The BLM story explained… welcoming hosts at the Craig, CO office took some time despite our late arrival, to share with us naive Easterners information about the public/private land issues in the West. Few of us knew much about the BLM mission (stewarding public land in 9 western states and Alaska) or responsibilities although we’ve all heard anecdotes and seen stories. What we heard from Asst. District Director Hunter Seim was the value and necessity of good relationships as the BLM and producers work collaboratively to assure US citizens that our public lands remain productive and accessible to a variety of users. Big country, big challenges!
Historically, sheep have been a big part of the region, economically and culturally. Initially raised with a focus on wool, today’s sheep in this area still have a genetic component for wool quality even though they are primarily raised for meat. A stop at Yampa Valley Fiberworks took us back to the era when wool was king. Lewis and Lorrae Moon have gradually put together a business processing processing small batches of fleeces and turning it into custom yarn. The retail shop features local artisan work as well as their yarn. Their enthusiasm and love of the process of handling the fiber and turning it into a product to please their customers is the real strength of this couple.
The road from Craig CO to the Ladder Ranch took us into Wyoming – back into Colorado – and back into Wyoming…..The ranch driveway straddles the border and all the complications of running a big range operation in two states was only a minor issue dealt with by this multi-generational outfit. Dad, Pat O’Toole and daughter Megan Lalley met us, giving us an overview of the ranch and some of the issues they confront.
Water is a big one this year for their 7000 sheep and 1000 cows. They usually trail the sheep to the winter range over 60 miles away. Lack of water means trucking them. The $ implications are mind boggling.
The conservation dilemmas they face are on a big scale too. Stream structures they’ve built in Battle Creek to maintain resident trout populations have been highly successful, but this year they had to choose whether to irrigate hay meadows for a third cutting or keep the creek water levels high enough to save the trout.
Dealing daily with predators, labor issues and government regulations keeps this family busy and highly involved in every aspect of the beautiful country they live in and manage, from local to Washington DC.