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This Rancher Takes Care of the Folks Downstream

Sometimes we get so caught up in talking about the finer points of grazing management, fence building, cow size and more that we forget to talk about one of the most important “why’s” of what we’re trying to accomplish. So here is Betty Shahan, of Chromo, Colorado, to remind us.

“My main goal is to make it better than it was when I got it,” says Betty. “This is a very, very important watershed here. It’s just so crucial to all of our survival, all of the way down this river.”

She’s talking about the Navajo River that runs through her ranch. Thanks to an upstream diversion dam 110,000 acre feet per year from the Navajo head over to the Rio Grande River, providing drinking water for a third of New Mexico. The Navajo river is also the ranchers’ livelihood. It provides them with irrigation and water for their livestock. And with the diversion in place, things started to change. “It’s just been deteriorating from this tunnel – stopping the normal livelihood of the river, the gravel washing down, the rapids washing out the holes,” said Betty.

So she called the NRCS to come look at the river and see what could be done to heal it. Jerry Archuleta said it could be fixed, and that there were others that would like to work on it. “Gosh, let’s all fix the river together,” said Betty.

This video from the Western Landowners Alliance describes the restoration of the river from an ecological and economic standpoint and how partners got together to combine technical expertise and funding so that together they could accomplish what no single rancher or organization could have done alone.

When Betty talks about her ranch and why she does what she does, she talks about the people she knows and loves and all the people downstream relying on her work. “When I’m gone, I’m gone, and I can’t do anything, BUT, what I wanted to do was save this for them, and that’s what I’ve done. This is our river. This river belongs to everybody that’s connected to it. It’s not mine. That’s one of the things all of us have in common. And it’s very, very important to me to be satisfied with what I’m doing with what I have here to save for the existence of all of us. My kids, my neighbors, my neighbors south of the border. It’s my job and I love it.”

Thanks, Betty!



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