By Frost McGahey
"We've been in a 10-year drought that was more severe than the drought during the 1930's Dustbowl," Dustin Hunt, Jr. said at the meeting of the Grant County Republican Women held Monday, September 11. "But because of one man and all the farmers and ranchers who voluntarily worked to prevent a reoccurrence, we didn't go through another Dustbowl. Although we've suffered, it's nothing like what happened before."
Hunt was at the meeting to explain what the Grant Soil and Water Conservation District did and does for the community.
"In 1937 Hugh Hammond Bennet was trying to get money from Congress to fund a Soil Conservation agency because an intense drought was still causing huge dust storms. Congress had refused to fund the agency in the past. Bennet kept trying and was scheduled to meet with them. He'd heard that Oklahoma had experienced a major wind storm, and the dust was working its way to D.C. He delayed his meeting for three days until he knew the storm would reach Washington. When he met with Congress he asked them to step outside so they could see for themselves the gigantic red cloud of dust. He said, 'Here's Oklahoma.' Congress funded him."
Hunt went on to say that the Soil and Conservation District has no legal authority to make landowners make changes. "We work with farmers to help them manage soil erosion. This is all voluntary so they can preserve their own soil and water."
"We work with the U.S. Forest Service and when we talk to people on the west coast they say we have Asbestos Forests compared to them. Our juniper and pinon pine are much harder to burn then what they have. It takes a severe drought and high winds to have a big fire. Unfortunately, that's what we've been experiencing.
"We sponsor the Wildland Urban Interface project with the NM State Forestry Department. This program has brought over $1 million to private landowners in Grant County to reduce wildfire damage. We've done erosion control in the Burros with prescribed burns and the creation of 200 gully plugs (check dams) to stop erosion in side canyons.
"Now in the Burros we are thinning a dense Pinon Juniper woodland in the headwaters of Mangas Creek and working with the Cliff High School FFA to monitor pollinators' response to the thinning project.
"We have a huge project with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the Mimbres and Gila River valleys to repair last summer's flood damage. This would include repairing damage to irrigation ditches in the local Acequias. This project could bring $6 million dollars to the Grant County area for needed repairs.
Hunt along with John Merino and Tyson Bays are the members of the local Grant Soil and Water Conservation District which has been operational since 1944 and only has a budget of $14,000. These are unpaid positions. The three members are up for re-election this November, but they have no opponents. Hunt is running for at-large supervisor and Merino and Bays for landowner supervisors.