DOA discusses topics of interest at Conservation District Area Meeting
Buffalo – The Wyoming Department of Agriculture (DOA) updated area one conservation districts on several topics of concern and interest during the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts Area 1 Meeting at the TA Ranch south of Buffalo on September 14.
“The courts have said you are only a certified animal feeding operation (CAFO) if you are discharging, or proposing to discharge. That’s not new, but what that does is open the door for someone to say they aren’t discharging when they actually are. That’s why they are getting concerned. The whole idea is that they will go out this fall and get CAFO’s on their inventory list that aren’t currently there. This is much more of a national issue than a Wyoming issue,” explains DOA Director Jason Fearneyhough of the Environmental Protection Agencies (EPA) focus for upcoming months.
“The concern within the state is what is being done to find these folks that aren’t under permit currently. From my perspective a big issue is if they are using satellite imagery to find these individuals, and if so how are they going to apply that? Is it proven technology to that point,” asked Fearnehough of the process.
The EPA has finalized development of their draft permit for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System NPEDS. There will be a meeting at the end of the month where the DOA can comment and voice any concerns they may have. Fearneyhough noted he has some concerns with some aspects of the proposed permit and the wording in parts of the document.
“We put about nine million federal and state dollars into the grasshopper program this year, and that doesn’t count what individual producers have put into it. That being said you could probably triple that figure to determine what was spent on control,” notes Fearneyhough of another area of focus for the DOA this summer.
“We will probably take some criticism where we didn’t get to croplands until later. That was due to the EPA not giving us clearance to use Dimlin on crops early. Going forward we are asking for 2.6 million dollars in our supplemental budget to have a program again next year. We are hopeful the incoming governor will be supportive of the program,” adds Fearneyhough.
Wild horses were also mentioned as a focus of the DOA and Fearneyhough noted the use of the term “treasured herds” causes him concern.
“These are multiple use agencies in charge of these lands, and they should focus on multiple uses. Having treasured lands or treasured herds raises one use above others and risks having other uses reduced or removed completely.
“There are currently as many horses in long term holding facilities as on the range – about 35,000 in each area. Seventy-five percent of the budget goes toward those horses in the holding facilities. The BLM is looking into buying or leasing more private lands and using birth control on mares. The idea is to get the number of reproducing horses down to a number that will match their adoption program, which adopts out around 3,500 horses annually,” says Fearneyhough.
He adds the gather in southwest Wyoming for this fall is still scheduled. “There are supposed to be around 300 horses in the Adobe Town and Salt Wells herds, and the BLM estimates numbers at 1,300 to 1,500. Some ranchers in the area will tell you the BLM’s counts are off by more than half. It’s a huge concern and the ‘horse advocates’ are already in Rock Springs. I just hope that long term we don’t end up like Nevada, just watching those horses stand there and starve to death,” notes Fearneyhough.
He also mentioned the Ruby pipeline and the DOA’s concern with how the entire settlement has panned out prior to handing the microphone over to DOA Ag Program Coordinator Justin Williams.
Among the handouts Williams provided attendees was a booklet on Coordinated Resource Management in Wyoming, which highlighted a number of projects within the state. He encouraged district employees to pass them out at their offices.
“We’re also looking at doing a more social networking aspect of supplying information to districts. We are looking into using YouTube for playing videos. The first one will be on legislative outreach and will be between 10 and 15 minutes long, and in a format you could put on a disc and play for your board members to give them a better idea of how legislation works,” explains Williams of some current ideas being considered. He also mentioned supervisor and field officer training was conducted this year with much success.
Williams has worked in conjunction with Game and Fish, BLM, NRCS and others to come up with a statewide program to deal with the sage grouse and range management.
“Last year we published a grazing influenced directive and if you would like to download and review the document it is UW Extension publication number B-1203 and is available on their website,” explains Williams.
He adds the DOA still has funding for a second round of water quality grant RMP’s and that will come out in early October and there is $133,531.50 left.
“Eleven districts re-ceived funding in the first round of projects. If you have projects you’ve thought of throughout the summer you can apply for that funding the next month or so,” says Williams in conclusion.