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December 26, 2012
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New handbook offers up tips on rural living

A new publication in Garfield County puts those who just moved here from more urban settings, or might consider relocating to the area, on notice that they're not in the city anymore.

The Garfield County Rural Living Handbook was produced by the Mount Sopris, Bookcliff and South Side Conservation districts as a way to inform newer residents about being conscientious of the region's continuing agricultural heritage.

"We do have a lot of folks moving into the area, buying small-acreage properties next to agricultural land, who may not be familiar with fence laws, trespassing, water rights and noxious weeds," said Sandy Jackson, vice president of the Mount Sopris Conservation District board.

The guide to rural living not only applies to Garfield County, but to most of northwest Colorado and other parts of the state, said Donna Gray of Williams Production, who edited the publication.

"Williams is actively involved with the conservation districts, and it's something we wanted to help produce," Gray said.

Gray worked closely with Sharie Prow, manager for Garfield County's three rural conservation districts, to write the text and come up with the many colorful and historical photos that grace the 34-page publication.

Similar publications from elsewhere in Colorado and other Western states were used for some of the basic information, but the content was tailored for Garfield County, Gray said.

Spread across the front and back covers of the book is a fall picture of the Dodo family on horseback in the high country. The longtime New Castle-area ranchers were named Colorado Rancher of the Year a few years ago by the Colorado Association of Conservation Districts.

Jackson said the handbook is being distributed at businesses, local government offices and other locations throughout the county, including chambers of commerce, real estate offices and Colorado Mountain College locations.

"When trading big-city life for life in the country, realize that big-city services may not be available, such as snowplowing or trash service," reads the section titled Code of the West.

"Where there is livestock, there are smells and noise from the animals and machinery. That's part of rural living," it continues. "And, yes, that's a mountain lion in your backyard. He lives here, too."

The handbook goes on to say that cooperation is key to being neighborly where farms and ranches interface with residential subdivisions, including:

• Building fences together.

• Controlling your dogs so they don't harass your neighbor's livestock.

• Keeping your weeds from invading your neighbor's property.

A lengthy history of agriculture in Garfield County and western Colorado is also provided.

Starting with the days of the Ute Indian hunter-gatherers, and continuing through the first large-scale farms that were developed on the valley floors, the advent of cattle and sheep grazing, and the creation of ditch systems for irrigation, agriculture has been a big part of the rural West, the book points out.

"Today, agriculture production is still a major source of economic income in Garfield County," the history section concludes.

"The main commodities produced within the area are cattle, hay, sheep and horses. Increased interest in organic and sustainable farming has seen an increase in production of fruit and vegetables that were historically grown in Garfield County."

The book also explains Colorado's Right to Farm Act and Garfield County's own Right to Farm law, which was adopted by the county commissioners in the late 1990s.

The law, which is included in the county's land-use code, puts landowners, residents and visitors on notice that agriculture remains a big part of the area's economy and that agricultural operations are to be respected and protected.

Additionally, the book covers fencing and trespassing laws, water law and agricultural irrigation rights, living with wildlife, and laws associated with keeping livestock and controlling the spread of noxious weeds.

Mineral rights, including an explanation of the split estate between surface ownership and mineral ownership, is also covered.

And, there's a section devoted to the region's sometimes extreme wildfire danger, including tips on creating a "defensible space" around rural homes.

To obtain a copy of the Garfield County Rural Living Handbook, contact the Conservation Districts/Farm Service Agency, 285 Center Drive, Glenwood Springs, or call (970) 945-5494.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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The Post Independent Updated Dec 26, 2012 12:45AM Published Dec 26, 2012 12:43AM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.