Community Agriculture Alliance: Conservation and collaboration with community-based natural resource management

Kristen Rockford
Community Agriculture Column

For the past 80 years, the Routt County Conservation District (RCCD) has worked hand-in-hand with hard-working families and private landowners to conserve and protect Routt County’s natural resources including soil, water, air and wildlife.  

RCCD offers many resources, programs, and services to Routt County landowners. Recently, the district launched a new service. It is the rental of a 300-gallon Frontier weed sprayer. The district purchased the weed sprayer with the help of the Weed Advisory Board and funds from the Taylor Grazing Act. The weed sprayer is available for rent at $250 a day and can be booked online at

In addition to starting its own soil health initiative in 2019, the district participates in the Colorado Department of Agriculture STAR Program (Saving Tomorrow’s Agricultural Resources) to advance the use of soil health promoting practices, provide landowners technical assistance on how to implement the practices, and direct landowners to financial resources. To date, the district has collected 41 soil samples from over 25 farms and ranches.

Examples of practices that promote soil health include soil testing, inter-seeding cover crops, no-till or minimum tillage, increasing plant diversity, rotational grazing, etc. In short, a healthy soil is like a sponge that can absorb moisture as it falls. These tried-and-true conservation practices have great potential to not only improve soil health but also improve water quality, conserve water, sequester carbon and make our working lands more resilient to drought, wildfire and other severe climate events.

The district lobbies on behalf of the landowners and their priority resource concerns as identified at the annual landowner meeting. Our board of directors is made up of seven highly dedicated Routt County residents who volunteer hundreds of hours every year.

Many of our board members sit on numerous committees and serve on other boards with local conservation and environmental organizations. A recent survey completed by Phil Brink of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association found that 81% of producers agree that local conservation districts should be leading conservation planning efforts over other entities.

Through conservation practices and partnerships, RCCD aims to enhance the sustainability and viability of working lands for farmers, ranchers, private foresters, and other landowners. A key strategic partnership is to serve as a liaison between the landowners and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) working lands conservation programs to support resilient agriculture and provide voluntary technical assistance at the grass-roots level.

Successfully meeting our goals requires RCCD to pursue a coordinated approach alongside the NRCS, CSU Extension, nonprofits, stakeholders, state and federal natural resource and agriculture agencies, and state and city governments. Collaborative conservation benefits every resident of Routt County who enjoys the beauty of our open space, our clean air and water, and our abundant wildlife.

We hope you’ll keep an eye out for our upcoming programs and plans for a virtual fence demonstration plot, to host a Hay Day, and to publish a Routt County Landowner Drought and Wildfire Resiliency Toolkit. Please visit for more information about our programs and services. 

Kristen Rockford is the acting district manager and a consultant for the Routt County Conservation District.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.