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Coordinated Resource Management in Axial Basin

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The Axial Basin (AB) Coordinated Resource Management Plan (CRMP) was developed in an effort to resolve a conflict between wildlife (primarily deer, elk, and antelope) and livestock (spring/fall cattle and winter sheep) on the Lower Boxelder and Lower Maudlin allotments. Existing forage resources were not able to meet the needs of wildlife and livestock. The CRMP was developed by a Technical Review Team (TRT) consisting of the ranchers, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Colorado State University (CSU) County Extension Directory, CSU State Extension Range Specialist, Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW), Craig District Board of Grazing Advisors, Axial Basin Ranch Co. (ABR) owned by Colowyo Coal Company, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The CRMP agreement was signed May 1, 1993.

Since the CRMP was completed, a significant number of management actions have been implemented in an effort to meet the objectives of improving the overall vegetation condition of the Lower Boxelder and Lower Maudlin allotments and to meet the livestock and wildlife forage demands by:

  • Improving the vigor and overall health and diversity of the browse species
  • Improving the vigor, density and overall health of the perennial grasses and forbs
  • Improving the condition of riparian areas
  • Controlling the spread of noxious weeds
  • Effectively managing to achieve the desired plant community

A six-year Rotation Deferred Grazing System was initiated in 1992. The first two years the pastures at the north end of each allotment were deferred alternately from winter sheep and spring/early summer cattle use. These areas are considered severe winter deer range. From 1994 through 1997, each of the four pastures is deferred once during the growing season and once from winter sheep use. In order to set up a four pasture Rotation Deferred Grazing System on the two allotments, five miles of new fence was constructed. The three-strand fence was built so as to minimize restriction of wildlife movement. Additionally, 30 reservoirs have been constructed to improve distribution of livestock and wildlife and take pressure off the riparian areas. ABR has reseeded 750 acres of cropland to grass for wildlife.

Decadent stands of sagebrush are causing depression of herbaceous plant production, are not providing needed cover or forage for wildlife, and are diminishing watershed stability. Approximately 950 acres have been treated by brush beating to rejuvenate old, decadent sagebrush stands, improve the herbaceous understory and overall plant diversity for habitat and forage for wildlife and livestock.

Twice a year, following winter wildlife/sheep use and spring use by cattle, vegetation is monitored for utilization.

The CDOW held special distribution hunts for several years and issued additional licenses in the regular seasons in an attempt to reduce vegetation utilization by deer on the allotments. In addition, CDOW and Kourlis Ranch have signed a “Contingency Plan” that, in the event of a severe winter, Kourlis will remove his sheep from areas classified severe winter range for deer. The CDOW flies annually to estimate deer population.

As implementation of the AB CRMP began, it was obvious that the seriousness of the weed problem, primarily whitetop, had been underestimated. A special meeting of the AB TRT was called with weed specialists from CSU and Moffat County Pest Management to develop an integrated weed management plan encompassing the whole watershed. From 1994 through 1997, a total of 3100 acres have been treated at least one time to control whitetop.

The AB CRMP was developed by consensus (unanimous agreement) of all parties. Semi-annual field tours are held by the TRT to assess conditions and progress on the CRM area.

The AB CRMP is subject to the NEPA process. An Environmental Assessment (EA) was prepared and approved prior to implementation.

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