Annual conservation meeting presents innovative programs

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Nov 27, 2006
by WLJ

Alternative crops to reduce irrigation water use, science credits for high school students attending conservation camp, funding for conservation from oil and gas companies, subdivision reviews with teeth for conservation—these are a few of the innovative conservation programs shared at the Colorado Association of Conservation District’s (CACD) annual meeting in Glenwood Springs, Nov. 13-16.

Colorado’s Heartbeat: Agriculture, Water & Energy, was the theme of CACD’s 62nd annual meeting held at the Hotel Colorado, home of conservationist Teddy Roosevelt’s White House in the West.

Larry Hoozee, CACD president from the Morgan Conservation District, said, “Conservation districts are preparing for the 2007 Farm Bill. Conservation programs were a major emphasis in the 2002 Farm Bill, but we did not achieve adequate funding to carry them out.”

“Colorado’s conservation districts plan to partner with agriculture and environmental organizations to work toward profitability in agriculture, incentives for conservation, and programs for wildlife and forestry,” said Hoozee.

CACD assists Colorado’s 77 conservation districts in providing leadership for the conservation of natural resources in Colorado including soils, water, air, plants, and wildlife.

Russell George, director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, gave the keynote address.

“We established water basin roundtables in Colorado to bring factions together to discuss water issues,” said George. “Increasing population and use of water has us in a crisis of finding ways to create new water supplies to meet demands. The so-called people drought is now more common in Colorado than Mother Nature’s droughts.”

Olin Sims, president-elect of the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD), spoke about the goals for the proposed 2007 Farm Bill. NACD is working with farm and commodity groups and environmental organizations in Washington, D.C., to help Congressional leaders draft a quality farm bill.

“Our goals are to insure profitability in agriculture, provide for adequate technical assistance to help landowners install conservation practices, provide for easy access to farm programs, and a balance between working agricultural programs and land retirement programs,” said Sims.

Callie Hendrickson, executive vice-president of CACD, thanked the supervisors for their work with legislators to reinstate the Natural Resources Conservation Matching Grants program. Conservation districts now have $600,000 annually through the Colorado State Conservation Board to hire conservation technicians to assist with Farm Bill conservation activities and to distribute grants to districts for innovative conservation programs.

A highlight of the CACD annual meeting was the awards banquet the evening of Nov. 13. Bernard and Linda Gordon, who farm 3,400 acres of cropland and manage 3,900 acres of rangeland in the Double El Conservation District, were honored as CACD’s Conservationists of the Year—Farm Division. The Gordons utilize residue management and no-till to reduce soil erosion and save water on croplands. They adopted cell grazing systems to effectively manage grazing on rangelands, and they’ve planted over 7,000 trees for windbreak and shelter belt protection, helping wildlife and livestock to thrive on their lands.

Perry Handyside, manager of the Blue Valley Ranch near Kremmling, CO, was honored as Conservationist of the Year in the Ranch Division. The ranch, owned by Paul Jones, is composed of 24,000 acres of rangeland, forests, and agricultural lands within the Middle Park Conservation District.

Handyside said, “Our mission is to preserve open space, maintain a healthy, functioning rangeland, demonstrate holistic resource management, and raise high quality commodity products including hay, bison, and beef,” Handy said.

Projects are underway to improve fisheries by installing weirs in the river and stocking rainbows, brookies, browns, and cutthroats.

The conservation districts also honored Sen. Jim Isgar, Hesperus, CO, Rep. Kathleen Curry, Gunnison, CO, and Rep. Bernie Buescher, Grand Junction, CO, as CACD’s Legislators of the Year for their efforts in securing matching grant funds for conservation.

Dee Blue of Carbondale, CO, received the CACD Distinguished Service Award. Blue served on the Mount Sopris Conservation District for 24 years. She represented the Colorado watershed on the Colorado State Conservation Board. Blue was also instrumental in developing the Agriculture and Conservation Education Project at the Silt Branch of the Garfield County Library.

Danny Neufeld of the Center Conservation District received the CACD Outstanding Supervisor award. During his six years of service, Neufeld has traveled some 30,000 miles and donated almost 2,000 hours of time to conservation. His achievements include helping to organize the Rio Grande Water Festival and helping to establish the Center Conservation Distict’s Weed Control Service. He represents the Rio Grande River Watershed on the Colorado State Conservation Board.

CACD also honored the Center Conservation District as Outstanding Conservation District of the Year. Some of their projects include the Beaver Creek conservation camp, San Luis Valley Regional Science Fair, Snotel installation, two members participating in the Colorado Conservation Leadership Program, and irrigation water management workshops.
The Colorado State Conservation Board honored the Shavano Conservation District as the Conservation District of the Year. The Shavano Conservation District has been very active in conservation education and has been a prominent leader for district implemented conservation projects.