Writer: D'Lyn Ford
LAS CRUCES - Ranchers in northern New Mexico have been encouraged to become shutterbugs -- using cameras to chronicle the health of their grazing lands.
At a recent range monitoring school in El Rito, near Espanola, livestock producers received disposable cameras, books on range plant identification and tracking forms to help them begin evaluating their land. Range management specialists explained the benefits of adding this type of data to ranchers' current records.
"Rangeland monitoring is the key to managing natural resources," said Chris Allison, with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. "By taking photos and monitoring plants in the same location each year, livestock producers are able to determine grazing effects over time." From this information, ranchers can restructure their grazing patterns to help sustain range plant growth.
Range monitoring is an important tool for all ranchers, but especially those grazing on public lands. "The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have similar range monitoring programs for public lands," said Gerald Chacon, northern district Extension director. "Because of limited personnel, they are unable to monitor each grazing allotment adequately."
Training livestock producers to monitor the health of their rangelands will allow them to make educated decisions about recommendations made by the Forest Service and BLM, Chacon said.
"Participants also learned what happens to plants grazed by cattle and how to determine the best time to graze certain types of range plants," Chacon said.
The El Rito range monitoring school was the second of its kind in New Mexico. Earlier this year, a similar program was held in Mountainair. The project is a joint effort between Extension, BLM, the Forest Service and the Northern New Mexico Stockmen's Association.
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