Lake DeSmet Conservation District introduces officials to conservation workWritten by Saige Albert
Buffalo – On Oct. 5, elected officials in Johnson County attended the Lake DeSmet Conservation District Annual Elected Officials Tour. The event provided opportunities for those in Johnson County to understand the work of the conservation district in Buffalo and the surrounding area.
“Every district in the state that gets money from the Wyoming Department of Agriculture has to prove that they’re a legitimate district, and this is how we do it,” says Amanda Hulet, district clerk. “Between 20 and 30 people attended our Elected Official’s tour, and we looked at three projects.”
The tour started with an overview of the district’s Russian Olive Removal Project.
“Zach Byram, our district manager, gave an overview on why we chose to concentrate on this area and why removal was important to the habitat in the area,” Hulet continues. “Todd Clatrider of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department also spoke about what these trees do for wildlife and looked at the pros and cons of having them.”
Hulet notes that Wyoming State Forestry’s Kelly Norris also looked at plans for the future.
“This project is an example of what the district does as a community enhancement project,” Hulet says, adding that it also demonstrates their focus on groups working together.
Moving to the Buffalo Golf Course, attendees explored a project by Snider Ditch Company, which has converted an open ditch to pipe.
“The project started as an open ditch that ran through neighborhoods and the golf course,” Hulet explains. “Most of the ditch has been put into pipe, except on the golf course.”
She adds, “They wanted to maintain the obstacles and aesthetic value of open water.”
The group toured the golf course, visiting the site where the pipe drops into a siphon at the course, through the development of the ditch, which flows into a pond and through the course.
“We also went to a neighborhood that had the ditch flowing through it,” Hulet notes. “The ditch was eight to 10 feet wide. It is now all in pipe, so residents have gained more yard and dry basements with this pipeline.”
“This was one of our cost-share programs,” Hulet adds.
Finally, the group toured the Bull Creek Land Exchange area.
“Will Rose of the Wyoming State Lands Trust gave us an update and backstory of the land exchange, and they also talked about what is projected for another exchange,” Hulet says, noting that they also heard about a projected reservoir site on the land.“It was quite informative.”
“Lake DeSmet Conservation District has provided support over the last few years to help study the watershed and determine what can be done to help improve late season irrigation,” Hulet says. “It is an example – rather large and political – of a sponsored project that we do.”
Overall, Hulet says that attendees enjoyed the day, taking the opportunity to network with one another and ask questions.
“We had stops geared to make sure that something was of interest to everyone on the tour,” Hulet comments. “It was a great day, and we are pleased with how well it went.”
Wyoming represented at National Association of Conservation Districts Annual MeetingWritten by Saige Albert
Reno, Nev. – Representatives of the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) represented the state’s 34 local conservation districts in the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) Annual Meeting, held Jan. 31 to Feb. 3 in Reno, Nev.
The NACD Annual Meeting brings together top conservation leaders from across the nation for educational sessions, workshops, networking and national awards recognizing leaders in conservation.
“This annual convention is an important venue for our issues from Wyoming and our fellow western states to be discussed and policy to be established,” said Shaun Sims, WACD president.
A highlight of the 2016 meeting was passage of a key resolution that Wyoming has been working on for several years.
“We worked with our counterparts from Kansas and several other states to see the successful passage of a policy resolution opposing the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule,” said Brian Lovett, Wyoming’s National Board delegate. “Having recognition across our organization of the challenges the WOTUS rule will present in implementing conservation and management practices is very important to us.”
WACD Executive Director Bobbie Frank noted that Wyoming brought a similar resolution last year, but it failed.
“We already had policy that opposed the expansion of jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act, but this resolutions strengthened that,” Frank said.
The resolution reads, “NACD supports the repeal of the WOTUS rule through the legislative process through U.S. Congress and supports efforts to gain judicial relief for the WOTUS rule.”
Frank added that WACD also shared examples of overreach that are already going on.
“During the convention, there were a number of resolutions that were addressed, but many didn’t have an impact on Wyoming,” she said.
Honors and education
Also during the event, WACD received recognition on several fronts.
