To the Editor:
Having just read Rob Gebhart's article, "Grazing battle," I would like to point out some of the other things that are occurring at the Browns Park Refuge.
About three months ago, I became aware that (refuge manager) Mr. Rodriguez was attempting to close both river access and two campgrounds within the refuge. After a number of attempts, I finally succeeded in contacting him to discuss this issue. I was advised that the proposal had been put forth because camping and boating were "incompatible" with the mission of the refuge. While talking with Mr. Rodriguez, I found that, while cordial, he had his mind made up and was going to proceed with the closures. After this discussion, I was driving through the refuge on a Sunday. I found no one camped at Crooks Campground and only one camper with two people at the Swinging Bridge. But I saw four pickups with Fish and Wildlife Service markings in various locations. And, in my travels, I paid a little more attention than normal to the permanent structures that have been erected by the Fish and Wildlife Service over the years. In particular, the "new" refuge headquarters near Beaver Creek and a substantial addition near Crooks Campground. That location, by the way, is now off limits to the general public, for what reason I do not know. I also saw the new fences Mr. Rodriguez has had built.
My question is this: Whose activity is really "incompatible?" That of a few campers and boaters, and some of Dickinson cows, or the activities and permanent buildings of the Fish and Wildlife Service? By the way, I see more deer and elk in Browns Park now than I have for probably 10 years.
And, enough grass to be shared with the cattle that are there for only a short period of time during the year.
I bring all of this to your attention because I think it underscores what the real agenda is for Mr. Rodriguez at the Browns Park Refuge. That is closing the refuge to all human activity and grazing, thereby creating a wilderness area without the necessary legislation.
I am happy to hear that the idea of closing the campground and river access has been "put on hold" as Mr. Rodriguez states.
I can only hope Mr. Rodriguez's proposal to eliminate grazing meets the same fate.
Refuge manager: Statements were taken out of context
To the Editor:
This letter is in regard to the article "Grazing battle" printed on April 28, 2004. I believe the first five paragraphs were taken out of context by Mr. Gebhart. My comments were directed at refuge lands only and did not include Bureau of Land Management lands. I have no jurisdiction on BLM lands and would not comment to the media on the management practices of the agency.
However, I did state the refuge is surrounded by BLM lands and the Vermillion Ranch has the grazing permits on these lands.
I believe this visit was Mr. Gebhart's first visit to Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge and he may have lost track of our location when I made these comments.
I attempted to point out that the lands south of the Green River currently provide better habitat for wildlife as indicated by the native grasses as compared to the refuge lands north of the Green River. I stated that the Browns Park area has a long history of grazing -- especially early in the century.
Records indicate the historic 2 Bar Ranch operated one of the largest livestock operations in the late 1800s. I also indicated refuge lands north of the Green River had "grassless areas that were biological deserts" and again I did not state these were BLM lands.
The article leads the reader to believe that cattle belonging to Vermillion Ranch is the reason there is no grass on the land. I did not make this statement. I believe the reason for lack of grass on these lands is due to the large number of livestock during a long period of time -- more than 100 years.
Also the article states I'm concerned that livestock grazing will damage refuge land as has occurred on BLM land. We do not have a livestock grazing program on the refuge and I did not comment on BLM lands.
My concerns stem from the recent proposal by the State Land Board to graze two parcels of State land the refuge has leased for nearly 30 years.
I believe that all lands do not or should not have to be grazed by livestock. In fact, the refuge does have grazing by elk and mule deer and numerous other wildlife species that depend on native grass for survival.
Browns Park Refuge Manager