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Sustainable Ranching in Colorado

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Steve Pargin, a third generation rancher, grazes his cattle on land leased from the U.S. Forest Service in southern Colorado. Pargin says he is dedicated to using the land sustainably in order to maximize its use for raising cattle, while preserving local wildlife and recreational opportunities. Several times a year, he and a crew, led by his head cowboy David Thompson, spend a week or more herding cattle from mountain range to mountain range to prevent them from causing damage to fragile ecosystems by staying in a single area too long. With ranchers' land rights issues in the news lately, Reuters photographer Lucas Jackson spent a week in Colorado last month, on a cattle drive documenting a modern example of a successful ranching operation, one that cares about stewardship of the land they rent and its ecological health. [19 photos]

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Cowboy David Thompson carries the reins of a horse's headstall while preparing to gather cattle near Ignacio, Colorado, on June 10, 2014. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson)
Cowboy David Thompson carries the reins of a horse's headstall while preparing to gather cattle near Ignacio, Colorado, on June 10, 2014. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson)
David Thompson walks with his dog, Fang, to catch horses that he will use for a day of gathering cattle on June 11, 2014. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson) #
David Thompson puts a horseshoe on a horse's hoof as he prepares for a week of gathering cattle on June 9, 2014. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson) #
Cowboys are pictured past a saddle mount, up on their horses after eating lunch on June 11, 2014. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson) #
David Thompson works to help a horse regain its footing after it fell inside a trailer on the way to gather cattle on June 12, 2014. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson) #
David Thompson inspects a cut on a horse's ear after it fell inside a trailer on the way to gather cattle on June 12, 2014. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson) #
David Thompson looks back through trees as he rides his horse on June 11, 2014. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson) #
A horse bucks as it tries to run from a saddle that had become loose during preparations to gather cattle near Ignacio, Colorado, on June 12, 2014. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson) #
David Thompson looks down on a large herd of cattle during a week of gathering cattle on June 12, 2014. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson) #
Cattle cool down and drink water at a man-made reservoir in the mountains on June 11, 2014. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson) #
David Thompson removes burrs from his dog Fang that had become stuck to her fur while helping to gather cattle on June 10, 2014. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson) #
Rancher Steve Pargin and David Thompson (R) talk with the rest of the crew during a cattle drive on June 12, 2014. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson) #
David Thompson sits with his dog, Amelia, as she cools down after a day of gathering cattle on June 12, 2014. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson) #
Cowboys Wyatt Williams and David Thompson restrain a calf as Stetson Mackey prepares to give it medicine on June 12, 2014. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson) #
Rancher Laura Pargin holds a warning flag in an attempt to slow traffic as cowboys push a herd of cattle across Highway 160 near Ignacio, Colorado, on June 12, 2014. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson) #
Cowboys Rollo Mangus (L) and David Thompson work to move a large group of calves up a trail during a week-long operation to gather cattle on June 11, 2014. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson) #
Cowboys push a herd of cattle across Highway 160 on June 12, 2014. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson) #
Cowboys Stetson Mackey (L), Wyatt Williams, and David Thompson (R) rest in the shade of a pine tree after lunch on June 11, 2014. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson) #
A cow inspects David Thompson as he rests on the ground on June 11, 2014. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson) #

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