“Shaun Sims finished his term and went off as an executive board member,” Frank commented. “He was recognized for his service.”
Wyoming’s programs for district training were also recognized by NACD during the event.
NACD also featured a number of informational presentations, of which Wyoming speakers presented several.
Frank spoke during one of the break-out sessions, describing the Pathway to Water Quality project, and WACD’s Cathy Rosenthal presented on the categorical Use Attainability Analysis that Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality released.
“Cathy talked about how we helped DEQ with field verifications and worked collaboratively with them,” Frank explained.
Congressman Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) kicked off the Feb. 1 general session with a Nevada welcome address, and change management consultant and motivational speaker Michael Tchong served as the session’s keynote speaker. A Leadership Luncheon that day featured remarks by National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson.
A General Session on Feb. 2 included presentations from U.S. Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller on their work to build the legacy of natural resource conservation and the importance locally led conservation has had in those conservation efforts.
The sessions also featured a special video address from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who mirrored Weller’s emphasis on the importance of local leadership to get conservation on the ground and the value of creating and sustaining partnerships at the local, state, regional and national levels.
The session concluded with a panel discussion that featured the National Conservation Planning Partnership Leadership Team. The panel shared their vision for the future of conservation planning and the work already underway in an effort to reinvigorate conservation planning as the foundation for voluntary conservation delivery.
NACD emphasizes partnershipsWritten by Saige Albert
New Orleans, La. – Conservation district representatives, government agencies and others gathered from Feb. 1-4 in New Orleans, La. to look toward the future of conservation work in the U.S. at the National Association of Conservation Districts 2015 Annual Meeting.
The 2015 meeting was themed, “Conservation: Key to a Healthy Nation,” and during the Feb. 3 General Session, speakers looked at the history of conservation and then emphasized the partnerships they have developed that have influenced work across the U.S.
“To do the things we do on a regular basis, we have to have the cooperation and help of many, many people,” commented Barry Mahler, past president of the Association of Texas Soil and Water Conservation Districts and moderator of the session. “There is so much history here, but there is also so much future.”
In a panel discussion, Karl Dalla Rosa, forest stewardship program manager of the U.S. Forest Service, Ellen Gilinksy, senior policy advisor in the Office of Water at EPA, Kristin Thomasgard, program director of the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) program at the Department of Defense, and Cynthia Moses-Nedd of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) all looked at the importance of partnerships for their programs.
On public lands
Dalla Rosa and Moses-Nedd both looked at the importance of working together to maintain conservation on public lands as very important.
“We are working more with connecting management on state and private land with management on federal land,” commented Dalla Rosa. “We are moving in a direction where we are taking a more holistic approach to managing the landscape.”
He continued that, by taking a landscape scale approach and working with partners, the Forest Service is able to address the pressing resource management challenges present.
“If we look at forest cover across the U.S., it has remained relatively steady,” Dalla Rosa adde,. “but many of us know that a lot of our forests are in really bad shape.”
From wildfires to pest and disease infestations, he mentioned that the Forest Service’s approach has been to address the most pressing and priority resource management concerns by developing statewide forest strategies.
“The statewide strategies encompass all forest lands – both public and private,” he explained. “The success of these plans depend on partnerships. Partnerships are also key for forest action plan implementation.”
Moses-Nedd added that BLM’s more recent Planning 2.0 Initiative has also focused on implementing partnerships across the country.
“Our partnerships are our greatest strength, and by leveraging our resources and maximizing the work we do, it will allow us to be fruitful and victorious over those challenges we face,” she commented.
“At the local level, conservation is tough work,” Moses-Nedd continued. “Because we have partnerships, like the ones with conservation districts, we are able to do conservation work effectively.”
Partnerships outside the realm of traditional pairings have also yielded positive results for conservation work, added Thomasgard, noting that many folks don’t see a direct connection between her organization, the Department of Defense (DOD), and conservation.
“Food security, water quality and water availability are as important to the national security of the U.S. as a trained and ready military force,” Thomasgard said. “The DOD and conservation districts are true and very valuable partners.”
