A ranching family from Colville has received a national award from the U.S. Forest Service for their stewardship of public rangeland.
John and Melva Dawson, and their son, Jeff, received the award earlier this month at a meeting in Ignacio, Colorado. The award cited the family’s progressive approach to facing challenges associated with livestock grazing on federal lands.
After wolves returned to Northeast Washington, the Dawsons hired a range rider to provide a regular human presence to deter the wolves from attacking cattle. The project was the first of its kind in the state.
John and Melva’s daughter, Leisa Hill, is the range rider. She spends 12 to 16 hour days patrolling the herd when the cows and their calves are grazing on scattered summer pasture lands, which include allotments on the Colville National Forest.
The cows’ summer range overlaps with territory used by the Smackout Pack’s seven wolves. During the three years the family has used a range rider, no cattle have been lost to the pack John Dawson said last week.
The Dawsons work in partnership on the range rider program with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and an environmental group, Conservation Northwest, which help provide funding. John and Jeff Dawson have also talked to other ranchers about their experience in using non-lethal deterrents to avoid wolf predation on their herd.
The award also recognized the Dawsons’ work to improve the water quality in Smackout Creek through changes in grazing practices.
The Dawsons have been grazing cattle on Forest Service allotments since 1983.
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