I am writing to you about the management of sheep leases in the Missionary Ridge area of the San Juan National Forest. I hunt elk in the areas around Henderson Lake, Lime Mesa, and City Reservoir on Missionary Ridge. This year a large herd of sheep was slow-grazed over this prime elk-hunting area after Labor Day and before the start of the Colorado elk first rifle season.
These sheep ate the grass and other vegetation down to the dirt, leaving nothing for the resident elk to eat. As a consequence, these elk were nowhere to be found during the Colorado elk first rifle season. This experience was shared by many elk hunters in that area.
The San Juan National Forest is supposed to be a multi-use resource, not merely a grazing ground for livestock. To provide for true multi-use, private livestock leases should stipulate that the livestock be brought out of the San Juan National Forest well before Labor Day.
Elk hunters bring a lot of money to Colorado as well as to local Durango businesses. I’m a nonresident hunter. My elk license generally runs about $550. I generally spend three nights in a hotel in Durango during my hunt. I spend money in local restaurants. I buy gasoline in local gas stations. I buy souvenirs for myself and my family members in the downtown shops in Durango.
My elk-hunting experience in the San Juan National Forest on Missionary Ridge has been very enjoyable heretofore. I promise, however, that if the sheep problem experienced this year repeats year over year, I will discontinue my elk hunting in that area, maybe discontinue elk hunting entirely. I’m sure many other hunters – nonresidents and residents – feel the same way. Please keep the San Juan National Forest a true multi-use resource. Please require private livestock to be brought out well before Labor Day in the future.