I have lived my whole life in San Juan County, and, as a fifth-generation rancher, I know the meaning of hard work, grit and determination. It has been a struggle to provide for my family at times, due to the strict and cumbersome regulations involving grazing permits on land around the county and the water rights within the county. I’m not alone on this matter. For generations, grazing permits and water rights have been controlled by mainly state, tribal and federal government agencies, leaving little for farmers and ranchers to raise their crops and herds on.
Now, as we are in the worst drought that I have ever experienced, that situation has grown even more dire. Agricultural industry is the lifeblood of our economy; it is the main source of income for many individuals, and everyone in our community is affected when a drought or similar natural disaster hits. As this drought continues to starve our cattle and wither our crops, we have decided to fight back. The people of San Juan County are a tough people who have made a hard living off of the lands we live on, and we are no strangers to fighting for our community.
Now, in our time of need, we call upon the various agencies and organizations that can help mitigate the effects posed by this deprivation of rain. We have felt compelled, not only for the sake of our community but for the individuals within it, to declare this state of emergency. In addition to the high risk of crop and cattle failure, we are now faced with an increasingly high risk of fire, which would devastate the county.
What we ask for now is that we be given the opportunity to sustain and uphold our livelihoods, that we be allowed to operate the appropriate grazing permits that will allow our cattle to survive until the winter and that we be given access to the appropriate resources to water our crops and fields. We want to be able to work and provide for our families. Since we are a small rural community, we have often felt left behind in many respects, namely not having adequate resources and personnel to deal with these types of issues. We encourage our local, state and congressional leaders to listen to the voices of their constituents and provide the relief being sought after.
This is no longer just an economic issue; it has now morphed into an issue of public safety. We hope through these efforts that the appropriate resources will be directed to help our community and we can help save the livelihoods of many citizens in San Juan County.
Bruce Adams is a San Juan County commissioner, fifth-generation rancher and a devoted voice for agriculture, lands and community unity.