Protecting the land

By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS

If it were up to Quay County’s Pete Walden, he said the world would be a better place. Actually, it is up to Walden — and it is a better place.

This fact has not only been noted by local folks and area kids but the entire state as Walden recently received the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts Outstanding Conservationist Award.

“I didn’t apply for it,” Walden said of the award for which he was nominated by the Canadian River Soil and Conservation District last spring.

“I was totally shocked,” he added. “It was neat, the conservationist in the whole state of New Mexico.”

Although Walden, who serves as Quay County Agent for New Mexico State University in Tucumcari, may have expressed dismay, others said awarding him the award was no surprise whatsoever.

“Our district has been impressed by his interest in the farmers and ranchers of Quay County, the youth of our community and our district,” said Canadian River Soil and Conservation Clerk Evelyn Massey.

Again, there should be no surprise here as Walden, originally from New Mexico, said he grew up on large ranches in Texas where conserving resources was as natural for his family as breathing.

“We were always water conscious because of the cattle,” Walden said. “My dad was an excellent cowman. We learned to use it (the land) but not abuse it. Some ranchers use everything they can, but not my dad. He was more concerned with the grass than the cows,” he added.

Walden’s ranching days were followed by stints as a 4-H agent and school teacher, obtaining a master’s degree in range science and eventually landing in Quay County where he’s been county agent for nearly three years.

As county agent, Walden said he spreads the conservation word whenever possible. This includes outdoor classroom programs for kids as well as seminars, workshops and presentations on everything from noxious weeds to Xeriscaping.

“It’s the seed we’re planting for the next generation,” Walden said.

And he’s not all talk, either. Walden said when he sees a batch of noxious, or non-native, plants along the side of the road, he doesn’t hesitate to call the Department of Transportation to have them take care of it.

“They’ve been doing a good job around the county,” he said.

In addition to noxious weeds that stifle the state’s indigenous plant life, Walden said his list of major concerns are water conservation, using natural landscapes, pesticide use and, perhaps most of all, not enough time to get it all done.

His average workload includes flying all over the state to dozens of meetings and spreading the conservation word in Quay County.

“We have a very supportive staff, money to travel,” he said.

And plenty to do. When he does get time off, which he said was nonexistent this year, Walden said he enjoys team roping and spending time with his family.

His wife is a teacher, he has one granddaughter and he said some of his six grown children are following in his footsteps – sort of.

“One is studying range science…and another wants to teach French,” he said.