Conservation districts, range society join for annual convention in LanderWritten by Christy Martinez
The upcoming joint convention of the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) and the Society for Range Management Wyoming Section (SRM) will feature a full schedule of items that are currently facing conservationists and rangeland managers.
With board meetings, workshops and awards, both organizations’ agendas are full of opportunities for land managers to learn new information and receive updates on ongoing legislation and projects. The convention will be held Nov. 14-17 in Lander.
On Nov. 15 the convention officially kicks off with a joint workshop on Ecological Site Descriptions (ESDs).
“That workshop will be interesting to producers and agency people who are dealing with Ecological Site Descriptions as they work on range management and range monitoring,” says WACD Executive Vice President Bobbie Frank.
Incoming SRM President Ben Bonella says the ESD workshop is one of the highlights of the convention for his group.
“We have national SRM President Jack Alexander coming to make presentations on ESDs, and Wyoming State Range Conservationist Rick Peterson will give an introduction to and the history of ESDs. Alexander’s portion is called ‘ESDs 2.0,’ and he will talk about what the new ESD will look like,” says Bonella, noting that the new ESDs will be much more inclusive than what’s already in existence.
A joint luncheon that same day will feature a project update from Encana, as well as a highlight on the Pathway to Water Quality on the Wyoming State Fairgrounds in Douglas.
That afternoon there will be leadership training, followed by an opening reception at the Fremont County Pioneer Museum.
The following day, Nov. 16, Chad Pregracke, who grew up on a river as a clam diver, will give the convention’s keynote address. He began by simply picking up trash with a boat, then moved to a barge and he then started the Living Lands and Waters organization, of which he’s now president.
The WACD awards luncheon will be held over the noon hour on Wednesday, with committee meetings to follow that afternoon.
“We have a number of speakers lined up, dealing with the big issues we’re facing,” says Frank, continuing that a few of those topics include a resolution that would exempt ag and private land data from disclosure under the public records act, an update on the Big Horn Resource Management Plan, the status of the state’s soil survey and discussion on the black-footed ferret/prairie dog initiative in the Thunder Basin Grasslands.
Frank also says a new WACD video project will debut that afternoon.
“Our tree educational materials have been hard copy brochures, but we’ve been turning those into videos on the history of the living snow fence program, the purpose of snowfences and windbreaks and how to plant seedling trees,” says Frank. “Our goal was to modernize the brochures so that, in addition to the handout, there will be a place to watch someone demonstrate how to do it properly.”
Wednesday evening the two organizations will join for a fundraising auction, which will include online bidding again this year.
“Anyone who can’t attend the convention can participate online, and people can bid on items in real-time,” notes Frank.
To participate online, join the live audio cast at 7 p.m. at proxibid.com/wynaturalresource.
The following day, on Thursday attendees will have the choice of two blocks of five concurrent sessions, the first of which will cover small acreages, range monitoring techniques, the Rangeland Health Assessment Program, the black-footed ferret initiative and cooperation and coordination of local governments with federal agencies, which will be addressed by Joel Bousman of the Wyoming County Commissioner’s Association and Cheyenne attorney Karen Budd-Falen.
The second round of sessions will include the Utah Grazing Improvement Program, the Sage Grouse Executive Order and its implementation, a producer forum on range improvement challenges, vegetative treatments and range improvement and the Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative.
Of the sessions, WACD President Shaun Sims says, “We have a full schedule of things on which we need to be updated and find out where we’re at, so everyone knows the most current updates. It would be a good opportunity for people to attend to get that information. With all the things going on with the range on the west side of the state, it would be a good place to have some good discussion. The convention will be a good interchange between the conservation districts and the Society for Range Management.”
“There’s a good mix of sessions on technical on-the-ground topics combined with program and policy issues,” adds Frank. “There’s a good mix that will appeal to a lot of folks.”
Bonella says the 10 breakout sessions will encompass many topics of interest to and commonly experienced by both landowners and professionals.
“There are many really neat topics that would be very beneficial to any landowner, large or small,” he adds.
The WACD portion of the convention will wrap up with its annual business meeting, while SRM will end with a board of directors meeting.
Early registration deadline for the convention is Nov. 2, although participants can register up until and through the convention at a higher rate. Frank says they expect around 250 attendees.
Bonella invites anyone who has an interest to attend.
“Being the SRM, we are always open to including new people, as one of our goals is education about rangelands and their use,” he says.