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.”