Ranchers’ water solutions panel draws in rural audience Colorado ranchers encourage balance, awareness and continued engagement

Telluride Daily Planet (September 16, 2023)—When Colorado rancher Marsha Daughenbaugh came to Telluride to talk about water, there was a bit of surprise—“The event Tuesday evening for Colorado Water Trust was standing-room only,” she said.

Daughenbaugh, who traveled to town from the Elk River Valley near Steamboat Springs, said the hospitality in Telluride during her visit was “wonderful.”

She was one of four ranchers in Telluride on Sept. 12 to deliver a panel discussion on “Water, drought and the future of agriculture in the West” hosted by the Colorado Water Trust and the Telluride Foundation.

Annemarie Jodlowski, Telluride Venture Network’s network manager at the Telluride Foundation, said the turnout for the event was notable.

“The event was sold out and we hit capacity with 90 people in attendance,”  Jodlowski said.

As pressure is placed on water supplies in the West, ranchers like Daughenbaugh are encouraging people to learn more regardless of their connection or expertise in water management. And, learn about the tools that are available to manage and conserve water.

“The Colorado Water Trust’s purpose is to get water into the rivers that are kind of floundering because of drought, overuse and how the water flows sometimes,” Daughenbaugh said.

She brought insight to the panel from her lifetime of experience in water management and conservation and said water conservation has been changing and said it’s important for people to learn about “the perspectives of what we are going to see, what is happening now and how urgent the water is and the water conservation as compared to a decade ago.”

Ranchers Rob Lindner, Kathleen Curry and Sajun Folsom rounded out the panel discussion which was moderated by Kate Ryan. Ryan works as a water lawyer and is the executive director

People living in rural communities made the drive to Telluride to hear what the ranchers had to share.

“It was particularly exceptional because so many traveled from Norwood, the West End, Ridgway, and Ouray to listen and share their own experiences,” Jodlowski said. “These kinds of opportunities aren’t always made available or frankly taken advantage of where community members from different parts of the county and surrounding together can converse on topics that are important to all of us.”

Panelist Rob Lindner ranches near Pagosa Springs and also noted the audience was engaged throughout the panel.

“I was so impressed with how the Telluride community and neighboring communities showed up,” Lindner said. “I really enjoyed hearing the diversity of thought from the panelists, and the discussions with the other community members that followed. This is arguably the most important challenge of our time — ‘How do we feed 8-plus billion people?’”

Lindner told the Daily Planet after the panel that the conversation is about more than water.

“Food systems influence every planetary boundary, every major crisis this planet is facing,” Lindner said. “This conversation is not just about water or feeding our communities, it involves carbon, biodiversity, cost of living, human health and wellbeing, social and political polarization and stability.”

As water managers and conservationists look at how to balance the supply of water amid increasing demands and population growth, Lindner sees solutions to the water crisis in everything from increasing local consumerism to learning how to be “more thoughtful consumers” and working to incorporate best practices.

“Land stewards who are attempting to balance the needs of water systems, habitat, wildlife and their community are heroes, and should be celebrated as such,” Lindner said. “Wholesale and retail markets are not adequately rewarding them for all the ecological and social support they provide. We must rectify that — being more selective and mindful consumers will be a major driver of change; advocating for additional support for land stewards through government incentive programs that encourage best practices to conserve water, carbon and biodiversity will be another.”

It’s that continued engagement that Lindner hopes will keep people connected.

“I highly recommend the Daily Planet readers that they stay engaged with the Telluride Foundation, who is doing an excellent job of facilitating discussion of these topics, and of course, the Colorado Water Trust who is facilitating so much support for Colorado’s producers while conserving water for the rest of Colorado’s stakeholders, now and into the future,” he said.

Telluride Daily Planet
Author: Ashley Bunton, Associate Editor
Read the original Telluride Daily Planet article.