Christmas Services Held in Saguache Today

The following is a list of Christmas Eve services to be held in and near Saguache Today. Merry Christmas!

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Good News for Local Growers in 2018 Farm Bill

 By Kathy Bedell, © Saguache Today

“The farmers and ranchers of Colorado wrote enormous parts of this legislation,” stated Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet as the passage of the final 2018 Farm Bill jumped another hurdle earlier this month. “What passed today is a reflection of their priorities,” he added.  

Get your ranch or farm registered with the 2018 Colorado Hay Directory

Earlier this week, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 reached the finish line by making it into the law books with President Trump’s signature on December 20, 2018.

So what’s in it for local farmers and ranchers? For that, Saguache Today turns to Senator Bennet who is a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry, and Natural Resources. He is also one of the authors of the successful legislation.

Included below is an outline of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018’s priorities as well as some pointed comments from Senator Bennet’s speech from the Senate floor the day the legislation made its mark on Congress. So, if your business or organization’s project crosses paths with the mountains, the fields, the forests, or the streams, take note, because it’s not ALL politics in DC, something actually got done this month.

“When I joined the Senate Agriculture Committee, the truth is that I had no idea how hard it can be for our farmers and ranchers. Like many people, I had very little appreciation for where our food comes from, and knowing that, if you’re in agriculture, you can do everything right and still fall behind because of forces beyond your control” – Colorado Senator Michael Bennet.

When it comes to conserving land, water, and wildlife and adapting to climate change, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 will have impacts in the following areas:

Drought Resilience: provides new tools for producers to mitigate drought and conserve water in the West; funds the Watershed Act (“PL-566”) to support off-farm water infrastructure projects in western watersheds and waives duplicative planning requirements.

Soil Health: creates a pilot program to increase the amount of carbon stored in soil and improve soil health; ensures the pilot prioritizes drought-prone areas and evaluates economic outcomes.

• Healthy Habitat and Rangelands: improves access to conservation planning, rewards grazing practices that promote drought resilience, soil health, and wildfire management, and directs more conservation funding towards wildlife habitat improvements.

• Conservation Easements: increases funding for agricultural conservation easements and makes it easier for western landowners to pass their land on to the next generation.

Outdoor Recreation: reauthorizes and increases funding for the Voluntary Public Access program to improve habitat and provide access to hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation on private lands.

• Data for Drought Monitoring: improves the data used for drought monitoring to provide disaster assistance to livestock producers and mitigate economic the effects of climate change.

Water, it’s the life source in Saguache Today and the entire San Luis Valley. Photo: Saguache Today/Kathy Bedell

“In the Senate Agriculture Committee, we don’t have partisan differences—we have regional differences that we resolve. That’s because farmers and ranchers don’t have the luxury of pretending politics is the only thing that matters. They’re focused on handing the next generation more opportunity. That’s what this bill does.” – CO Senator Michael Bennet.

The 2018 Farm Law will improve forest and watershed health in the following manners:

 • Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program: doubles funding for community driven, science-based forest management, which has a proven record of success.

Flexible Partnerships Act: provides rural communities an avenue to engage with the Forest Service to lease unused facilities to address housing, infrastructure, and other needs.

• Forest Health: improves good neighbor authority and continues Bennet’s insect and disease treatment program, both of which were established in the 2014 Farm Bill and modified in the 2018 Omnibus, to expedite hazardous fuel reduction projects.

Watershed Health: includes a new Water Source Protection Program to support innovative forest health partnerships; authorizes the Forest Service to evaluate the condition of our watersheds to prioritize forest restoration efforts and monitor their effectiveness.

Wildfire Protection: establishes a pilot program to protect utility infrastructure from passing wildfires by encouraging vegetation management on Forest Service land.

Small Tracts Act: expands the Forest Service’s authority to protect high-priority lands and promote efficient land management.

National Forest Foundation: reauthorizes the National Forest Foundation (NFF), a key partner in Colorado, through 2023 to support conservation and stewardship projects.

• West Fork Fire Station Act: provides Dolores County land for the construction of a new fire station along the West Fork of the Dolores River, where wildfires pose a growing threat to homeowners.

The Agriculture Act of 2018 establishes a pilot program to protect utility infrastructure from passing wildfires by encouraging vegetation management on Forest Service land.
It’s #allhandsondeck for the 416 Wildfire in nearby La Plata County as 9 Type 1 hand crews, 11 Type 2 hand crews, 44 engines, 5 dozers, 4 water tenders and 8 helicopters attack the ever-growing flames in the San Juan Mountains. Photo: Saguache Today/ Jennifer Brown – Rogowski

“And today, our farmers and ranchers are facing tremendous uncertainty. They’ve got persistent drought and threats of wildfire, which are going worse due to climate change. They’ve got low commodity prices and challenges with finding people that can work because of our immigration debate here in Washington. And now, on top of all of that, they’ve got the confusion of the existing trade policies of the United States.”

