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MEEKER | Current White River Conservation District board president, Neil Brennan, and past president Gary Moyer, now board vice-president, led the 70 some conservation aficionados at the district’s annual dinner in the Fairfield Center last Thursday. The meal was provided by Ma Famiglia.
The dinner was a trial by fire for new district manager, Tristan Nielsen. Nielsen, a 2013 Meeker High School graduate, returned to her home town after earning her associate’s degree in agricultural business from Northeastern Junior College in Sterling. She said she is excited to be back home and have this opportunity to work with the White River and Douglas Creek districts on agriculture and natural resource issues.
Nielsen says she learned a great deal about many federal lands and natural resource issues as an FFA student in high school. Part of that experience during her junior and senior years was participating in the FFA Ag Issues Team where she researched and presented a variety of perspectives on topics like wild horses and public lands management—experiences that will serve her and the districts well in her new role.
The district’s 2018 annual report was presented to the attendees by way of the dinner placemats. District Executive Director Callie Hendrickson, of Grand Junction, reviewed subjects including rangeland health and monitoring; excess horses on public range; range improvement programs and opportunities; greater sage grouse management; and water issues. The latter includes facilitation, on behalf of the county, of the deliberations and research of the county’s White River Algae Task Force. The mission of the task force, Hendrickson stated, is “to ascertain what is driving the algae growth in the White River (in order) to improve the overall health of the watershed.”
The 2018 Plan of Work presented covers the development and implementation of the rangeland monitoring and weed control project with the federal Bureau of Land Management on the Piceance-East Douglas (Wild Horse) Herd Management Area; ongoing facilitation of the White River Algae Task Force; continuing utilization of the Land and Natural Resource Plan and Policies developed by the districts and approved by the board of county commissioners as a guide to public lands use; continuing equipment rental, tire tank and polyacrylamide (PAM) sales for sites where quick fixes are needed on dam areas where there are known leaks and for setting up the surface for new ponds as well as flooded field irrigation and ditch projects; continuing excess wild horse education; continuing work with partners to support the wise use of natural resources; and working to secure long-term sustainable funding to replace losses in mill levy funding.
Enterprise Products, Williams gas company, and XTO Energy were the primary sponsors of the district dinner this year. Steve Cochran, Enterprise manager, and Darren Baker, representing Williams, were presented “thank you” awards for the sponsorships. Past district manager Chris Colflesh and his bride, Kim O’Donnell, both now of Silt, were also honored.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service district conservationist, Kendall Smith from Craig, whose jurisdiction covers Moffat and Rio Blanco Counties; Kent Walter, field manager for the White River Field Office of BLM; and U.S. Forest Service Rio Blanco District Ranger, Curtis Keetch, each gave updates on the activities of their agencies.
The evening’s program closed out with presentations by Colorado Parks and Wildlife water quality guru Mindi May, Denver, and Elk Creek Ranch fishing manager Colton Brown sharing their perspectives on the White River algae situation.