Don’t be deceived: Drought still severe |

Don’t be deceived: Drought still severe

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Les Mergleman says looks can be deceiving.

“Everything looks very green,” said Mergleman, “But we’re still in the midst of one of the worst droughts in Colorado history.”

Mergleman was speaking about Colorado’s drought to a group of Western Slope ranchers and farmers gathered at the Courthouse Plaza in Glenwood Springs for a Club 20 conference. The 50-year-old organization, known as “The Voice of the Western Slope,” provides forums and information for issues affecting western Colorado’s 22 counties.

Mergleman, a Club 20 officer and the chief executive officer at Olathe State Bank, said northwest Colorado is still abnormally dry, and southwest Colorado is extremely dry.

Mergleman was part of a panel of experts from Club 20, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service, who discussed how the federal agencies manage grazing on public lands during a drought. Panelists came from Olathe, Kremmling, Paonia and Grand Junction.

Dennis Davidson, district conservationist from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service office in Glenwood Springs, described grants offered to ranchers and farmers dealing with the effects of drought.

David Harr, acting field manager of the BLM office in Kremmling, confirmed that the drought continues.

“We’ve all seen how green everything is,” he said, “but I’m afraid of the psychological effect it’s having on us all. It makes us think that the drought’s over, but nothing could be further from the truth.

“Because plants died off last year, there’s less competition. There is more water, and more nutrients in the soil for the remaining plants, but there are less of them,” Harr said. “Everything looks rosy, but there are less plants.”

Earlier this year, Harr asked Routt County ranchers to work with the Forest Service on limiting grazing due to drought. The ranchers asked Forest Service representatives to help them work out individual plans.

“We visited with each one,” Harr said. “A number of ranchers had sold off all or a portion of their stock. We’re working with remaining stock, though currently, we have between 41 and 50 percent less major permittees on the forest.”

Dave Bradford of the Forest Service office in Paonia said it’s important to remember that drought is a way of life in Colorado.

“I’m suggesting that those with permits consider a shorter grazing season this year,” he said. “And I’m asking ranchers to base their stock numbers strictly on what feed they have available on their own land when they’re not on the forest.

“I’m also suggesting contingency plans. You don’t want to have August come and be out of feed,” Bradford said. “And finally, pray for rain.”

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

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