“Two weeks ago, the USDA announced that farm incomes are projected to drop 12 percent this year. When you add it all up – all the uncertainty up, the policy up, the politics up – farm incomes are going to be down 12 percent this year. All of this acts like a weight on our farmers and ranchers, making it even harder for them to pass on the legacy of their work to the next generation.” – Colorado Senator Michael Bennet

Portions of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 specifically address expanding economic opportunities, both for those already making the grade, as well as encouraging younger generations or businesspersons to get into the agriculture game.

 • Hemp Agriculture: legalizes hemp as an agriculture commodity, providing certainty and economic opportunity for Colorado, including the ability to access crop insurance and federal grants.

Rural Broadband: increases funding 14-fold for loans and grants to extend broadband service to high-need rural areas.

Farmer and Rancher Stress: reauthorizes the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network to assist states and nonprofits that establish helplines, suicide prevention training, and support groups.

• Food Waste: requires a study to identify opportunities to reduce waste and improve farm income.

• Data for Disaster Assistance: encourages the USDA to consult with the bison industry to use the best available market value data for the Livestock Indemnity Program.

• Research Advances: prioritizes USDA research to improve hop plant health and the use of big data for precision management of dryland farming.  

The Agriculture Act of 2018 reauthorizes the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network which could help ranchers in the San Luis Valley. Photo: Saguache Today/Kathy Bedell.

“Earlier this year, our Ag Commissioner in Colorado, Don Brown, who is himself one of the most successful farmers in our state, said, “You’re only 22 once.” And by that he meant, there’s an entire generation out there deciding whether or not to pursue a career on the family farm or ranch. And they’re looking at all this uncertainty, and a lot of them are deciding that it’s not worth it. That’s why the average age of farmers is what it is in the United States. We owe it to our farmers and ranchers to provide consistency where we can, and to help preserve the legacy of American agriculture for years to come.” – Colorado Senator Michael Bennet

And finally with an eye to the future, when it comes to reducing carbon pollution and increasing energy security, here are the ways the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 will have an impact:

• Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency: provides $625 million to increase renewable energy and energy efficiency in rural communities.

• Energy Storage: makes energy storage technologies eligible for USDA Rural Energy for American Program funding and financing.

• Carbon Capture and Utilization: establishes a new $10 million program to provide technical assistance to rural communities investing in carbon capture projects.

• Biogas Technologies and Clean Energy: promotes the use of biogas technologies to reduce carbon emissions in rural communities.

• Cyber and Grid Security: ensures cybersecurity and grid improvement projects are eligible for $5 billion in USDA Rural Utility Service loans.

• More Effective Clean Energy Funding: allows the U.S. Department of Energy to provide technical assistance to the USDA to increase the utilization of USDA loans for rural energy systems.

• New Research for Carbon Utilization: allows carbon dioxide created during a biobased production that is permanently sequestered or utilized to be eligible for Biomass Research and Development.

The 2018 Farm Bill includes funding for clean, effective energy systems. Photo: Saguache Today.

All in all, this 2018 Farm Bill is an excellent piece of legislation. And a lot of credit lies in the approach we took in the Agriculture Committee. It should be like this for all our committees. We don’t have partisan differences. If we have differences, we have regional differences, and we work them out.”


And that’s why that Committee, which I’m proud to serve on, is one of the only functioning committees in the Senate. We passed a five-year Farm Bill the last time there was a Farm Bill, not a six-month one, not a six-day one, but a five-year Farm Bill. And this is another one, because Republicans and Democrats both know that we’ve got to support our farmers and ranchers, not create even more uncertainty for them.”

“The other privilege of being on that committee is that I spend a lot of time in my state in counties where it’s unlikely that I’m ever going to win 10 or 20 percent of the vote. But I keep going back and back, not because I think I’ll win, but because I think that, as a country, we’ve got to find a way to bring ourselves together and solve problems.”

“Our farmers and ranchers are a model for that. They’re applying their ingenuity to challenges like climate and drought every single day. They don’t have the luxury – and I would say we don’t have the luxury – of pretending that politics is the only thing that matters. They’re focused on delivering their farm or ranch to the next generation and handing them more opportunity, not less. To them, that’s all that matters. And that’s the ethic we should be applying to our national politics.” – Colorado Senator Michael Bennet

Crestone Peak is the seventh-highest summit of the Rocky Mountains of North America. Photo: Saguache Today/Kathy Bedell.

