Cattle will graze land trusts within Browns Park

aDecision about long-term management still pending

Cattle will graze on state land trusts within Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge this spring. But no decision has been made about whether that situation will be permanent.

The State Land Board is prepared to grant Vermillion Livestock a 90-day temporary use permit for a square mile of state land, so the ranch's cattle have access to the Green River, said Beverly Rave, the land board's Craig liaison.

From Vermillion's grazing lease on Bureau of Land Management ground south of the refuge, the river provides the nearest available water.

Tuesday marked the first day of Vermillion's grazing lease on that ground. On the same day, a committee dedicated to determining the best use of the state land trusts met in Craig to discuss a grazing study conducted by Natural Resource Options of Bozeman, Mont.

The study found that some grazing could be appropriate on the state trusts. Grazing could reduce fuel loads and invasive weeds while helping the growth of desirable plants, according to the study.

The refuge's managing agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, refused to participate in the study because, according to the agency, the study wasn't compatible with the refuge's mission of providing migratory bird habitat.

No Fish and Wildlife representatives attended Tuesday's meeting, but refuge Manager Jerry Rodriguez sent a four-page letter criticizing the study.

Although some in the group had criticisms of the comments, the committee decided to wait to address the comments until Fish and Wildlife could be present.

It's the State Land Board's mission to manage state land trusts to earn money for kindergarten through 12th-grade education in Colorado.

The State Land Board has spent $7,500 on the study so far. If the committee decides to have Natural Resources Options complete its five-year proposal, which includes additional study of the land, the State Land Board will spend $37,500.

Vermillion Livestock pays $500, the typical fee for a 90-day temporary use permit, to graze cattle on the trust.

Committee members include representatives from BLM, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the State Land Board, Moffat County, The Nature Conservancy and Vermillion Livestock.

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