Where did the summer go?
October has been a very busy month for me. I started the month by helping the family and our sheep herders bring our sheep out of the mountains to our Ignacio headquarters where the lambs were weaned and then sent to new owners in Yuma, Ariz., where they will graze on alfalfa pastures all winter.
Agriculture is one of the bright spots in the national and state economy. The latest figures that I saw showed that agricultural income was 178 percent above one year ago. It was a good year for us also, and provided the opportunity for our ranch to pay down extra principal on our debt so that we will be ready for the next downturn in lamb prices that will inevitably come.
All levels of government should manage their budgets in the same way. New projects and programs should be carefully scrutinized to make sure that they will be sustainable in tough economic times. In good years, equipment and infrastructure must be properly maintained and money should be set aside for replacement. This will help to avoid crisis management caused by improper planning.
The Capital Development Committee continues to be of great interest to me. This committee is made up of three Democrats and three Republicans who approve or disapprove all capital and maintenance requests from state-funded operations. In October, we toured some of the more western facilities. We visited Healy House Museum and Dexter Cabin in Leadville; Western State College, and the Miller Land and Cattle wildlife site in Gunnison County; Ute Indian Museum in Montrose County; Colorado Bureau of Investigation Grand Junction office and Colorado Mesa University in Mesa County; and my favorites, Fort Lewis College and Southwest Community College in La Plata and Montezuma counties.
I have to say that Fort Lewis College has the most beautiful campus in all of Colorado and is one of the best liberal arts colleges in the United States. It is no wonder that students come from all over the world to study here.
There is definitely a need for Southwest Community College, part of the Pueblo Community College system, where students of all ages can be trained quickly and affordably for immediate placement in today’s economy.
The Miller Ranch wildlife site north of the City of Gunnison is of great interest to me. The primary purpose of this ranch is the preservation of habitat for Gunnison Sage Grouse. This species of grouse is found no place else in the world.
What was interesting to me is that livestock grazing is important to the survival of the grouse. Wildlife experts explained to our committee how the irrigated pastures and cattle grazing, which stimulates grass production, are key to the maintenance of the critical habitat for these beautiful birds. Strategic sage brush control enhancing high quality grass close to sage brush cover is also key to habitat management. They contract with local ranchers to manage the ranch.
This job continues to fascinate me.
More next time.