Echoing the other panelists, she continued that because of local conservationists who understand their communities, resources and people, the DOD is able to accomplish their goals while furthering conservation on and around military installations.
“We solve problems on the ground with people who are working on the land and who live in the communities where we are,” she explained, noting that by adding cost-sharing to the equation, they are able to increase their impacts. “It is not as important that we have a handful of big partners as it is to have a lot of smaller partners on the ground. That is where the work gets done.”
Thomasgard added, “Everything happens at the local level. We appreciate that, and we know that. We need local input to be successful.”
Working on water
Gilinksy also mentioned that EPA shares common ground with conservation districts across the U.S.
“One of the cornerstones of our partnership with conservation districts is our long history of working together from state non-point source and source water protection programs to find ways to improve soil and water quality,” Gilinksy said. “We recognize how key this multi-party collaboration is to land conservation efforts.”
EPA relies on local groups to facilitate watershed working groups and in developing plans, as well as in carrying out source water protection work.
“Conservation districts are also playing an important role in the National Water Quality Initiative,” she mentioned. “We want to continue these valuable partnerships.”
“We are relying on conservation districts to help get practices on the ground and monitor their effects,” Gilinksy added.
Mahler noted that, despite the partnerships and relationships that have been built through the years, “A lot of times we don’t have the kind of communication we need to make sure everyone is engaged.”
“One thing I have learned is my life is that having the conversations and developing the relationships is extremely important to move into the future,” he continued.
“A lot of times, we are really proud of our independence as landowners, as producers and certainly as conservationists,” Mahler commented. “We need to make sure that every cog in the drive train on conservation is engaged and moving forward.”
Wyoming represented at National Association of Conservation Districts meetingWritten by Saige Albert
New Orleans, La. – From Feb. 1-4, 12 of Wyoming’s leaders in conservation traveled to New Orleans, La. for the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) annual meeting.
Nearly 900 attendees represented 58 states and territories at NACD’s annual meeting.
“NACD convention was a great opportunity for conservation leaders to meet with leaders from neighboring states and partnering organizations to discuss natural resource issues,” said Travis Hakert, Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) board member from Gillette. “Wyoming’s issues included Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS), the Endangered Species Act (ESA) – specifically sage grouse – and wild horse and burro management, among others.”
Conservation districts from across Wyoming were represented at the convention, and WACD was recognized for its efforts throughout the year.
“Wyoming was honored at this year’s convention with two awards of recognition,” Hakert said. “The first was for paying 100 percent of our dues from 100 percent of conservation districts in the state to NACD.”
The second award recognized the state of Wyoming for having exemplary standards for their district supervisor and employee training program.
In addition to representing WACD, Hakert serves on the NACD Board of Directors and sits on the Legislative Committee.
“The Southwest Region of NACD passed a resolution on the WOTUS rule to ask for a withdrawal of the rule,” Hakert explained, noting that Wyoming is joined in the Southwest Region by Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah. “It also passed unanimously in the Pacific Region.”
The Pacific Region includes Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Guam, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa.
However, Hakert noted that the resolution was not passed out of the Legislative Committee at NACD because some members felt that current NACD policy already achieved the goals of the resolution.
“We were really trying to pinpoint a withdrawal with the policy,” he continued. “EPA is still working on the WOTUS rule, and NACD is on record to oppose any further expansion of the jurisdiction by the EPA .”
“The highlight of the convention was a special presentation given on the Mississippi River Restoration and Conservation Efforts by Major General Michael Wehr, commander of the Mississippi Valley Division of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.
“One of the great things about these meetings is that people come from all over the U.S.,” Jennifer Hinkhouse, district manager of the Campbell County Conservation District, who also attended the meeting, said. “We get to hear about projects that are of national importance but are also important to the state we are visiting.”
Hinkhouse noted that, while each project solves unique challenges and each individual location is different, there are applicable aspects that can be used.
“Even though every project is different and has issues that we might not see, there is always some aspect of the project we can take home, and we can utilize what they are doing,” she added.
