The New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts presented Duston (Dusty) L. Hunt Jr. with its 2018 Region 3 Outstanding Conservationist Award.
Dusty has been working on conservation issues for Grant County for over 30 years. Most particularly for the Mangas Watershed where he is a full-time rancher in the Burro Mountains.
He has been quoted as saying, “The one person who desperately needs to see my watershed improve is me. This is my livelihood.” In 2007, he was recognized by the Department of Agriculture for his determination in helping the GSWCD obtain a 319 Grant from the New Mexico State Environment Department that was combined with Forest Service, NRCS EQIP, NM Habitat Stamp and private funds for grassland/watershed restoration in the Mangas Watershed.
He continues to serve on the NM Soil and Water Commission (1995-2006, 2010 to present), the NM Habitat Stamp committee, as well as having served on the Grant Soil and Water Conservation Board for over 25 years. In the mid-nineties he was the coordinator for the Gila Monster Project, made up of several Soil and Water Conservation districts, agencies, private land owners, nature groups and other interested parties in the states of New Mexico and Arizona.
In addition to being awarded the Region III Outstanding Supervisor of the Year in 2001, he received the 2001 New Mexico Department of Agriculture “Go-Getter Award."
In 2016, he prepared a proposal to the NM Natural Resources Trustee for consideration for funds from the Chino, Cobre and Tyrone Mine Facilities Natural Resource Damage Settlement. The GWSCD has committed to a multi-year, multi-faceted effort to restore the entire Mangas Creek watershed. This extensive project proposal addresses the incised Mangas channel within the Mangas Watershed. The proposal was prepared by Dusty for the District with the help of Freeport-McMoRan Tyrone Inc. and Telesto Solutions Inc.
The Mangas Watershed 319 Project ultimately accomplished prescribed burns (50,000 acres), erosion control structures (250), rock header dams (5) to capture rainwater and stabilize stream channels and solar pumps (6) to provide dependable water sources for wildlife and livestock. The land burned continues to recover. Dusty has used ACP and EQIP to treat 450 acres of mesquite on State land. He has established numerous livestock and wildlife watering sources by developing existing springs, wells and abandoned mineshafts using solar pump technology on Forest Service and private lands. He has completed some large riparian plantings (trees) in Mangas Creek and along the Gila River both on private and Forest land.
The 2007 319 Project on the Mangas Watershed, would not have happened without Dusty’s communication skills and ability to listen, reason and negotiate. The government agencies had to be brought on board for the project as well as the subdivision homeowners who expressed deep concerns about the proposed prescribed burns in their neighborhood. Dusty organized and conducted several informational meetings, which ultimately resulted in the consent of the homeowners to the project. After the burns, he organized yearly tours for the community to come out and see the progress made.
It is widely acknowledged that his outreach has informed the public about the problems caused from the lack of natural fires on our forests and rangelands. He was also instrumental in the production of two video programs, “Out of the Ashes” and “The Mangas Water Quality Project” which are used to increase public awareness. He has made presentations to many groups including the local Chamber of Commerce.