Lawmaker promotes water conservation, sustainable farming
Nov 10, 2023, 6:07 PM | Updated: 6:48 pm
MORGAN COUNTY — A state legislator says he’s investing a lot of money into making his farmland more sustainable, and he wants other farmers to know the state can help them do the same.
Representative Mike Schultz said these changes can ideally send more water downstream into the Great Salt Lake and help restore wildlife habitat. He’s not the only one doing these things, but he’d like to see more farmers and ranchers get on board.
“You think about in the 1870s when this valley was settled versus today, things are much different,” Schultz said. He started making significant changes to his Croydon ranch in the middle of some severe drought.
“We do have less water today than what we had back then, and we have a larger population that’s growing. And so, you know, it’s important that we find ways to become sustainable,” he said.
Pivot sprinkler systems ensure that he uses about 25% of the water he used to. Schultz says it cost around $750,000 at the time, though now farmers can get half their cost covered through grants from Utah’s water optimization program. He says it’s just one sign of the ways Utahns are changing their approach.
“Even though we had a record amount of water this year, Utahns used so much less water,” Schultz said.
He said he sees the difference in his nearby streams. The other side of his paradigm shift comes here, a field that the previous owners had turned into 400 acres of dry farm.
Schultz said, “This is really critical wildlife habitat, mainly for the wintertime.”
Instead, it’s now turned back into grazing land for cattle part of the year, and for the elk during the winter.
“We’ve learned a lot over the years about grazing and proper ways to graze,” he added.
Some of those lessons for him came with the help of the Division of Wildlife Resources. Its grazing improvement program can help farmers strike a better balance.
Schultz said many farmers are making a shift toward sustainability in Utah.