Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ranchers a big part of watershed management

Ranchers spoke candidly about their beliefs in land conservation in a venue they traditionally have avoided – one in which government officials and forestry people also were present. The All Hands, All Lands conference on Nov. 15 at Chapel Rock Conference Center in Prescott included state forestry officials, ranchers, hydrologists and five companies involved in the biomass industry. Sponsored by the Upper Verde River Watershed Protection Coalition (UVRWPC), Chino Winds Triangle Natural Resource Conservation Districts, and Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management (AAFFM), the conference centered around efforts to remove and utilize pinyon-juniper vegetation on nearly 1 million acres in Yavapai County. Five companies involved in the biomass industry also gave short presentations. Rancher Mark Goswick, 57, said his family has ranched in the area since the 1800s. Dawn Salcito is the fifth generation of ranchers in her family. Reuben Verner is fourth generation. Bas Aja’s family has ranched near Ash Fork since 1897. John Hunt ranches some 45 miles out of Prescott. They all took time out from their busy fall season to drive into town and speak to about 100 people involved in watershed management on public and private lands. Some of the ranchers pointed out historical changes caused by encroachment of junipers and pinyons on their ranches, and the resulting decline or absence of streams that used to run seasonally or year round. They also expressed frustration at federal rules and regulations that require environmental studies for almost any kind of land management proposals, such as putting in fence line or stock wells, that can take years to analyze before receiving permission or denial. “Like my father used to say, ‘You’re making a lot of dust, but you’re not getting anything done,’” Aja said, referring to the lengthy legal process involved with NEPA studies (National Environmental Policy Act)....more

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