Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Report on Arizona Section Society for Range Management, Summer Meeting 2011

Doug Tolleson, Arizona Section President-Elect/Meeting Coordinator

Wednesday August 3

The forecast called for scattered showers as we headed for the high country of Mahan Park on the east end of the University of Arizona’s V Bar V Ranch for the Arizona Section Summer Meeting. Folks started showing up around 1pm as the registration cabin, dining fly, plant ID contest, and shop/classroom were readied for the 3-day event. Across the Verde Valley and the other side of Mingus Mountain, about 35 of us were touring the upper Verde River, led by Al Medina from the Rocky Mountain Research Station.


After a membership meeting that evening we were fed hamburgers, hotdogs and all the fixings by the Natural Resource Conservation Workshop for Arizona Youth (NRCWAY) committee. This meal was sponsored by Cargill Animal Nutrition and was a fund raiser to help send students to the national High School Youth Forum. Thunderstorms to the west made for a spectacular sunset, sky-lighting the big Ponderosa Pines near the main cabin in purple, pink, and orange. Bill Inman from the Navajo’s Padre Mesa Demonstration Ranch spoke to us about his ranching educational programs there as the rain came down and we all packed in under the dining fly. You could tell this was a bunch of range and ranch people cause nobody complained about the rain. We scrapped “movie night” though, it would have been too loud in the shop under a tin roof to hear them anyway.

Sunset Behind Pine Trees

Thursday August 4

The Tierra Seca Range Club from University of Arizona served up a great breakfast and got the day started off right. Iric Burden from the Coconino National Forest and George Ruyle from the U of A officially welcomed the group. We stayed right there at the ranch summer headquarters for the morning program. Dave Schafer, Resident Director of the ranch experiment station described the ranch, it’s management and 15 years of animal breeding, animal nutrition, and adaptive grazing research and educational work conducted here. Doug Tolleson, range specialist for the ranch followed up with the range related research and extension programming he has been involved in during his 4 years on staff. High school students (Dan Sullivan, Savannah McReynolds, Garret Fish, and Amber Lee) who have participated in NRCWAY and Range Rocks! told the group about some of the skills they have learned such as: wildlife water tank escape ramp construction and installation; tablet PC, VGS software, and pace quadrat vegetation transects; and real-time grazing animal diet quality assessment using portable near infrared spectroscopy. Jim Sprinkle, U of A Area Livestock Specialist and Bryan McMurray, Beef Marketing Manager with Cargill showed us some innovative research equipment designed to monitor individual animal mineral supplement consumption on rangelands and told us about mineral nutrition for livestock in Arizona and how that is different from surrounding regions.
Don and Jim sitting in the folding chairs under the dining fly

After lunch, we drove northeast about an hour to hear Duane Coleman, manager of the Hopi 3 Canyon Ranch describe a brush management/grinding project he has ongoing there. A little farther east we stopped to see a pinon/juniper area included in a prescribed fire/grazing project on the Bar T Bar Ranch. Iric Burden of the USForest Service and Bob Prosser of the Bar T Bar described how the project got started, how it has been carried out and what they planned to accomplish in the future. At this location we also learned about two different cattle/elk interaction studies that had been done on pinon/juniper range on the V Bar V and in the pine vegetation near there. Larry Howery, Range Specialist for the U of A and Bill Miller, Wildlife Professor for Arizona State University detailed their work on forage use, techniques to assess potential competition, and management of these sympatric species. Duane Coleman then took us over to look at Clear Creek Canyon before we headed back to the V Bar V. It was definitely worth the trip.

When we arrived back at the ranch headquarters, Bopper Cannon and his crew had one of his classic chuck wagon suppers ready for us. Tri-tip beef, ranch potatoes, dutch-oven biscuits, beans, and salad, topped off with dutch-oven cobbler. We had a short follow-up business meeting and then saw a video of the V Bar V Ranch history created by Deb Pearson, ranch business manager. We also saw a video re-cap of this summers NRCWAY at Mingus Springs Camp. It has become sort of a tradition to have a little live music at our summer meetings with the “band” named after some local place. This year was no exception as the “Happy Jacks” took center stage under the dining fly to wrap up the evening. A couple of rattlesnakes in camp just added to the excitement.

Friday August 5

Coyotes and elk woke us up early and we packed up, left the cool pines and headed down the hill (about 30 miles and 3500 ft in elevation) to the old Beaver Creek Ranger Station. The Range Club from ASU cooked up some wonderful breakfast burritos and we needed them since we had a little hiking to do this morning. Down the road a few miles at Wickiup Draw, we walked in to see the headcuts and erosion which has been a problem there for a number of years. Amina Sena who is the Watershed Specialist for the Coconino on the Red Rock district presented a little history of the draw and outlined the many factors affecting that ecosystem. Then it was back out to the road and a stop at Scared Mountain for some agricultural archaeology presented by Peter Pilles, archaeologist for the Coconino National Forest. He gave a great explanation of how the Sinagua harvested water and farmed the “rangeland” we were standing on. By now it was getting hot so it was good to move on to the V Bar V Heritage Site (former ranch headquarters now a historical site operated by the USFS) to see some of the best petroglyphs in the southwest under some big old shade trees. Ken Zoll and Jerry Ehrhardt, both members of the Arizona Archaeological Society educated the group on the rock art and historical trails used by native and US military people in the area.

Amber and Anastasia holding their prizes for the plant ID contest

Back at the Beaver Creek Station for lunch and we wrapped up with a presentation prepared by Jerry Mundell (USFS retired) on historical grazing in the Beaver Creek Watershed. Verde Natural Resource Conservation District presented information about their projects to provide wildlife escape ramps and “no-trace” fire pits. Doug Tolleson summarized the meeting and challenged the attendees to look at rangelands with new eyes after learning about historical uses of the land and how this will affect what we are able to do management-wise now and in the future. Jamie Wages and Andrew Brischke from the Young Professionals Committee announced the Plant ID contest winners which were: 2nd place Amber Dahlke and 1st place Anastasia Rabin. Prizes awarded were a lighted hand lens and a Trail Boss belt buckle respectively. Some of us hung around and visited after the meeting, some went on a trip to see more archeological sites and some went swimming. The number of attendees each day ranged from 60 to 80. Plans are already underway for the winter meeting, tentatively scheduled for Tucson in mid January.

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