The San Juan National Forest is proposing to revise grazing allotments on 120,000 suitable acres in the Glade area north of Dolores.
The range analysis involves seven cattle operations on forest land east of Dove Creek, including the Mair, Brumley, Lone Mesa, Salter, Glade, Long Park and Calf allotments.
Nine livestock grazing operators are permitted to run 2,989 cattle in the area, but they don't always run their full allocation.
According to forest proposal, "The purpose of the analysis is to continue to authorize livestock grazing on all or portions of the project area," and to adjust allotments and practices to improve rangeland conditions.
In submitted comments, the Montezuma County commission requested a tour of "alleged resource degradations," and said they want more coordination with forest management on the matter.
"The commission has been approached by several permittees with concerns over stipulations," the county wrote. "We believe the affected permittees may be facing very detrimental consequences if the proposed action is implemented as written."
To address concerns, the Forest Service toured the Glade allotments July 16 with a group of stockmen, rangeland specialists, Montezuma County commissioners, and county staff.
"It was really good to listen to their needs, and have then hear our concerns," said Heather Musclow, forest rangeland specialist. "A lot of issues got straightened out today. We're still at the stage where we are open to ideas."
One point of contention is the forest's proposal for more full-time cowboys to herd livestock. According to the forest plan, herding ensures proper livestock distribution and rotation on pastures, and "is highly effective at dissuading livestock from using areas of concern."
Allotments proposed to have full-time riders in the proposal are Mair, Brumley, Long Park, Glade, Calf, and Salter.
"Fully stocked allotments need more intensive management, and full-time riders is one of the tools we can use," Musclow said. "If the full-time rider, or other ideas to reduce impacts don't work out, the last resort is to reduce stocking, so we are trying not to go there."
Forest officials report that parts of the Glade are overstocked for conditions, with noticeable impacts around watering holes.
Montezuma County officials question whether additional riders are necessary, and said it could hurt ranchers financially.
"Hiring a full-time rider simply may not be economically feasible or practical for many operators," the county writes in their comments.
The county asserts more coordination between forest managers and the Rangeland Stewardship Committee should have taken place before the plan went public. They are opposed to cutting current livestock numbers on the Glade, and said there is public misconception that ranchers always utilize their entire grazing allocation.
"We believe it would be better to keep numbers where they are, and let the operators have a chance to meet agreed upon rangeland conditions through their own efforts and voluntary reductions," the county states. "Permittees sacrifice livestock numbers and grazing days to ensure good rangeland conditions for their future."
Adjusting season dates and livestock numbers on the Glade are based on annual conditions, forest officials said, especially if drought conditions persist.
"It is important for permittees to remain as flexible as possible given changes in temperatures and moisture and consequently forage production," the forest plan states.
Musclow said negotiations are ongoing with ranchers on various issues, and a final management decision for the area is expected this winter.
For more information on the Glade grazing proposal go to http://1.usa.gov/1RC9NK0