@PalmerLandTrust awards ceremony and farm-to-table dinner recap

Photos by Allen Tian, The Colorado Independent, and courtesy of Dark Skies Inc of the Wet Mountain Valley.

From the Palmer Land Trust via The Wet Mountain Tribune:

The Palmer Land Trust in Colorado Springs has announced the names of the three award winners, and a prestigious honorary recognition, for the 2017 Southern Colorado Conservation Awards (SCCA). Among the winners were Valley ranchers Randy and Claricy Rusk. The event recognizes individuals and organizations that are dedicated to stewardship, education and innovation in conservation impacting southern Colorado. The winners were honored at The Antlers Hotel in Colorado Springs on Wednesday, September 27, with an awards ceremony and farm-to-table dinner.

“SCCA showcases the exemplary conservation work being done in southern Colorado. This year’s slate of award winners highlights inspiring stories from an incredibly diverse range of people and projects, including ranching in Westcliffe, recreation in Canon City, and water and land conservation on a statewide scale. We are excited to tell these stories at what has become the premiere conservation event in southern Colorado,” said Rebecca Jewett, Executive Director of Palmer.

Award winners were nominated by the community at large and underwent a rigorous selection process by a Blue Ribbon Panel. The Stuart P. Dodge Award honors a lifetime achievement in conservation.

The winners, Randy and Claricy Rusk of rural Westcliffe, are conservation pioneers. Their vision, leadership, and influence within the ranching community has largely been credited for the conservation success achieved in the Wet Mountain Valley and beyond over the last two-and-a-half decades. Working alongside The Trust for Public Land, San Isabel Land Protection Trust, and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, the Rusks have inspired their community to band together to conserve the rich ranching and open space heritage that has long defined the Wet Mountain Valley.

The Environmental Stewardship Award recognizes an individual or organization that has positively impacted the land and the way members of our communities understand and respect their relationship to it.

This year’s winner is Kalem Lenard of Canon City. Since 2012, Lenard has improved more than 17 miles of trails enjoyed by hundreds of bikers, hikers, trail runners, and horsemen every year. Without Lenard’s vision, passion, and expertise, the Oil Well Flats trail system might never have come to fruition.

The Innovation in Conservation Award honors an individual, group, project, or program that has advanced the cause of conservation by developing new conservation models, creating new conservation funding mechanisms, or implementing unique partnerships that protect our natural heritage. The winner this year was the Colorado Water Trust.

The Colorado Water Trust was formed in 2001 to partner with Colorado’s Instream Flow Program and amplify its work by supporting and promoting voluntary, market-based efforts to protect and restore Colorado’s streamflows. Today, the Colorado Water Trust is the only nonprofit organization solely dedicated to restoring flows on Colorado’s rivers using market based transactions. The Water Trust has revealed water-sharing possibilities that have never been done before, helping meet the needs of agricultural partners while providing water for rivers.

Also honored was Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) with the Distinction in Conservation award, a prestigious discretionary award recognizing catalytic excellence and influence in conservation in southern Colorado. Since its inception in 1992, GOCO has committed more than $917 million in state lottery proceeds to more than 4,800 projects in all 64 counties in Colorado without any tax dollar support. Through their efforts they have helped protect more than one million acres of land.

Denver: 9th Annual Colorado WaterWise Water Conservation Symposium October 24, 2017

Draft Agenda

Register Here

Join us for the 9th Annual Colorado WaterWise Water Conservation Symposium in Denver, Colorado! We have a great program being created that will appeal to many audiences.

The latest “The Current” newsletter is hot off the presses from the Eagle River Watershed Council

Photo credit Eagle River Watershed Council.

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

23rd Annual Eagle River Cleanup

About 300 people participated in this year’s Eagle River Cleanup, which was the 23rd annual. A large youth turnout at this year’s event helped forward one of the goals of the watershed council — to leave a conservation legacy for generations to come.

“It’s a start of environmentalism,” watershed council executive director Holly Loff said Saturday. “It connects the community; everyone has worked hard to do something that does make a difference.”

Loff said they expect to see about 4,000 pounds of trash collected from local waterways as a result of Saturday’s efforts.

While the trash itself isn’t often as detrimental to the river as the pollution you can’t see, a clean riverbank says a lot about a community, said Eagle County Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney.

“It takes away from the experience when you see trash as you’re rafting past, or when you’re trying to fish,” McQueeney said.

Solving the problem of the declining Ogallala aquifer: “It’s for the generation that’s not here” — Dwane Roth

The High Plains Aquifer provides 30 percent of the water used in the nation’s irrigated agriculture. The aquifer runs under South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas.

From The Hutchinson News (Amy Bickel):

Because of technology, [Dwane] Roth is working to embrace what might seem like an unfathomable concept in these parts – especially when you can’t see what is happening underground.

Sometimes the crop isn’t thirsty.

“It’s difficult to shut off,” Roth said. “But I called my soil moisture probe guy. He said the whole profile was full and it was only the top 2 inches that was actually dry. So there was no need to turn that irrigation engine on and pump from the Ogallala.”

Now he is hoping to change the mindset of his peers across a landscape where corn is king and the Ogallala Aquifer – the ocean underneath the High Plains – has been keeping the decades-old farm economy going on the semi-arid Plains.

At least it is for now.

