December 15, 2014--Healthy Animas, healthy animals (Durango Herald)

Potentially, harmfully high levels of nutrients are flowing from the Florida River into the Animas River, and one project is hoping to make a dent in the problem. The Animas Watershed Partnership and rancher Keith Fassbender recently finished fencing almost a mile of the Florida River west of the Durango-La Plata County Airport as part of the effort. Fassbender built the fence that creates a 30-foot buffer on either side of river to keep cattle out of the area, as part of a $159,000 grant project, said Ann Oliver, coordinator for the Animas Watershed Partnership. The corridor runs across both private land and land owned by the airport. The group plans to track the water quality in the area over time to measure the fence’s effectiveness. “Farmers and ranchers, we are conservationists. ... We want to see what’s going on. We’re going to try to protect water qualities and our vegetation because that’s how we make our living,” Fassbender said. Cattle manure and fertilizer can heighten the levels of nitrogen and phosphorous in the river and contribute to algae blooms. These blooms reduce the oxygen in the water and harm aquatic animals. By creating a buffer, the group hopes to encourage the plants near the river to filter nutrients and sediment.

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