Rich Tremaine: Ag Law conference returns to Steamboat

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For the past 18 years, the Colorado Bar Association has held an annual conference that focuses on current issues and developments in rural and agricultural law. This conference attracts lawyers, real estate appraisers, brokers, and water and civil engineers from throughout Colorado. In recent years, and again this year, the conference has been combined with related programs on water law, environmental law and natural resources/energy law.

Before dismissing this program as "just something for the lawyers," consider the programs and topics that will be covered. In recent years, I've seen local ranchers, Realtors, planners and employees of the Routt County Extension Office in attendance. Although there always are some technical lawyer programs, many of the programs are of a general nature.

For example, as the conference starts this morning at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort, the Ag and Rural Law program is entitled, "Agri-tourism: Issues Involved in Alternate Uses of Ag Lands." This is an ongoing topic of discussion in Northwest Colorado by groups such as the Chamber Resort Association, the Community Agriculture Alliance and our county governments. This also is a reality of life for a number of ranch owners in the region who depend on agri-tourism for financial support as a supplement to hay and cattle operations.

The more technical presentations tend to be included in the programs that are presented under Water Law, Environmental Law, and Natural Resources and Energy Law. These programs offer insights into the current status of state and federal regulatory programs. For example, there are two sessions on Environmental Law that focus on "What to Do When the Enforcer is at Your Door." Since violation of federal environmental laws may result in criminal action being initiated, this program discusses the constitutional rights of private parties (no unreasonable search and seizure) and the fact that communications with your attorney are private and protected.

In summary, there is a true smorgasbord of presentations and opportunities to learn about agricultural and environmental issues at a basic or an advanced level. The program starts this morning, runs through the most of the day to a 3 p.m. adjournment, and it includes a full Saturday morning session.

There also are social times. There are breakfasts before the morning sessions start on both days, and a lunch program at noon today. It presents a unique opportunity to meet with lawyers and other professionals from around Colorado who have a business focus on agriculture.

Additional information about the conference can be found on the Colorado Bar Association's Web site, www.cobar.org. Please note that there are significant discounts for non-lawyer attendees.

There also are scholarships available, and the Bar Association likely will accommodate requests to attend just one or two of the sessions. To check on specifics, the primary CBA contact is Carol Mullin, at 303-824-5384.

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