New Mexico Society for Range Management announces range stewardship awards

Feb 12, 2010
by WLJ

The New Mexico Section of the Society for Range Management presented outstanding range management and stewardship awards to two New Mexico ranches during the society’s annual meeting Jan. 7-8 in Albuquerque, NM.

Replacement heifers at the Sedillo Grazing Association

Excellence in Range Management

Acoma Livestock Growers Organization (AL- GO), Acoma, NM, William Estevan, President

Since receiving, in late 2007, the opportunity to lease the La Ventana Ridge Ranch, the La Ventana Grazing Group, a subgroup of ALGO, has worked to maintain and improve the quality of an 11,000-acre ranch located on south State Highway 117. Acquired by the Pueblo of Acoma Pueblo in 1997, grazing on the ranch had been formally deferred for 10 years. The rested state of the rangeland provided a great opportunity for excellent grazing, but required a higher level of management in order to maintain that quality.

The La Ventana Grazing Group was successful in its application and became the first tribal managers for this ranch. Under the leadership of William Estevan, the group quickly developed relationships with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in order to gain an understanding of the requirements they must follow and information and education on how to best proceed with their grazing management plans and ideas for infrastructure improvements.

They collaboratively worked to establish boundary fences with BLM in order to address problems with trespass grazing. The group also began work with the local NRCS office to begin a conservation plan.

This process involved inventorying the resources, setting objectives, and determining a priority of options in order to make decisions about the correct steps to take to conserve the land resources.

All the members have taken part in implementing improvements, monitoring the resources, and evaluating their progress. This really got the seven members interested and on board with the grazing plan which they established with the help of NRCS.

In just over two years, the group has successfully implemented a “Rest-Rotation” grazing plan which has allowed them to rest areas of critical concern and utilize properly areas of higher production. The group has also completed several critical projects, involving water distribution improvements and boundary and cross-fencing to allow better control of grazing distribution, and has reduced soil erosion and flooding problems by installing and rehabbing several pit tank water/sediment reservoirs.

The grazing group is not only working to improve the natural resources but is working to improve their livestock resource. They have begun collaboratively buying herd bulls and starting a heifer development program with the new genetics.

The La Ventana Grazing subgroup of the ALGO have shown their Excellence in Range Management through their ingenuity, work ethic and commitment to proper management of their tribal lands.

Rangeland Managers of the Year

John Romero and Wilbur Louis, Sedillo Grazing Association, Laguna, NM

John Romero, president of the Laguna Sedillo Grazing Association, and Wilbur Louis, Laguna Bureau of Indian Affairs range conservationist, have shown a combination of outstanding personal and professional qualities that have facilitated their successful management of 100,000 acres of pueblo of Laguna tribal rangelands. Harmonizing tribal history and traditions with contemporary science and economics, they have developed pragmatic approaches to addressing many of the challenges of sustainably managing communally owned rangelands.

Key to their ongoing success is the participation and involvement of all the 24 members, including their elders and youth, in the association’s work, as well as the cooperation and support of their tribal government.

Working in cooperation with the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentive Programs and the Laguna Department of Natural Resources, grazing distribution and management have been improved through cross-fencing and water system developments. Rangeland monitoring and forage inventory procedures have been established to determine proper stocking rates.

The grazing program accommodates allocated numbers of association member’s individually owned cattle, as well as the larger number of cattle owned directly by the association.

During drought events, reduction in numbers can then be made in the association herd first, which gives the individual stockman a little more flexibility should further adjustments become necessary.

The Laguna Sedillo group has taken steps to upgrade and improve their genetics by purchasing superior herd sires, developing their best heifers for replacements, and pooling their calves for ranch delivery via video marketing.

Willing to outreach and tell their story, the Sedillo Grazing Association recently hosted a Society for Range Management tour of their operation that attracted attendees from all over the Southwest, including a number of range managers from other tribal operations interested in the association’s management approaches. Louis represented the association at the 2009 “Producer’s Forum” (with a talk entitled, “The Native Way”) at the international Society for Range Management meeting in Albuquerque, and Romero was featured in an episode of RFDTV’s Cattleman to Cattleman.

Finally, Romero and Louis’ efforts to retain young people on the land and to encourage other tribal members to return to agriculture and livestock as a way of life show an admirable dedication to education. — WLJ