Wednesday, July 24

The Crestone Eagle is a nonprofit monthly newspaper serving Crestone and the San Luis Valley

Partnership: Utes partner with USDA

Reprinted from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

DENVER, CO—Southern Ute Indian Reservation – A historic partnership is forging between the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Through the USDA or NRCS Agency’s Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the entities have jointly entered an alternative funding arrangement (AFA) to improve rangeland resiliency and health on Tribal lands. This project is funded through the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

“This is an exciting partnership”, said Clint Evans, NRCS State Conservationist in Colorado. “The Southern Ute Indian Tribe is the first Tribe in the nation to enter into an AFA through CSP. We’re proud of what that means for future relations between NRCS and the Tribe. We also get to play a role and join them as they expand their natural resource conservation journey.”

CSP, a Farm Bill program, builds upon existing conservation efforts while strengthening agricultural operations. “The Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s forward thinking and resource conservation focused mindset made them the perfect candidate for a CSP AFA,” said Liz With, NRCS Assistant State Conservationist for Partnerships in Colorado. “They already implement top tier rangeland management and monitoring practices, and this agreement will assist in maintaining that high standard while also helping to more widely adopt and implement a strategic invasive noxious weed treatment plan over the next five years.

“That treatment will target species from Colorado noxious species list to improve rangeland health and resiliency in face of the increasing drought conditions.”

“This partnership will assist with improving our land, it will also honor the legacy of stewardship entrusted to us by our ancestors. By working together, we can ensure these rangelands remain healthy and productive for generations to come, all while setting a strong example of Tribal leadership in conservation”, said Chairman Melvin J. Baker of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.

The scope and magnitude of this historic project is also noteworthy. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe has agreed to enroll all rangeland acres managed by its Department of Natural Resources, totaling approximately 125,000 acres. Conservation practices implemented will help improve and favor deep rooted, native perennial plants that can help sequester more carbon and build soil health. This partnership represents a tremendous opportunity for the Tribe, NRCS, producers, and the environment as a whole.

For more information about the Natural Resources Conservation Service, its programs, benefits, and opportunities, please visit www.co.nrcs.usda.gov. 

For more information about this partnership, please contact the Southern Ute Department of Natural Resources at 970-563-2912.

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