Journalist Kathy Bedell owns The Great Pumpkin, LLC a digital media company located in Leadville, Colorado which publishes Leadville Today and Saguache Today.

Food Distribution In Saguache on Thursday

The next Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) distribution will be tomorrow, Thursday, Dec. 20 in Saguache. The location is 305 3rd Street and will take place from 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

TEFAP is a federal program administered through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that help supplement the diets of low-income Americans, including elderly people by providing them with emergency food and nutrition assistance at no cost.

People often ask what kind of food they will receive.  Items will vary but TEFAP foods generally include staples such as milk, cereal, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, dried beans, peanut butter, pasta, and chicken.

Recipients are eligible to receive TEFAP foods one time per month.  Please bring a picture ID. This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

For readers unfamiliar with the TEFAP program, it’s operated by the Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado. At Care and Share Food Bank, they believe that no one should go hungry. Every day, Care and Share provides food to its partner agencies across Southern Colorado to serve neighbors in need because well-fed communities are better for everyone.

Care and Share exists to ensure that the one in eight Southern Coloradans at risk of hunger have access to enough healthy and nutritious food to thrive. They know that children without adequate access to food cannot develop successfully, families cannot plan for their future, and seniors find it more difficult to remain independent.

Care and Share History

According to the Care and Share website: In 1972, our founder Sister Dominique Pisciotta saw many people in her own community struggling with hunger and decided to do something about it.  Hunger wasn’t ok with Sister Dominique then and it isn’t ok with us now. We know you feel the same way.

In the early days, we distributed food baskets throughout Colorado Springs. Now, we provide millions of pounds of food throughout 31 Southern Colorado counties. We have far outgrown our humble beginnings, where we distributed food out of volunteers’ basements and a two car garage on S. Wahsatch Street.  Today, we have the privilege of running our operation from a well- equipped distribution centers in Colorado Springs and Pueblo.  And volunteers, always the lifeblood of our work, have grown in ranks from one committed Sister to more than 7,000 annually! 

Fallen Soldiers, Gold Star Families Honored

By Kathy Bedell © Saguache Today

The metallic blue stars provided a stark contrast to the neatly polished gold banisters at Colorado’s state Capitol last Wednesday, Dec. 12. And as the piney scent drew visitors in a bit closer to the majestic fir, it was clear that the Yuletide ornaments held in its boughs were like no others. These handmade, glitter-ridden tokens shining brightly from the Holiday Tree, honored Colorado’s fallen soldiers and their families. Each had a story to tell.

State Senator Larry Crowder (far right, foreground) attends the Gold Star Family Holiday Tree ceremony on December 12 as Gov. John Hickenlooper (center, background) addresses the attendees whose loved ones gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the US Military.

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Colorado First Families have chosen repeatedly to dedicate the tree in  honor of Gold Star families, the relatives of US military members who died in battle.  And so it was for Governor John Hickenlooper as he addressed about 150 people gathered in the north foyer under Colorado’s Golden Dome last Wednesday, Dec. 12.

“I want to thank all of the Gold Star families that are here. It’s always the most pointed reminder of the sacrifices made by your family members who lost their lives. I hope that each and every one of you can find some peace and happiness over the holidays,” stated Gov. Hickenlooper as families hung the commemorative ornaments on the 50-foot fir, patriotically dressed in red, white (silver) and blue.

Many relatives recorded the PowerPoint presentation which rotated pictures of their lost loved ones, respectfully displayed with their military honors. Plenty of pictures were taken by the Holiday Tree which was harvested at 8,500 feet in northern Larimer County. And over a generous portion of food and drink, memories were shared as Gold Star families caught up with each other, being members of a club that nobody wants to belong to.

Handmade ornaments with the each soldier’s image are presented to Gold Star Families to hand on the Holiday Tree at the Colorado State Capital. Photo: Saguache Today.

In attendance was Saguache County’s State Senator Larry Crowder, who also serves on the Senate Committee on State, Veterans, & Military Affairs. Senator Crowder is an Army veteran, small business owner, farmer and rancher. While he and his family reside in Alamosa, his Senate District 35 encompasses a lot of Southern Colorado, including includes rural Pueblo County, Alamosa, Baca, Bent, Conejos, Costilla, Crowley, Custer, Huerfano, Kiowa, Las Animas, Mineral, Otero, Prowers, Rio Grande and Saguache Counties. 

There are now 4460 names of Colorado soliders listed on The National Gold Star Registry, where readers can search for information on their loved ones or relatives lost in battle. Included in the list is one soldier who named Saguache as his hometown: Tony Abeyta who died in the Vietnam War on September 3, 1963. Do you know his story? Please share it! Readers can also read a #GoldStarFamily story from Saguache Today’s sister new site – Leadville Today, clicking HERE.  

