The Hill County Park Board in its monthly meeting Monday approved sending new Beaver Creek Park grazing regulations to the Hill County Commission for approval, contingent on review by the Hill County attorney.
Board member Robbie Lucke presented the proposed new regulations, which the board has been discussing for several years.
Cattle grazing on the park, overseen by the superintendent and a grazing committee, is a major part of Beaver Creek Park each fall and early winter. The grazing, which helps reduce the vegetation in the county park to maintain the ecology of the region, is the single biggest source of revenue for the county park.
The grazing committee, which includes members of the park board and local ranchers as well as the park superintendent, drafted the proposal Lucke read Monday.
Retired U. S. Bureau of Land Management employee Lou Hagener also worked with the board, suggesting some changes and additions to the existing policies.
The board unanimously approved sending the proposal to the commission for a vote.
Hill County Commissioner Kathy Bessette said this morning that the draft will be available in the commissioners’ office. Once the county attorney reviews the document, the commissioners will place it on their agenda and vote on approving the proposal, she said.
Much of the document is a revision of the existing document, with few major changes. It includes the appointment of a grazing committee, as is currently set, with duties including reviewing conditions on the park in July and makeing recommendations to the park board on how many cattle would be allowed to graze on each particular area depending on forage conditions.
The new rules include saying people owning cattle taxed in Hill County would be given preference in receiving allotments to graze in the park. The rules also specify that no bulls and no unattended horses are permitted in the park.
The season continues to start in September on the first Tuesday after Labor Day and may continue through December, with the season shortened depending on conditions at the recommendation of the park superintendent and approval by the park board.
Hagener, who helped draft the proposed regulations with Edgar, said that ability to shorten the season was included to take into account if the forage conditions are not as good as was predicted in July.
All cattle are required to be loaded and loaded at the boundary fence nearest the pasture where they would graze, all moving and herding of the cattle must be approved by the superintendent and no dogs or all-terrain vehicles may be used to herd cattle within the park boundaries.
The rules also specify that no calves may be weaned in the park.
The proposal requires that changes to allotments must be approved by the superintendent and no grazer can increase their allotment more than 25 percent.
New language allows division of unused allotments between new grazers as well as existing grazers in the area where the allotment would have been used.
The proposal also specifies that family members who qualify as grazers would be given priority in acquiring allotments if a rancher dies, retires or otherwise gives up an allotment.
The system continues to use a three-year rolling average to determine the allotment allowed per grazer, with ranchers bringing in less than the number of cattle allowed to graze having their next year’s allotment reduced, although ranchers could pay the full amount to prevent having their allotment reduced.
New applicants must submit a formal application and appear before the park board, with a waiting list maintained to record people who have applied for a grazing allotment but have not yet been granted an allotment.
Grazers who are delinquent in their previous year’s payment can pay the past due plus penalties and interest and graze in the current year if the grazer pays in advance. If that grazer meets all probationary requirements, the grazer will be put back to normal status for the next year.
Ranchers are not allowed to feed hay on the park unless in emergency situations and with the approval of the superintendent. Salt will be purchased by the superintendent on an as-needed basis and billed to grazers, and will not be placed in lower areas of the creek bottom. Mineral supplement may be placed by grazers with the permission of the superintendent.
Hagener said virtually all of his recommendations had been incorporated in the proposal.
Board Chair Steve Mariani complemented the work done in drafting the proposal.
“What a great job, ” he said, adding that the proposal is much cleaner and simpler than the existing regulations.