Community Agriculture Alliance: Be a steward and protect your land

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Whether getting ready to adjourn to warmer weather or chopping firewood for the long winter ahead, how could you not enjoy the past few weeks in Routt County and nature’s magnificent display of fall colors in our valley?

As you enjoy your property, small or large, and do your own winterizing, bulb planting and tree pruning, take time to notice things you otherwise may have overlooked. Do you know what grows on your land? Can you recognize the difference between native plants and noxious weeds? Are you noticing that, much to your dismay, your pine trees have begun to die despite your best efforts? Have you considered the habitat that your acreage provides to our native wildlife?

If any of these scenarios apply to your property, there are options for you to become a more informed and active steward of your land. The Routt County Conservation District, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, the Routt County Extension Office, the Colorado State Forest Service and the Routt County Weed Program can provide you or your subdivision’s homeowners association with free consultation visits. There are several oppor­tunities to apply for money to assist you in the conservation projects that would benefit your land, and in turn, preserve your legacy for future generations.

Noxious weeds on private property are a growing concern in Routt County. Noxious weeds choke out native species and increase soil erosion. These invaders not only reduce the resale value of land all across the West, they are expensive to control if not caught early. The Colorado Noxious Weed Act 35-5.5-101-119 C.R.S. enables county and city governments to implement management programs aimed at noxious weeds in order to reclaim infested acres and protect weed-free land. Any of the agencies listed in the preceding paragraph can help you identify and manage your weed infestation, large or small. The sooner you begin assessing your property’s current condition, the better.

The mountain pine beetle epidemic has caused our landscape to reflect the vivid red of dead pines. More than just changing colors, these trees have reminded us the importance of good forest management. Defensible space has moved to the forefront of conversations on Wildland Urban Interface, which is how humans are affecting the forests they have chosen to inhabit. Investing in defensible space, such as fuels mitigation, minimizes the risk of losing your home to fire or blow-down. In the case of a fire, defensible space allows firefighters the relative safety to protect your home. Consultations and information can be found by calling the Steamboat Springs district of the Colorado State Forest Service at 970-879-0475 or visiting http://csfs.colostate.edu.

All of the above practices enhance wildlife habitat, but there are many more options to preserve and improve acreages of all sizes. From planting native vegetation to restoring wetlands, streams and rivers, you are helping wildlife remain wild. If you are interested in improving your property, visit http://rcextension

.colostate.edu and click on the “Routt County Wild” tab under Agriculture and Natural Resources to find out how to get your free Wild Place Review.

Jackie Brown is the district manager for the Routt County Conservation District.

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