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Gray Ranch Research Tour Scheduled for July 25

LAS CRUCES - Rangeland managers from across the Southwest will get a rare firsthand look at research projects involving everything from fire ecology to the reintroduction of prairie dogs during a special tour of the sprawling Gray Ranch in southern New Mexico on July 25.



A rare rangeland managers tour of the sprawling Gray Ranch in southern New Mexico's bootheel region will be held July 25. Registration for the Society for Range Management program is $70 and the deadline is July 10, said David Graham, Union County agricultural agent with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. (06/19/2003) (Courtesy Photo by Ed Fredrickson - USDA Jornada Experimental Range)

The 500-square mile ranch located in New Mexico's bootheel region, contains more than 700 species of plants, 75 mammals, 50 reptiles and amphibians and more than 170 species of breeding birds. The ranch lies in the northern extensions of Mexico's Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains, in an area known as the Sky Islands.

"This Gray Ranch tour is special because they've got more than five years of good research all going on in one place," said David Graham, Union County agricultural agent with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. "This is an excellent opportunity for rangeland managers to see new research results."

Registration for the daylong program is $70 and the deadline is July 10. The New Mexico Section of the Society for Range Management sponsors the event, which begins at 8:30 a.m. at the ranch headquarters. The program includes a lunch and an evening barbecue dinner and reception.

Research highlighted on the tour will include fire ecology studies involving controlled burns to improve rangeland, wildlife habitat improvements and an innovative program reintroducing prairie dogs as a range management tool, said Graham, who also serves as president-elect of the society's New Mexico section.

Other presentations include a review of the ranch's grassbank program, a concept in which grass on one ranch is made available to another rancher's cattle in return for the land-use easements prohibiting subdivision. In addition, grassbanking provides a tool for drought management by allowing ranchers who receive scant rain on their land to move their cattle to pastures where there is ample forage.

In addition, visitors can see the organizers' efforts with conservation groups, such as The Nature Conservancy and Malpais Borderlands Group, a nonprofit organization founded by ranchers in southern New Mexico and Arizona.

In 1990, The Nature Conservancy purchased the 321,000-acre ranch and, in 1993, transferred it to the Animas Foundation, an organization dedicated to protecting the natural values of the Gray Ranch while maintaining the area's cultural and economic heritage.

For more information about the tour, or if you are an individual with a disability who is in need of an auxiliary aid or service to participate, contact Graham in advance at (505) 374-7884 or e-mail him at johgraha@nmsu.edu.