baker has ranged his cattle mostly in the Vega and Archuleta Creek areas. This year, he said he’s planning to send 60 pair — about half the usual number.

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