Community Agriculture Alliance: Conservation support and assistance

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There are more than 3,000 conservation districts in the U.S. and 77 in Colorado alone. The quasi-governmental special districts were formed during the Dust Bowl after the Soil Conservation Act passed in 1935 as a response to the lack of soil conservation practices. The Soil Conservation Districts were to act as a liaison between local landowners and the present-day Natural Resource Conservation Service. In 2003, “Soil” was dropped from the district names because of the need to protect and improve the stewardship of all natural resources. Today, the Routt County Conservation District’s mission is “to encourage stewardship of our natural resources, which will ensure the preservation and sustainability of working landscapes, through education, financial, and technical assistance.”

This year, RCCD has begun working on the planning process for writing a non-regulatory watershed plan for the Upper Yampa Watershed. The Upper Yampa Watershed is of vital importance locally, regionally and throughout the West. Locally, several communities rely on the Yampa River and its tributaries for a variety of beneficial uses, including municipal water supplies, irrigation, recreation and aquatic habitat.

The plan will characterize existing conditions; identify known, emerging and perceived water-quality issues; and establish objectives and strategies to address these issues. The plan’s development will engage stakeholders to increase coordination, awareness and collaboration for implementation of watershed and water-quality protection measures. An outline of the plan’s general objectives and goals will be available to the public in January and will encourage the participation of all local stakeholders. Information can be found at www.routtcountycd.com and will be updated as progress is made.

This month, RCCD begins the process of creating its three-year long-range plan. Anyone interested in participating or who has natural resource concerns that should be considered as part of the planning process is encouraged to contact RCCD or attend its next board meeting from 9 to 11 a.m. Oct. 17 at the USDA Service Center, 1475 Pine Grove Road, Suite 201A, in Steamboat Springs.

To better serve our residents, we offer a few products out of our office that help landowners. We sell PAM (anionic polyacrylamide), a soil flocculent that helps to reduce seepage loss and seals irrigation ditches, canals, laterals and some ponds. PAM is applied as a dry broadcast early in the spring. Additionally, once each year, the RCCD receives applications for the Colorado State Forest Service’s seedling tree program, which provides farmers, ranchers and landowners with the option of 30 species of trees at a nominal cost. The native trees and shrubs are grown at the CSU nursery for conservation purposes. The program encourages landowners to plant new forests, establish effective windbreaks, reduce erosion, protect homes, cropland, livestock and enhance wildlife habitat. To receive an application, mailed electronically or through the U.S. Postal Service in early November, call 970-879-3225 or email trees@routtcountycd.com. RCCD also offers custom and native seed mixes for reclamation and production for land parcels larger than five acres.

Jackie Brown is the district manager and Upper Yampa Watershed coordinator for the Routt County Conservation District. She can be reached at 970-879-3225 or jackie.brown@routtcountycd.com.

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