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Effects of Drought are Long-term

Effects of Drought are Long-term

Posted - Jan. 29, 2004 at 5:13 p.m.



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John Hollenhorst ReportingYou've looked around and seen the snow, and you've said, "The drought is over!" Well, maybe it is, but that doesn't mean everyone can stop worrying.

All this snow does suggest a change in the pattern. We're back to something like normal winter, at least for the last month or two. But the drought has been so bad for so long, some people won't get over it for years to come.

We first told you about Heidi Redd seven years ago, riding the range and running cattle on 300,000 acres of Southeastern Utah. Because of the drought she cut her herd in half -- a huge financial blow because her expenses stayed about the same.

At a meeting of range experts today, she said there's no quick turnaround in sight.

Heidi Redd, Dugout Ranch: “We've come to the determination to try to run the numbers of cattle that I have run in the past just will not work. The cattle will suffer and more than the cattle suffering, the range will suffer."

Experts say the drought did deep damage, drying up springs, killing and stressing plants and wildlife--effects that will outlast current weather forecasts.

A.J. Martinez/Ecologist: "We're still going to have the impacts of drought, and they're long term."

A worry is that drought plans formulated in crisis will be dropped even though we might be just in the middle of a drought.

Julio Betancourt, Environmental Scientist: "We've got to be careful to maintain our resolve, to actually lower the baseline, lower our expectations so that we can adapt to these droughts when they happen."

Heidi Redd has lowered her expectations, running fewer cows to give the grass a chance to recover.

Heidi Redd: "The bottom line is, if you take the golden egg, which is your grass and in time of drought stress it, so in the future there's no grass, then you're out of business anyway."

So we should take heart in the snow, but let's not over-react. And we always have to remember, what Nature gives it can take away.

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