GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Garfield County will help fund the third and final year of a unique revegetation project at a former coal mine site above Redstone, despite the objections of one commissioner over an unrelated political matter.
County commissioners voted 2-1 Monday to provide another $5,000 to support the Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association (CVEPA) in its work with the U.S. Forest Service and local cattle ranchers on the so-called “Cow Stomp” restoration project in Coal Basin.
The project has gained national attention for its use of cattle grazing to work a special soil “biochar” mixture into the ground on old roads and other disturbed areas at the former mine, which shut down in 1991.
Although the site was reclaimed, significant vegetation work was left to the Forest Service to complete in order to prevent against further erosion and contamination of Coal Creek, which drains into the Crystal River.
The project utilizes a “high-intensity, short duration” grazing method, which mimics the way large North American bison herds would graze for short periods of time in one location before migrating to another location, explained project representative Brian McMullen.
McMullen, who works for the Forest Service, appeared before the commissioners on his own time, since he is among the furloughed federal workers due to the current federal government shutdown.
Commission Chairman John Martin said he would like to see the technique used on a larger scale to restore lands that have been disturbed by mining, drilling and other activities.
“This is a good platform to move this to the national level,” he said in support of continued county funding for the project. “The real issue here is taking care of environment, doing it in a unique manner, and doing it with unusual partners.”
However, Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said he couldn’t bring himself to support anything involving the CVEPA after a political comment from one of its members recently at a group gathering to celebrate an agreement to drop a water rights claim for the Placita dam on the Crystal River.
That comment, he said, suggested the Crystal Valley doesn’t need any help from Rifle or Garfield County. The dam had been proposed by the West Divide Water Conservancy District.
“I will never vote for any funding for CVEPA, because of those words,” Jankovsky said. “To come to us now is hypocritical.”
Dorothea Farris, representing CVEPA at the meeting Monday, apologized for any “offensive remarks,” and said the group is only one of several sponsors of the revegetation project.
Jankovsky said he doesn’t disagree with the value of the project, and that he was just upset with the group’s tone regarding the dam issue.
Commissioner Mike Samson said he could look beyond what he believed to be just one person’s opinion on that issue and support the effort to complete the revegetation project.
The commissioners were unanimous in granting two other requests Monday for funding from the county’s discretionary fund, including:
• A $15,000 matching grant to support the True Media Foundation’s BE HEARD! after-school program in area high schools, which introduces students to media and journalism through video production and a regular web-based television program focusing on topical issues.
• A $7,000 matching grant to support the Plant-a-Row Hunger Relief project in the Roaring Fork Valley and Garfield County, which works to provide canned local produce to needy families.