Alliance President Pat O’Toole to Testify on Colorado River Drought House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Hearing
Family Farm Alliance President Patrick O’Toole, whose family owns and operates a cattle and sheep ranch in Wyoming, will testify tomorrow before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Ocean and Wildlife on the Colorado River drought – an unprecedented disaster for many farmers and ranchers, their families and rural communities across the West.
“We’ve seen the ups and downs and the volatility of weather and the changing climate—now it’s clear that the cycle of life has been disturbed,” said Mr. O’Toole.
Other witnesses include Adel Hagekhalil (general manager of Metropolitan Water District of Southern California), Taylor Hawes (The Nature Conservancy) and Anne Castle (senior fellow, Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment at the University of Colorado). More hearing information can be found here.
The Colorado River Basin is in its 21st year of drought and its reservoirs will end up at their lowest levels since they were initially filled. Central Arizona farmers are bracing for water cuts resulting from the first ever shortage declaration, and the most recent modeling shows increasing risk of reaching additional critical levels at Lakes Powell and Mead.
“I have been asked to testify on my involvement with forest and watershed health activities in the Upper Colorado River Basin, and to convey the position of Family Farm Alliance members throughout the West on the importance of actively managing to restore our critically important Western forested watersheds,” said Mr. O’Toole.
Today’s wildfires are often larger and more catastrophic than in the past. Some of the blame can be attributed to climatic conditions, like reduced snowpack in alpine forests, prolonged droughts and longer fire seasons. Western population growth has also played a role, since there are now more homes within or adjacent to forests and grasslands. However, decades of fire suppression and inability to manage federal forests through prescribed burns, thinning, and pest/insect control probably play an even bigger role. Mr. O’Toole’s testimony presents his “recipe for success”.
“Forest restoration – utilizing what I refer to as ‘AgroForestry’ – is very doable,” said Mr. O’Toole. “It will require planning, resources, commitment and will. All of these things exist.”
Mr. O’Toole and Mr. Davis also both emphasize the importance of including farmers and ranchers as long-term management solutions are developed on the Colorado River.
“Arizona agriculture – along with agricultural producers throughout the Basin – must have a place at the table from day one and the full value of irrigation for food production, responsible water management, rural economies, and the environment must be considered,” said Mr. Davis.