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Grazing program extended

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Valles Caldera Trust opens study facility

By The Staff

The Valles Caldera Trust will open their new 15,000 square-foot science and education facility next week in Jemez Springs.

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The newly renovated complex was used to house elderly priests from the Servants of the Paraclete and was unoccupied for 10 years, said Bob Parmenter, chief scientist for the Valles Caldera National Preserve.

The trust has taken out a lease and has an option to purchase the property.

The trust used its own revenue to purchase furniture, an extensive laboratory and teaching equipment for the facility. The income came from visitor’s and recreation fees, including hunters and anglers.

Parmenter said the building has a meeting room, restored kitchen, and sleeping accommodations for 50.

“We want to keep the rates as low as possible,” Parmenter said. Overnight rates are $35, with reimbursable food costs.

The first group, from Wake Forest High School in Chicago, Ill., arrives in two weeks and will be there about a week, working on a service project with the forest service along the Jemez River. They’ll also be processing insect collections and archeological materials from the preserve.

Terry McDermott, marketing and communication manager, said the facility would be ideal for nonprofit team retreats and symposia.

A middle school from Socorro and groups from University of Texas and Oklahoma State University are among upcoming visitors.

Livestock program extended

A livestock program arrangement with New Mexico State University at Valles Caldera National Preserve has been extended for four years.

In an announcement, Gary Bratcher, executive director for the trust, said the current program would continue through the 2013 season.

The grazing rates, herd size and services will be renegotiated annually depending on range readiness evaluations and environmental conditions.

The 2009 program, operated by NMSU, included a commercial research arrangement with a livestock industry program designed to improve high-altitude genetics for resistance to Brisket Disease.

At the same time, an arrangement with the ranchers at Jemez Pueblo enabled them to rest and restore their pastures.

“With the bull program, the overriding question is can you genetically breed out susceptibility to Brisket Disease, a heart ailment that can kill the animals in hours,” Parmenter said. “They die of a heart attack and the only way to rescue them is to get the animal to a lower altititude. The overall loss to the livestock industry is $50-60 million a year.”

The program included a stringent herd rotation that kept the cattle away from the streams and other riparian areas.

“A one-year shot was a nice demonstration,” Parmenter said, “but to understand the impact you have to do multiple years. NMSU needs several years.”

The program, for the second year in a row, earned revenue for the preserve.

“The shift to herd improvement and range conservation programs clearly had very positive impacts on the regional livestock industry and the Preserve” said Dennis Trujillo, general manager of Preserve Operations.  “But we can make even greater improvements by utilizing the resources of New Mexico State and expanding research activities on issues such as stocking rates, forage consumption, sensitive habitat protection, proprietary feed and mineral supplements, and beef marketing.”

Data collected from 2009 was valuable and can serve as a foundation on which to expand to more programs through seamless continuation of the research program established last summer.  “NMSU made excellent progress on the initial research involved in high elevation bull evaluation,” said Valles Caldera Trust Science and Education Director Dr. Bob Parmenter. “But this type of research, as is the case with most research, requires longer, more detailed involvement.”