PROGRAM INFORMATION

What: Conservation Stewardship Program

Who: Open to farmers and ranchers

Contact Chambliss Lantana, 505-334-3090

Deadline Apply by Friday, June 14.

More info: Visit the Conservation Stewardship Program website 1.usa.gove/115iUVV

FARMINGTON — An assistance program designed to help farmers and ranchers across the country with sustainable land-use practices has extended its deadline for applications.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service's Conservation Stewardship Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will provide about $175 million for conservation programs across the country. The voluntary program helps farmers and ranchers conserve natural resources while maintaining successful business practices.

Exactly how much money will be made available to San Juan County's agricultural community is not yet known, said Chambliss Lantana, district conservationist at the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Aztec field office, in a phone interview Tuesday.


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Phone calls to the Natural Resources Conservation Service office in Albuquerque were not returned."The program is for individuals that have already reached a certain level of (resource) management," Lantana said. "Now we're actually assisting them with reaching the next level. It's an incentive."Farmers and ranchers interested in receiving funding or more information are encouraged to contact the Aztec field office at 505-334-3090, ext. 3. Applications to the program will be accepted through Friday.

Citing some examples of conservation practices, he said local farmers and ranchers could wait to harvest hay until nesting birds move out of the fields, and put chains in front of their harvesters to scare away animals nesting in the fields so they are not killed by equipment during harvest season.

"We're just educating farmers and ranchers on the importance of keeping cover on their fields and on proper grazing practices," Lantana said.

Other conservation measures include rotational grazing, intercropping and wildlife-friendly fencing, according to a press release.

"Many of (the program's) enhancements improve soil quality, which helps land become more resilient to extreme weather," the release said.

In years to come, soil and water conservation will likely become more and more important throughout the San Juan Basin.

"We have the San Juan River flowing through this basin," said Michael O'Neill, professor of agronomy at the New Mexico State University Agricultural Science Center in Farmington. "It carries about 60 percent of the surface water that flows out of this state. The San Juan Basin is extraordinarily important. It's part of the Colorado River Basin. That water is used for major municipalities, industry, agriculture -- the political ramifications of water in the San Juan are tremendous."

As more people move into this area, water conservation will only become more important, he said.

Soil conservation also plays an integral role in the area's water cycle, O'Neill said.

"Any type of disturbance will cause soil loss," he said.

But soil does not just wash away.

It blows up into the air during the windy spring months, O'Neill said. That dust settles on the San Juan Mountains, darkening the snow and causing it to melt at an accelerated rate.

"This affects everybody," he said.

Greg Yee covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and gyee@daily-times.com. Follow him @GYeeDT on Twitter.