Cattlemen hear about water, sage-grouse, bears
This story has been revised from the original posting to correct several mistakes.
RIFLE — The lack of water and protecting greater sage-grouse were the two big issues at the 59th annual meeting of the Holy Cross Cattlemen’s Association on Saturday afternoon at Grand River Health.
Other topics included oil and gas, food safety, agricultural issues and upcoming legislation.
Speakers included representatives from the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a representative from Gov. John Hickenlooper’s policy office and local government officials.
“There is going to be big dialog on the discussion of water and Colorado’s growing populations,” Terry Fankhauser, executive vice president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, told the nearly 90 people in the audience. “The average Coloradan uses about 150 gallons of water a day. We need to build up, not out. The smaller the footprint, the less water is used.”
Louis Meyer is president and CEO of Schmueser Gordon Meyer Engineers & Surveyors in Aspen and specializes in water issues. The company was hired to help put together the state’s first water plan, which Hickenlooper wants completed this year.
“But the final draft won’t be done until April, so there is still time for all of you to weigh in,” Meyer said.
He said the state estimates it will be short 500,000 acre-feet of water by 2050. One acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons of water.
“Our cities are growing,” Meyer said. “Garfield County is expected to see a 274 percent increase of people between today and 2050.”
He pointed out that drought conditions have persisted for some years, despite 2014 providing a break.
“Water quality issues are acute and we have interstate issues that are pressing. These have big implications for all of you. The Front Range is out of water. They’re going to come to the Colorado River Basin to look for water.”
“We need to recognize we have a water shortage. We need more reservoirs,” Meyer said.
John Swartout with Hickenlooper’s policy office said that while everyone wants to protect the sage-grouse, there are two different schools of thought. One side wants to put the bird on the endangered list and the other wants to put the bird’s natural habitat, sage brush, on the list. The groups have been battling it out in court.
“The environmental groups wanted to list the habitat, but they lost,” Swartout said. “But this isn’t about the ag industry versus the sage-grouse and oil and gas versus the sage-grouse. This is about co-existing, and it works.”
Swartout did commend Garfield County landowners on taking conservation measures on their properties.
“I’d say a majority of private land has some kind of protection on it done by the ranchers and homeowners. We’re a friend of the sage-grouse,” he said. “Thank you Garfield County for rolling up your sleeves. We have a good relationship with local governments and state and federal agencies. It’s not going to be easy, but we can work together. It isn’t what I do or what the state does, it’s what you’ve done. It’s impressive and the governor will do everything in his power.”
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to make some changes to dietary guidelines this year, said Dan McCarty, director of industry and affiliate outreach and secretary/treasurer of HCCA. McCarty is from a ranching family in Parachute. “We want to promote beef as a part of a healthy diet.”
He pointed out that E-coli was a threat to perceptions about the industry a few years ago.
“As an industry, we put a lot of money in and it’s been successful. You don’t hear that word much these days.”
Instead, the FDA will be focusing on salmonella, McCarty said. “E-coli is on the outside of the carcass and salmonella is in the lymph nodes of the animal. That will be the next big thing when we talk about food safety.”
Perry Will, area wildlife manager with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, reported that the state has a very robust black bear population and the CPW spends about 80-90 percent of its time dealing with the bears and more than $400,000 managing bears in the Roaring Fork and Eagle valleys.
He said letting hunters take two bears instead of one would be one way of easing the problem.
“It’s a big expense for us,” Perry said. “In the past, we just raised (the cost of) licenses and raised the number of licenses issued.”
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Colorado Highway 139 is closed between mile markers 12 to 39 both directions, Douglas Pass, due to a wildfire. The fire is putting off a lot of smoke, decreasing visibility.