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Grazing, resource economics earn attention

Written by Jennifer Womack

Cheyenne — With just over a month to finish preparing for the 2010 session of the Wyoming Legislature, the earliest of legislation has begun appearing on the Legislature’s website where it’s available for public review.
Copies of two bills of particular interest to the agricultural community are among those currently posted. Each of them earned committee support and relate to the value of agriculture to Wyoming.
SF7, carrying a title of “Rangeland health assessments,” earned the unanimous support of the Joint Agriculture Committee of the Wyoming Legislature when they met in Hulett in Sept. 2009.
While similar to legislation that cleared the 2009 Legislative Session and was vetoed by Governor Dave Freudenthal, the 2010 bill takes a new, broader approach. Noting the new approach, in September Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna noted, ““It’s not just about monitoring. Monitoring is a key component, but it’s about the health of rangelands whether they’re private, BLM or state.”
The legislation calls for $420,000 in funding. Distribution of those funds would provide $20,000 to the Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA) to write rules and regulations to guide the program, $200,000 to the WDA to contract for rangeland health assessments and $200,000 to the WDA to contract with the University of Wyoming to provide an additional range management specialist.
Some key concepts as to how the program will work are outlined in the legislation:
“The rangeland health assessment shall be done only with the voluntary cooperation and participation of all participants, including the private landowner, the state grazing lessee and the federal grazing permittee or lessee.”
“The rangeland health assessment shall be conducted on federally managed lands only under a memorandum of agreement with the federal land management agency and with the participation of that federal land management agency.”
“The rangeland health assessment shall include, as necessary, establishment of rangeland monitoring, compliance with federal agency standards and guidelines and participation in the incorporation of assessment outcomes into any federal or state decision affecting livestock grazing.”
“The rangeland health assessment shall include any protections necessary for the management of soil erosion and vegetation loss.”
“This appropriation shall be included in the Department of Agriculture’s 2013-2014 standard biennial budget,” says the legislation in an effort to ensure long-term existence of the program. If SF7 clears the legislative process and earns Governor Freudenthal’s support, it will become law on July 1, 2010.
Senator Eli Bebout (R-Riverton) presented what is now SF13 to the Joint Ag Committee during their mid-September meeting in Hulett where it earned committee support. The legislation calls upon the Wyoming Division of Economic Analysis to beef up its reporting as it relates to natural resources.
The bill instructs the entity to “Establish uniform criteria for collecting, compiling, analyzing, reporting and distributing economic data for all Wyoming counties related to uses of private, state and federal surface and mineral lands, including but not limited to, the optimum use and development of agriculture, grazing, minerals, timber, water, industrial resources, recreation and energy production, transmission and related services. This data shall be updated at least every three years.”
SF13 further directs, “Collect, compile, analyze, maintain, update, report and consolidate into digest form economic data to identify, analyze and measure economic impacts related to proposed state and federal regulatory or administrative actions that may affect uses of private, state and federal surface and mineral lands, including but not limited to, the optimum use and development of agriculture, grazing, minerals, timber, water, industrial resources, recreation, energy production, transmission and related services.”
Mid-September Bebout explained that the legislation would provide counties an important data resource when addressing federal land use planning or other land uses decisions within their borders.
Opening session for the 2010 Budget Session of the Wyoming Legislature is slated for Feb. 10, 2010.
Jennifer Womack can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..