by Carol Dunn
WALSENBURG- On the heels of a successful election in May to increase its mill levy, the Upper Huerfano Conservation District sponsored a meeting Tuesday night to get input from landowners on the direction for future District programs.
The invasion of noxious weeds was foremost on the minds of many. Other issues included drought-related troubles like soil erosion, water availability, overgrazing, water storage, rangeland health, and wildlife damage.
The predominance of subdivisions in the County was a concern voiced by several people because of potential ATV damage in some areas, overstocking of horses, trash dumping and absent landowners. One idea that surfaced was a workshop for owners of small acreages to explain defensible space in case of wildfire and also the limitations of the land in this region, where average precipitation is only about fifteen inches per year.
Another land use concern is the proposed Pinon Canyon expansion. As Max Vezzani pointed out, “It would change agriculture, land ownership and livestock production.”
Energy development is also emerging, particularly wind energy speculation and methane extraction. Attendees listed several problems unique to methane drilling: degradation of water wells, lower water tables, contaminated water getting into streams and a resultant toxic buildup of salts in irrigated soils. There were also words of warning about the need for caution on wind energy easements.
Toward the end of the meeting, Walsenburg Mayor Edi Sheldon pointed out, “We need job opportunities and to educate young people about combating some of the issues we have.”
The Conservation District will use the landowner comments to develop a three-year plan of programs to address the resource issues brought out at the meeting.