North Routt Virtual Fencing Collaborative Project

Western Region



Primary Topic:

Natural Resources and Sustainability

Other Topics:

Food and Agriculture

Lead Mentor:  

Todd Hagenbuch

Routt County Director and Agriculture Specialist

Internship Overview:

Located in the Clark area of Routt County, the intern will assist the US Forest Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Routt County Conservation District, CSU Extension and grazing permittees to begin implementation of the North Routt Virtual Fence Project. Successful candidates will have experience with, or want to learn more about grazing, environmental issues, and community dynamics. Working in scenic but remote areas will be necessary, and while the intern will have a strong support team to help guide them and help them determine objectives for the project, they need to be self-sufficient and able to synthesize complexity while working off-the-grid. Part of the work may require the intern to be alone at times with little to no access to cellular connectivity. USFS housing options in the resort and agriculture community of Steamboat Springs is a possibility.

Goals, Scope and Objectives:

Due to historical sheep grazing practices on the Routt National Forest, there are few existing physical fences. Lack of fence introduces challenges in managing livestock, especially cattle, via rotational grazing patterns. A lack of rotational grazing can cause excess use in certain places. Challenges also arise in sensitive areas such as riparian areas or burn scars. Virtual fencing will provide an alternative to livestock managers and allows for remote management and quick modification to fence lines.
The intern position will assist the US Forest Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Routt County Conservation District, CSUE and grazing permittees to begin implementation of the North Routt Virtual Fence Project. Utilization cages will be set up in key areas defined by USFS and CPW that will be monitored during the grazing season. Upland targets of 40% use and riparian targets of 6-inch stubble height and < 20% streambank alteration will be used.
Upon meeting thresholds cattle will be rotated out of utilized areas. The intern will also learn to work with Herd Manager and coordinate with the permittees and USFS to created adaptive grazing patterns.
Field work will require the ability to use off-road vehicles in a safe manner and use basic navigation and backcountry skills. A successful applicant will also have the ability to work with local ranching communities. Given the nature of the field experience, applicants must demonstrate their ability to work outdoors under inclement conditions. Applicants with interest in soils, botany, range science and/or wildlife habitat are preferred.

With which stakeholder group(s) will the intern work?

Identified stakeholders: United State Forest Service (Hahn’s Peak/Bears Ears Ranger District), Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Routt County Conservation District, Colorado State Forest Service, Routt County, and local ranchers. Possible stakeholders to ‘introduce’ intern to include Bureau of Land Management, CSU Extension offices in other NW Colorado Counties, and multiple environmental and agriculturally-based non-profit groups in NW Colorado.

What student learning outcomes do you anticipate and what are the opportunities for professional development?

The Intern will have exposure to stakeholders who are responsible for managing western ecosystems, such as the USFS, CPW, rancher partners and Extension, and have the opportunity to engage with real-world monitoring and management, as well as application of new technology for grazing management. This includes:
Forage Identification;
Forage use estimates using a variety of methods;
Backcountry navigation;
Virtual fencing technology;
Safe off-road vehicle use;
How to work with land management agencies, private individuals/agriculturists, and educators on a collaborative project.
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