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Guest Opinions

Taking Our Issues East

Written by Shaun Sims

The best part about a trip back to Washington, D.C. is coming home!  We are blessed in this state to have a very accessible congressional delegation. I believe it is always good to take our issues and challenges to Washington, D.C.  I recently returned from D.C., where I participated in the National Association of Conservation Districts annual legislative fly-in, and while I was in Washington, D.C. I was honored to be invited to testify at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on the Presidential Memorandum: Mitigating Impacts on Natural Resources from Development and Encouraging Related Private Investment. 

The Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) and local districts are absolutely committed to conserving and mitigating natural resource impacts.  Our concern is with the lack of consultation with existing efforts related to state and local level approaches and further top down requirements that may or may not fit local conditions and situations and have the real potential to be used in a manner that would stymie our access and use of our natural resources.

A full version of my testimony, as well as other the other witnesses who testified, is available at energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings-and-business-meetings?ID=E445AAA0-CDB2-47FE-B73E-34A9E0A50F63.

I also had the opportunity to visit with our delegation and their staff on priority issues to WACD both at the state and national level. We certainly communicated the importance of several funding issues and policy matters.  One that we were able to convey is the position of our national association opposing the Waters of the U.S. rule and their support of efforts to withdraw the rule. This policy was passed, in no small part due to our WACD Director Brian Lovett’s efforts in February at our national convention in Reno, Nev.

At a state level, we continue to be concerned with the lack of funding to get Wyoming’s soil survey completed. This has become increasingly important as the development of ecological site descriptions is dependent upon a soils survey, and sage grouse management strategies are going to be dependent upon ecological site descriptions. It’s been years in the making, and we really just need to get the soil survey done in this state. Other parts of the country are on their third and fourth iterations of their soil surveys, and we are still working to get our first done due to funding limitations. We have a dedicated team of soil scientists. We just need to accelerate their efforts with an increase in funds.

We also discussed the continued importance we place on the technical assistance provided by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) field personnel. These are the folks, like your district conservationist, range conservationist and engineering technician, who come out to your place and provide valuable suggestions on resource management. They are the backbone of the NRCS.

Another important outcome of my trip back to D.C. was gaining support from our national organization for Sen. John Barrasso’s “Federal Land Invasive Species Control, Prevention and Management Act.” We applaud Sen. Barrasso for leading this effort and Sen. Mike Enzi, who is also a sponsor on the bill, to get invasive species management on federal lands addressed.

Lastly, we stressed the importance of gaining recognition of the impact predators are having on our sage grouse populations, more specifically ravens.  Research results from a study that has been conducted over the past several years spearheaded by the Meeteetse Conservation Districts and support from several other basin districts and entities have provided evidence that this is an issue that must be tackled.

I left D.C. with one last thought – just how grateful we should all be to Congressman Cynthia Lummis for her years of service to Wyoming while she represented us in D.C. This will likely be my last time visiting her in D.C. in her capacity as Wyoming’s lone member of the House of Representatives. She has been a stalwart advocate and champion for issues important to Wyoming and her natural resources and those who depend upon them. WACD is thankful for her efforts, especially to bring transparency to the Equal Access to Justice Act and the payments made to entities under that Act as well as her efforts on the Endangered Species Act.