Underlying eight states across the Great Plains, the Ogallala provides water to about one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton and cattle production in the United States. It’s also a primary drinking water supply for residents throughout the High Plains.

But the aquifer that gives life to these fields is declining. It took 6,000 years to fill the Ogallala Aquifer from glacier melt. It has taken just 70 years of irrigation to put the western Kansas landscape into a water crisis.

An economy centered on water is drying up.

With his own water levels declining, Roth wants to make sure there is water for the next generation, including his nephews who recently returned to the farm.

On this hot, summer day, water seeped out of a high-tech irrigation system he is testing on his Finney County farm. Soil probes are scattered about, telling him what is happening below the surface.

Roth also has pledged to the state to cut back his usage by 15 percent through changing farming practices and implementing new technology.

He wants to make a difference, but, he stressed, he can’t slow the decline alone.

For the past two years, Roth’s fields have been part of a closely watched demonstration project aimed at showing farmers how to use less irrigation water on their crops. Now he he is taking it a step further.

With some areas in northern Finney County declining by more than 70 feet since 2005, Roth is helping spearhead a regional effort to curtail pumping through a Local Enhanced Management Area. LEMAs were implemented five years ago as a tool to extend the life of the state’s water resources.

He’s not the only one looking toward the future. A small but growing group of irrigators are considering different tools to cutback water use. Some are implementing technology. Some are looking at LEMAs. Others are forming their own, farm-wide plans for mandatory cutbacks.

“It’s for the kids you don’t see yet,” Roth said of why he’s doing this. “It’s for the generation that’s not here.”

Ogallala aquifer via USGS

@ColoWaterWise 9th Annual Symposium, October 24, 2017

Click here to go to the website to register.

Join us for the 9th Annual Colorado WaterWise Water Conservation Symposium in Denver, Colorado! We have a great program being created that will appeal to many audiences.

Register now as space is limited.

When: Tuesday, October 24, 2017, 8:15 AM – 4:00 PM

Location: Lowry Conference Center, 1061 Akron Way, Building 697, Denver, CO 80230

Pleasant View: Experimental “Water Dragon” drip system trial

Photo credit: AgriExpo.com.

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

The High Desert Conservation District has teamed up with farmer Brian Wilson and Teeter Irrigation, of Johnson City, Kansas, to determine if the company’s trademarked Dragon-Line system will work for this area.

Instead of using the nozzles on the center pivot to irrigate, a row of drip lines are attached that drag behind the sprinkler watering the crop at its base instead of from above.

“It saves water and reduces evaporation, erosion and runoff,” said Travis Custer, agricultural consultant with High Desert. “It is the first trial of the technology in the area.”

To compare crop yields, one section of the center pivot irrigates a field of wheat normally from spray nozzles, and an adjacent section utilizes a series of drip lines attached to the nozzles. After harvest, the yields will be compared. Soil moisture monitors have also been installed in areas watered by the drip and nozzle sections of the sprinkler.

The hybrid center pivot and drip line technology was created by Teeter Irrigation, and launched in 2015. The technology has proven effective in Kansas and other plain states that irrigate from an underground aquifer, Custer said.

But since local farms use surface water delivered via ditches and pipelines that carry more debris, a filter system had to be installed on the center pivot being used on the Pleasant View trial…

Farmers have switched to center-pivot sprinkler technology because it is less labor-intensive than side-roll sprinklers, which must be moved by hand. Center pivots are automated, and move in a circular pattern, watering from a row of nozzle heads. Water flow and speed are adjustable and can be controlled remotely.

But center pivots work best on flatter ground. On undulating farmland and fields with steeper slopes, center pivots can cause water to pool in low spots and run off the field or drain into the sprinkler’s wheel tracks, creating muddy conditions.

What’s exciting is that the drip-system attachment to the center-pivot could eliminate those problems because the water is delivered at ground level, said Steve Miles, board member of the High Desert Conservation District…

It appears to be working in the test plots. The lower areas of the drip-line section are not getting waterlogged, and there is less runoff the field. How often the filter-system has to be flushed is also part of the experiment.

Interview: Jim Lochhead #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Jim Lochhead

Here’s an interview with Jim Lochhead from Cathy Proctor and The Denver Business Journal. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

As metro Denver grows, what’s the outlook for its water supply? We went to the source to ask.

Denver Water is the state’s biggest water utility, ensuring that 1.4 million customers in Denver and many surrounding suburbs have enough clean water for drinking, showering, cooking and yard watering.

Jim Lochhead was appointed its CEO and manager in 2010, after working for decades as a lawyer negotiating water rights and uses across the nation.

He sat down with me to talk about Denver’s water future. Here are some highlights.

What challenges lie ahead?

We’re doing an integrated resource plan, a 50-year look ahead to the challenges we face and how we face them — but it’s scenario planning, rather than math. Before, we looked at the past and how much water was available, figured how many people there would be in the future and did the math. But saying “we just need to get more water” doesn’t work anymore. The future will not look like the past for a number of reasons.

On the supply side, there may be more extended droughts, greater severity of weather events, and a warming climate. For demand, we’ve seen demand dropping due to our campaign for water conservation, but it’s also through more efficient fixtures and more density in the city — which means more efficiency.

Economics plans a part to, we could have economic downturns or just chug along, or the millennials moving into the downtown apartments might move to the suburbs. We’re creating different scenarios for all that.