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An informal study of area livestock producers indicates the high dollar value of agriculture to the county’s economy.
Members of the county cattlemen’s and woolgrowers’ associations joined forces for the survey, and appeared before the commissioners Tuesday in a work session, encouraging the board to “consider the effects of your decisions on agriculture.”
Seventy-five responses were received from the survey, which was sent to 211 producers. The total spending reported by those 75 respondents was more than $8.7 million. If that is an average for all 211 producers, multiplied by 1.78, which is the factor used for how many times a dollar “goes around,” that equates to approximately $43 million per year in gross spending coming from one part of the ag industry.
“This is money we put back into the community,” said livestock producer Brian Collins. “In addition to that money, agriculture provides open space and game herds for our recreation and hunting.”
Collins said the objective in providing the information was to increase the awareness of the contributions agriculture makes to the county.
“Those are pretty conservative figures,” said Butch Theos, president of Rio Blanco County Woolgrowers.
Collins specifically addressed challenges livestock producers have experienced with the surge in OHV use, and said private lands are being affected as well as public.
As one example, Collins said OHV riders have cut fences, sullied water sources, and chased cattle on his property. He asked the board to consider those impacts when they make economic development decisions in the future.
Theos said woolgrowers are also affected by OHVs, but they are even more concerned about a potential 2020 ballot measure to reintroduce wolves to Colorado, and hope the commissioners will support the position of livestock producers in opposing that vote.
“Si has been relentless looking at predator control,” Moyer said. “We are definitely engaged in those natural resource issues.”
Further discussion ensued about improved education and law enforcement presence to patrol OHV trails and county roads to implement some controls on OHV users, and ways the county can help livestock producers express their opposition to the wolf reintroduction.
Lenny Klinglesmith said he has heard that the wolf issue will “come down to a legal matter,” and asked if the counties can start putting together a pool of money to hire an attorney to fight reintroduction in the court system. “If it gets passed, how do we stop it? If they do come here, they aren’t going away,” he said.
“When it comes to that legal battle, I think it will certainly be a priority for me as a county commissioner,” Moyer said.
“We’re very pro-ag,” said Commissioner Si Woodruff. “I think at times Rio Blanco County needs to step back and appreciate what they have and not what they could have.”
“Ag is our culture, and I think we need to respect and protect that culture,” added Moyer.
The board gave verbal support to a “land swap” near Rio Blanco Lake that will add more river access for the public. In the swap, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will give up two acres and gain eight.
RBC Finance Director Janae Stanworth told the commissioners her department anticipates receiving $703,438.25 in severance tax dollars and $1,567,284.90 in Federal Mineral Lease funds this year.
During the regular meeting, the board approved a four week contract with Dave Stewart to provide “interim residential inspection services not to exceed $4,350. After building official Jeff Kummer’s departure, building inspector LaDonna Carlson suffered an accident, from which she is recovering. Stewart will conduct residential inspections for the county in the meantime.
A Colorado Open Records Act request filed by the HT seeking documentation that led up to Kummer’s exit resulted in the receipt of two emails forwarded from Commissioner Moyer to Commissioner Rector and an attached image of a stop work order.
“All other correspondence was between one of the commissioners and the county attorney and are therefore not subject to disclosure pursuant to attorney/client privilege,” stated the letter from County Attorney Todd Starr.
In commissioner updates, Moyer said he, Rector and economic development director Makayla Barton attended an energy summit where they signed an MOU with Baja Mexico as a “plan B” to Jordan Cove; attended a meeting with Scott Tipton in Rangely where Tipton was informed about plans for the Wolf Creek Reservoir and toured the site; Moyer plans to meet with Tipton this week in Washington, D.C., this week to follow up on that and on removing the “wilderness study areas” in the county.
Woodruff said he had been working with Rangely Airport repairs, attended the Meeker Sportsman’s Club meeting, toured the Heritage Culture Center building, and asked about an $8,000 request for “sterilization” around the runways at the Meeker Airport, citing concern about the flooding issues.
Rector, participating by telephone, said he was working with Jeff Robbins of Colorado Oil and Gas Association on the rulemaking processes “to see where we’re going to end up on basin-by-basin rulemaking.
Commissioners moved to go into executive session at the county attorney’s request to discuss personnel issues and to conference with the attorney on specific legal advice and contract negotiations.