The measure to protect our ranchlands, rivers and recreation economy this November would support our agricultural economy, safeguard our rivers and streams, and protect areas we enjoy for recreation. In short, it will help to keep Garfield County, Garfield County.
As a rancher, I know why this measure is crucial. My family has been ranching the Grass Valley for four generations. Growing up on the ranch - and now that my brother and I own it - I see the value it provides to my family and the local businesses that keep me in business. I see the value it provides as a gorgeous vista to people passing by, as well as habitat to wildlife.
We all wanted to make sure our ranch stayed in the ranching business. After a lot of discussion with my family, we decided to sell the "development rights" and secure a conservation easement to ensure this land stays in agricultural production forever. It was a big step, but the right one for us.
These voluntary conservation easement decisions with willing landowners are few and far between, because the county does not have an open lands program.
Question 1A on the Nov. 6 ballot would change that, and help conserve working family ranches, protect land along rivers and streams, preserve water supplies, conserve wildlife habitat, protect the places we hunt and fish, provide access to public lands and trailheads, and safeguard natural areas important to recreation.
Some might complain we've tried this before. This time, there is a thoughtful program spelled out that the county commissioners deemed sufficient to put on the ballot.
This time, there is a plan - created by residents from across the county - that ensures investments are strategic and cost-effective, with public input.
This time, there is a citizen advisory committee charged with oversight and due diligence, to ensure an open and transparent process.
No more than five percent of revenues can be used on administration. An annual independent audit ensures funds are properly spent, and funding will automatically expire in 10 years.
Our business at Dry Elk Ranch contributes to the county's economy, but so does the tourism in Glenwood Springs, the hunting and fishing out of Rifle, and the river companies on our local waters. These outfits rely on the open lands we are blessed with.
Question 1A would create the dedicated funding we need, for example, to help build the boat ramp in Rifle, add new trails in New Castle, and protect the valley's agricultural heritage.
Garfield County has grown a diverse economy that includes ranching, natural resource extraction, and a robust tourism business. Now is the time to protect this diverse economy. Now is the time to support question 1A. We'll be at the bottom of the ballot, but we may be the most important vote you cast.
Scot Dodero is a fourth generation rancher in Garfield County.