During the meeting, a number of breakout sessions were also held, highlighting topics ranging from water management and soil health to the Farm Bill. Conservation district and industry professionals from throughout the nation taught these sessions.
Hinkhouse presented a breakout session titled, “Generating Success Through Partnerships,” in cooperation with Jonathan Sloan, National Wild Turkey Federation forester.
“We talked about building capacity through partnerships from a money standpoint to do different projects, as well as creating partner positions,” Hinkhouse explained.
She further explained that partnerships to improve capacity include opportunities to partner with non-governmental organizations and, in some cases, even federal agencies like the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“It was a well attended workshop, and there were some great questions,” Hinkhouse said. “We are always happy to help and share information.”
“This was a really good convention,” Hakert added, “and we had great representation from around the state.”
Wyo conservation districts participate at NACDWritten by Saige Albert
Anaheim, Calif. – While Wyoming temperatures dipped below zero, a number of representatives from a variety of Wyoming conservation districts attended the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) Annual Meeting, held this year in Anaheim, Calif. on Feb. 2-5.
“The conference went very well,” says Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) Executive Director Bobbie Frank. “It was productive for us as an association, and we had good representation from Wyoming.”
Frank notes that representatives from the Washakie County, Popo Agie, Converse County, Weston County, Campbell County, Uinta County, Little Snake River and Laramie County Conservation Districts, along with representatives from WACD, were all present in California.
During the convention, Frank notes that many people were excited to hear that the Farm Bill passed the Senate, marking achievements for all conservation districts across the country.
“We heard an update from Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller on Feb. 4 about the streamlining and consolidation of Farm Bill programs,” Frank comments. “Hopefully this will make things easier for producers.”
WACD brought a resolution forward to NACD several years ago urging consolidation of the programs to simplify conservation efforts for producers, as well as for NRCS staff members.
“Now they are going to go into regulation development,” says Frank.
As a major topic discussed during the event, Frank notes that the organization passed a resolution on sage grouse and the BLM and Forest Service land use and resource management plans.
“It took some work to pass the resolution, but we got it through working with Oregon, Colorado and New Mexico,” she explains. “Oregon brought the resolution forward, and it was adopted by the full board of directors on Feb. 4.”
The resolution initially died in committee, but after some work, it was brought forward on the floor.
“To receive consideration on the floor, resolutions must receive a two-thirds majority vote,” Frank says. “It was overall passed with only two no votes.”
The resolution addresses concerns with the BLM’s approach to sage grouse issues, and Frank says that regardless of Wyoming’s Executive Order on sage grouse, WACD agreed with all aspects of the resolution.
“The resolution supported range-wide disturbance caps but only if they are developed by state, local or multi-jurisdictional efforts,” she explains. “It also looks at efforts to provide adequate funding for biological control chemicals for invasive species control, which we support.”
Efforts to manage invasive species on public lands and the use of candidate conservation agreements with assurances on public lands as a voluntary tool for producers were also represented in the resolution.
“The Oregon conservation district that developed the resolution did a great job,” Frank adds, “and we were overall able to get it passed, even though most of the country doesn’t have to deal with sage grouse.”
“Seeing the western states all pull together to get this resolution passed was the most significant part of the conference,” she says. “That was really great.”
During the conference, representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency also spoke and addressed continuing water concerns.
“The Government Accountability Office issued a report in December that talks about how the Clean Water Act needs changed to allow EPA to regulate non-point sources,” Frank says. “The EPA briefly touched on that.”
In addition, the agency emphasized cooperation and coordination with local agencies and its importance in regulating waters.
“It was overall a pretty quiet convention, but it was a good event,” Frank adds. “It is great to see western states pulling together and to see a Farm Bill come out.”
In addition to attending the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) annual meeting. Wyoming participants are involved at a higher level.
Shaun Sims is a member of the NACD Executive Board, representing the Southwest Region, and Travis Haskert of Campbell County serves as Wyoming's voting delegate.
"Jeri Trebelcock from the Popo Agie Conservation District also represents the Southwest Region for the employees association," says Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts Executive Director Bobbie Frank. "We have some very active members."