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The big rigs rolled slowly out of the Valle Grande a couple of weeks ago, each loaded with 48,000 pounds of healthy, live cargo, marking the end of the 2008 grazing season at the Valles Grande National Preserve.
“This year’s steer operation included the largest number of livestock since the government’s purchase and with this opportunity also came some challenges,” said Dennis Trujillo, the preserve manager, summing up the summer.
The cattle grazing program, evolving from past practices on the preserve, was determined by competitive bid again this year.
Gary Morton of Las Vegas, N.M., and his partner Cody Lewis of Claredon, Texas, submitted the winning proposal.
After consultation with staff and resources evaluation on the preserve, it was decided that conditions were favorable to stock cattle up to the conservative limits set in the existing environmental assessment.
One does not just turn loose a bunch of cattle on the Valles Caldera, an 89,000-acre piece of federal land, managed independently by the Valles Caldera Trust.
Extensive studies of forage availability linked to the number of elk and cattle must first be done, since both species eat the same type of plants. One elk will consume roughly the same amount of forage as a yearling steer or heifer.
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