Community Agriculture Alliance: Conservation districts important for agriculture, environment
As you are driving around the state, you may notice a sign that indicates you have crossed into the next county. Often, there is a sign next to it that lets you know you are entering a new conservation district. If you are involved in agriculture, then you are likely already aware of your local conservation district and the role they have played in conservation over the past 90 years.
Conservation districts are a result of the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. The widespread use of heavy annual tillage coupled with severe drought left the soil bare and open to erosion. Due to the dramatic nature of the dust storms, Congress authorized the creation of the Soil Conservation Service — now the Natural Resources Conservation Service — in 1935.
It soon became apparent that successful conservation required input from local farmers and ranchers. Colorado’s first conservation district was formed in Moffat County in December 1937 and is now called Colorado First Conservation District (CDA publication, 2010). Other districts were soon formed and covered all of Colorado.
Conservation districts provide many different services to communities around Colorado. They provide demonstrations of conservation practices, produce educational publications and assist landowners in the implementation of conservation. They have been instrumental in the development of farming and ranching practices that reduce soil erosion and water usage, improve wildlife habitat, combat invasive weeds and many other actions that help to improve private lands.
Last year’s drought highlighted the necessity of having a strong conservation district in Routt County. Helping to organize water conservation projects that work for our local irrigators could lessen the impacts of the next drought on the Yampa River. Assisting landowners with forest health and fuel reduction practices could improve the chances of the next fire being a healthy one.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
With the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, there are a lot of new opportunities to get assistance with conservation projects. The Routt County Conservation District can work with NRCS, non-profits and other conservation groups to ensure the projects are right for all local stakeholders.
The last two years have been tough for the Routt County Conservation District. The district manager and the NRCS District Conservationist both left around the same time in 2016. Without them, the conservation district relied solely on the volunteer time of local ranchers and farmers. It eventually became almost entirely defunct.
I was hired as the district conservationist in September 2018 and have made it a priority to get the conservation district up and running again. With it functioning, hopefully, we will be able to continue to provide the technical and financial assistance that Routt County agriculture deserves.
If you have questions about Routt County Conservation District or NRCS, contact Clinton Whitten at 970-879-3225, ext. 108.
Clinton Whitten is a Routt County District Conservationist.
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.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
We are starting to see cooler nights and leaves hinting at signs of fall, but let’s not forget what we all experienced this summer. We’ve been talking about it for months now, but unprecedented drought…