Local Success, Districts highlight conservation projects
Buffalo – At the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts Area 1 Meeting held Sept. 14, each individual district in the area presented information on one or several innovative projects implemented or continued in their area this year.
Powder River Conservation District Resource Coordinator/Manager Anita Bartlett spoke of several projects recently completed in and around Kaycee.
“The ‘Welcome to Kaycee’ sign was originally built by the Sussex Lady’s Club, which has since dissolved. The maintenance of the sign went downhill and we cleaned up the area, repainted the sign, put the fence back up and the drip system back in.
“We were also involved in the Chris LeDoux Memorial Park project, which is located just south of our office. We donated roughly 12,000 square feet of weed barrier and assisted in installing the weed barrier, mulch and drip system with community members,” Bartlett told the group.
She added her district is continually involved in town beautification projects, including one between their office and the Hoofprints of the Past Museum and another behind the new senior housing building. They also helped put in a tree break behind the baseball field to prevent fly balls from going out of the field, and were involved in the rebuilding of the Red Fork irrigation diversion.
Campbell County Conservation District Administrative Assistant Crystal Kellebrew highlighted projects centered on the Gillette Fishing Lake in her presentation.
“The Gillette Fishing Lake is a 25-acre manmade lake that receives runoff from about 27,000 acres,” explained Kellebrew, adding the lake is on the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) list for water body impairments.
The district has been involved in installing storm ceptors, providing community outreach on non-point pollution, applying storm drain stickers and is working to get the lake dredged for the third time next year.
“Another way we are cleaning up the fishing lake is by putting in floating islands. In addition to providing natural beauty, the plant roots filter the water of different pollutants, depending on what we plant,” explained Kellebrew.
The islands are made from recycled number one plastic and the lake hosts three in varying sizes. Volunteers and additional sponsors helped the district for three days putting the islands together and planting the vegetation. Each island is anchored and provides fish habitat in addition to a splash of color on the lake.
Crook County Program Manager Sarah Barton highlighted her district’s new partnership with the Crook County Community Juvenile Services.
“A big component of the Juvenile Services is community service. When they approached us asking if we needed volunteers, we said yes. We’ve worked with one girl so far and she has done great! She helps with water quality sampling, tree projects and anywhere else we can use her,” noted Barton.
She added the partnership is still in the early stages, but everyone is hopeful it will become a long-term relationship and part of the Juvenile Serves curriculum in the future.
“She’s learning on the ground conservation and some good job skills. I’m sure there will be glitches as we move forward, but this client has worked out great and is definitely helping us,” added Barton.
Nikki Lohse of the Lake DeSmet Conservation District told about Russian olive management in the Buffalo city greenbelt areas.
“Our district contracted with a company with a masticator, which converts the trees to mulch. We also partnered with the Johnson County Fire District and secured a crew from the honor camp, which worked in areas the masticator couldn’t reach.
“In addition to creating a greater viewing area by removing Russian olives, it’s allowed multiple wetlands to again function as wetlands and increased the number of waterfowl,” noted Lohse of the results.
She added the district also worked with Clear Creek Middle School students to plant 1,600 native species in a reforestation project and partnered with a variety of local entities in additional projects focused in and around the greenbelt area.
Sheridan County Conservation District Manager Carrie Rogaczewski highlighted a Waterjet Stinger the district uses for planting willow cuttings in stream restoration projects.
“The Stinger allows us to plant cuttings in areas difficult to plant by hand. We used it on six projects this spring and one advantage is we can get cuttings in deeper, and plant in cut banks and areas with more cobble,” noted Rogaczewski.
“The Stinger has a five-and-a-half horsepower pump and is rated at 130 gallons per minute. Another important thing is that the manifold comes off the pump and there’s a brass-regulating valve to adjust pressure and serve as a bypass,” added District Conservationist Jerry Forster, who built the Stinger. The district is looking forward to using their Stinger for fall plantings in upcoming months.
Weston County Natural Resource District Coordinator Christina Schmidt described a successful community garden project.
“We needed a location first, and I approached the Senior Center Board about a large space they had and found out they wanted to do a garden also. The Senior Center was the old middle school and already had a greenhouse, which worked out great,” explained Schmidt.
The district and several partners fenced the area to prevent deer from eating their plants and went to work. Raised beds were built and put in place and local ranchers donated aged manure and a local contractor donated topsoil. City crews dug trenches for water lines. Inmates did much of the labor, including building the fence and placing each of the raised beds.
The beds are rented based on size, and individuals can also rent a row in one part of the garden tilled for larger plants.
“Last year we had about 10 gardeners. This year we have 33 individual gardeners. We also donated one bed to the local food pantry, have planted a fruit orchard and have sunflowers and a pumpkin patch. We have a potluck at the end of the season and people are asked to bring a dish that includes something they grew in the garden. People love it,” noted Schmidt.
All districts in attendance plan to remain busy through the fall months, continuing their highlighted projects in addition to planning and implementing new ones.