Conservation district examines 2015 triumphs, 2016 challenges

Neil Brennan, left, president of the White River Conservation District Board of Supervisors presented the Conservationists of the Year Award to Rocky Pappas, Sparky Pappas and Travis Flaherty at Friday’s annual meeting and banquet at the Fairfield Center in downtown Meeker. District manager Chris Colflesh reported there were 104 people present at the banquet.

Neil Brennan, left, president of the White River Conservation District Board of Supervisors presented the Conservationists of the Year Award to Rocky Pappas, Sparky Pappas and Travis Flaherty at Friday’s annual meeting and banquet at the Fairfield Center in downtown Meeker. District manager Chris Colflesh reported there were 104 people present at the banquet.
Neil Brennan, left, president of the White River Conservation District Board of Supervisors presented the Conservationists of the Year Award to Rocky Pappas, Sparky Pappas and Travis Flaherty at Friday’s annual meeting and banquet at the Fairfield Center in downtown Meeker. District manager Chris Colflesh reported there were 104 people present at the banquet.
MEEKER I More than 100 people enjoyed the White River Conservation District’s annual meeting Friday at the Meeker Fairfield Center.

The District was recognized by Colorado State Conservation Board in 2015 as “District of the Year,” and Executive Director Callie Hendrickson received the Conservation Excellence Award by Colorado Agriculture Commissioner Don Brown, “for giving a strong voice to locally led conservation at home, in Colorado and nationally.”
Hendrickson highlighted the district’s’ natural resource priorities including rangeland health, wildlife, water and natural resource information and education.
She focused on two primary projects, including the Excess Horse Campaign developed in partnership with the Douglas Creek Conservation District and the National Horse and Burro Rangeland Management Coalition (Coalition) and the development of the Rio Blanco County Land and Natural Resource Use Plan.
The Excess Horse Campaign includes videos/commercials developed to provide the public with accurate information on the challenges posed by excess “wild” horses across the western United States. Hendrickson noted how fortunate Colorado is that we have healthy horses on reasonably healthy ranges at this time but that we want to ensure it stays that way and that our rangelands and horses don’t begin to look like those in Nevada, which is home to more than 50 percent of the 64,000 horses on BLM lands in 10 states.
The videos highlight the impacts that excessive numbers of horses have on wildlife, rangeland health, other multiple uses, taxpayer dollars and the horses themselves. She encouraged the audience to visit www.wildhorserange.org for more information.
Attendees were updated on the progress of the Land and Natural Resource Use Plan. Hendrickson asked all Rio Blanco County citizens to be prepared to review and comment on the plan in March. The district will publicize the exact dates of public comment meetings. The plan will then be applied to influence federal regulatory frameworks that govern the management of public lands.
The district recognized Rocky and Sparky Pappas and Travis Flaharty as Conservationists of the Year. President Neil Brennan highlighted the Pappas’ conservation accomplishments, including water development, grazing practices, weed control and community involvement. The Pappases and Flaherty manage first for wildlife and second for livestock.
The property they manage is leased to several local producers to graze sheep and cattle during the summer. The livestock are removed before fall to allow for rejuvenation for wildlife habitat. With the ongoing partnership with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Pappas’ and Flaherty reclaimed some farm ground in the Josephine Basin to provide critical winter range for mule deer and to improve the migration corridor for deer and elk.
They battle weeds through aerial applications and are experimenting with biological control such as beetles and pathogens for leafy spurge and thistles. They have improved water quality and quantity by converting manual pumps to solar, adding water tanks and installing pipelines to spread the water across the properties. In addition to their conservation efforts, the three volunteer on local boards such as the Historical Society, and the Flat Tops chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. They also sponsor youth hunts and help approximately 200 Colorado hunters with the Ranching for Wildlife program.
The final awards presented were to winners of the sixth-grade poster contest on the theme of “Local Heroes —Your Hard Working Pollinators.” Hailey Knowles, first; Rowdy Rosendahl, second; Zachary Newman, third. The top two posters were submitted to the Colorado Association of Conservation Districts poster contest at the state level. The first-place poster at state would advance to the national level, but the local posters did not advance.
Keynote speaker David Ludlum, West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s executive director, addressed the audience regarding the various ways industries convey their purpose and message to the public. While industries think they are doing a good job by providing great detail about “how they do their work,” they miss the important message about “why they do their work.”
Ludlum showcased how individuals that “bash” industry and the general public need to hear “industry develops these resources simply to provide the tires for your bicycles, the concrete you walk on, the fiberglass on your surfboards, the polyester and nylon in your clothes, the polycarbonate in your sunglasses, the ethane used to make your artificial hips, the heat you enjoy on a cold night, the gas in your car, the fertilizer used to grow your food, etc.”
Ludlum expressed how important it is that our industries help people understand what they provide for your standard of living. Most people, he said, don’t care “how” you do it until they understand “why” you do it.