N. Delta grazing allotments eyed

By Hank Lohmeyer

According to a recently released preliminary environmental assessment, BLM's Uncompahgre Field Office is considering the reissuance of 10 grazing permits authorizing livestock grazing on nine allotments in the North Delta Land Health Unit.

County commissioners Mark Roeber and Doug Atchley were alerted to an approaching Sept. 24 deadline for submitting comments by county administrator Robbie LeValley during the BoCC's Sept. 8 meeting. Commissioner Bruce Hovde was not present for the session.

LeValley noted the 177-page study of nine allotments and 10 permits in the North Delta resource area are used for both domestic sheep and cattle. She said the issue of domestic sheep interactions with desert bighorn sheep is involved.

Roeber asked LeValley, "This is an area where there are no desert bighorn sheep?

LeValley replied, "Yes."

Roeber said, "I think we need to comment."

The BLM document states, "Portions of the project area are located in proximity to occupied desert and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep habitat, which may have conflicts with domestic sheep grazing." It goes on to state that wildlife officials predict bighorn may migrate into the area in the future.

The BLM reissues livestock grazing permits with allotment-specific terms and conditions. Currently, some areas are overallocated for animal units, states the EA, even after at least two years of good moisture.

According to figures from the study, the BLM's preferred action would result in suspension of 546 animal units (AMUs) of grazing and would retire an additional 1,874 animal units. There are currently 5,846 active animal units (AMUs) in the area.