Ranchers eat up range monitoring talk
Post Independent Staff
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” The cowboy hats were turned upside down ” the only proper way to set down a cowboy hat ” while about 50 cattlemen and a half dozen cattlewomen came in out of the cold and met Saturday afternoon at the Holy Cross Cattlemen’s Association 48th annual meeting at the Hotel Colorado.
This year, the local association brought together ranchers from around the region to elect officers, hold its annual business meeting, and present speakers on topics ranging from ranchers’ mineral rights to current legislative action that could affect the beef industry.
However, when Tim Canterbury got up to make his presentation on monitoring public grazing lands, audience members seemed to perk up and take note.
Canterbury’s topic might appear a little dry on the surface, but that’s before you hear what he has to say. He practices a relatively new tracking method that monitors public grazing lands, ensuring they are both environmentally sound and productive to ranchers.
“We’re not talking about the Columbus Theory here,” he said with a grin, regarding cattle grazing. “You know, turn ’em out in the spring, and re-discover them in the fall.”
Canterbury is quite an animated character. He’s pure cowboy ” fifth generation, he told the cattlemen crowd.
“As long as I keep swallowing this Copenhagen as quick as I can, I’ll get through this,” he joked, his bottom lip partially packed with chewing tobacco.
Canterbury doesn’t fit the stereotype of an environmentalist monitoring rangeland flora. But he couldn’t be more passionate about Land EKG, a Bozeman, Mont.-based land and habitat management company.
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Canterbury leads workshops and gives presentations to groups like Holy Cross Cattlemen that explain how Land EKG is helping western and midwestern ranchers preserve and even improve the public lands they use for grazing cattle.
Record-keeping can be as basic as a pencil and notebook or cutting-edge techno. Canterbury showed the audience a long rod marked off at two-inch increments he uses to measure plant height when on horseback. He also passed out forms he uses to graph such indicators as how quickly vegetation grows, and how far plants are spaced apart. On the other end, he teaches ranchers to use Palm Pilots to record their findings in the field.
This data, Canterbury said, helps him determine such indicators as how many cattle he can graze, and how much forage the land is producing.
All this monitoring is good news for Tom Matza, the range conservationist for the White River National Forest in Rifle. He’s responsible for monitoring 330,000 acres in the White River, and to make certain that allotted range lands are kept healthy by ranchers that graze their cattle on them.
Canterbury stressed to the cattlemen that instead of being an adversarial relationship, he works closely with his “range con” at home in Howard, near Salida, keeping in close communication with him on how his grazing land is faring.
And Matza said that’s the way it should be.
“We really strive to have good working relationships with all users,” he said. “I can see him and others like him have a genuine interest for the land.”
There’s an ulterior motive to caring for public grazing lands, too.
“You dang betcha it maximizes our profits,” he said. “A healthy forest means healthy grazing. When I first started monitoring, our weaning weights on our calves were 450 pounds. Now, they’re up to 700 pounds. We’re getting more meat per cow because our grazing is that much better.
“And you know what they say,” Canterbury said. “I’d rather have poor cows on good grass than good cows on poor grass. What happens if that rangeland goes to heck? We don’t have anything.”
Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518
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