“On behalf of the entire state of Colorado, thank you. Thank you so very much,” concluded the Governor at last Wednesday’s Gold Star Family Holiday Tree ceremony.

Journalist Kathy Bedell owns The Great Pumpkin LLC, a digital media company located in Leadville, which publishes two online news websites: LeadvilleToday.com and SaguacheToday.com.

The “Hidden Scars”of Careless Driving

By Trooper Gary Cutler, Colorado State Patrol                           

Each month I usually write about topics to help you and your families stay safe on the roadways.  This month I would like to touch on why that is so important.  There is a hidden scar that goes on under the radar of public perception.  So this time, I would like to help everyone understand the effect bad driving has on everyone else not directly involved in traffic crashes.

Any time there is an injury or fatal crash there is a ripple effect that happens.  Those directly involved of course are the victims, but have you ever thought of what affect the trauma has on the witnesses, families, friends, police, fire, paramedics, and hospital staff from that point on.  The list is so large it’s hard to make sure everyone is listed when there is a serious crash.  Each one of these people affected has to deal with what they have seen and experienced long after the incident.  Sometimes they never get over what they have experienced.

From semis to summer traffic, the roads in @Saguache Today are busy! Travel safe! Photo: Saguache Today

The Colorado State Patrol has produced a series of videos aimed at explaining the lasting effects after the crash is over.  The videos are entitled “Hidden Scars”.  The short videos touch on the emotional hurt people endure from crashes caused by texting, driving under the influence, and distracted driving, to name just a few.

At the time I was writing this, there have been 561 fatal crashes covered this year by just the Colorado State Patrol alone.  With the increase of people coming to the state and the continuing challenges to keep people from driving impaired or being distracted with cell phones, we need to make a change so we are not losing so many lives to crashes.

This means we need to look at things differently.  We change perceptions.  Help people to put the phone down when driving, get that ride after drinking or smoking marijuana, or to just slow down on the roadway.  These are small steps that can have huge impacts, so others don’t have to have their own hidden scars. 

Please take a moment and watch the videos with your family and friends.  Hopefully, these videos will have that message needed to change behavior. You can find our videos on any of our social media outlets.

As always, safe travels!

Christmas Trees: Cutting and Care

Know Your ABCs, Get a FREE Christmas Tree!

Of all the great things there are about knowing a 4thgrader, you can add one more to the list: A Christmas Tree. Fourth graders may get a free Christmas tree permit when they present a valid Every Kid in a park pass. These passes may be obtained at www.EveryKidinaPark.gov.

While the official Saguache Christmas tree arrived last Friday, if you’re looking to harvest one for your own home, permits are now available at the Saguache Ranger District Photo: Lynn Nowiskee/Saguache Today.

The free permit is only good at Rio Grande National Forest offices, which includes the Saguache Ranger District, 46525 State Highway 114, Saguache, CO 81149. Be sure to bring the paperwork – and the student! –  when you apply for your free tree permit!

For everyone else who is preparing for the “Tannenbaum” season, permits are available as well as the Saguache Ranger District Office. The Christmas tree permits cost $8.00 each, with a limit of five permits per household.

Christmas tree permits are valid only for trees growing on land managed by the Rio Grande National Forest. All trees must be at least 100 feet away from any campground, picnic area or road and can be up to five inches in diameter at shoulder height. Cutting trees within designated wilderness areas or the Conejos Canyon is prohibited.

For more information concerning Christmas tree cutting permits, contact the Saguache Ranger District at 719 655-2547 or see the information below::

The Cost of Democracy in Saguache

By Trish Gilbert, Saguache County Clerk & Recorder

For the general election, the state will reimburse 90 cents per active voter. Since Saguache had 3,801 active voters on election day, the reimbursement amount will be $3,420.90.  

In terms of determining the costs to participating entities, there are a few ways counties go about allocating costs, but the first step is to itemize the costs and determine which entities (if any) are responsible for a share of the costs. Keep in mind that the county is also responsible for a portion of the cost because county races and a question was on the ballot. Saguache County allocates costs based on the number of voters in each jurisdiction. There’s no one right or wrong way to go about allocating costs.

Following is the cost break down for the 2018 GeneralElection:

To summarize, the cost per voter for the 2018 Saguache County General Election was $11.32. Yes, there is much more to an election than a paper ballot and envelope. In the midterm election, the state of Colorado came in with the second highest turnout in the nation having over 62% active eligible voters cast ballots.

Saguache County had over a 61% turnout.  Your vote is your voice.  Congratulations!!  Give yourselves a pat on the back for participating in this important process. You showed the nation that Saguache County VOTES!