Boardman fosters conservation passion
“The biggest challenge that all of us face in agriculture is trying to maintain local control over our existing programs and our lands, waterways and environment,” explains Shoshone Conservation District Supervisor Russell Boardman.
“Water is becoming more and more of a precious resource, or scarce resource, and we will continue to see more regulation with it,” says Boardman. “It’s important for producers to tell our story and that we are involved with it.”
Boardman has been involved with and interested in conservation his whole life and has carried that through his career of being an educator, agricultural producer and now with the conservation district.
What drew Boardman into conservation was the idea that conservation and agriculture go hand in hand.
“Most of us involved with production agriculture depend on land and the environment to make a living,” he says, “and we need to take pretty good care of it because if we don’t, no one else will.”
Conservation efforts Boardman is involved with include his participation in the steering committee for the Big Horn River and Shoshone River watersheds plans, as well as the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) implemented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
TMDLs are calculated by the maximum amount of a pollutant a water body can receive and still meet water quality standards.
“We keep our fingers and eyes on what is going on to try and maintain local control because that’s where it is effective,” says Boardman.
“The big thing about becoming involved and getting a seat at the table is that we can have some say in what the government regulations are,” mentions Boardman. “That’s probably the most important thing about these watershed projects and the TMDLs – they are government driven.”
“The government has to be able to listen to us on a professional level and our expertise on the watersheds,” adds Boardman, “which is very important when we start talking about regulating water.”
A few years ago, the legislature granted conservation districts special expertise status that allows them to be able to sit in on official meetings about watersheds.
Natural Resources Committee
Boardman also testified in front of Congress at the Natural Resources Committee hearing in April 2013 against the designation of the Yellowstone River watershed as a “National Blueway.”
“The National Blueways would have basically tied up 44 million acres of our local waterways into federal control,” states Boardman. “Through our congressional delegation of Cynthia Lummis, Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts Executive Director Bobbie Frank and others, we were able to not only stop that delegation, but reverse the whole national trend for the National Blueways.”
“That was very rewarding to see a combination of efforts from the local, state and national levels to enjoy some success against Washington, D.C.’s bureaucracy,” admires Boardman.
Through Boardman’s outstanding performance and testimony before Congress, the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts nominated him for the Outstanding Supervisor award, which Boardman received in November 2013.
New septic system
The Shoshone Conservation District also has several natural resource conservation programs that are available to local producers.
One of those programs is to help people install new septic systems for existing households, if their current system is starting to fail.
The application for the new septic system is a one-page application requiring the approval of the county. The application must also meet the specifications of the county planner. The Conservation District will fund up to $3,000 for a household to receive a new septic system.
“It’s a nice incentive for people who have failing septic systems to get them replaced without a lot of red tape,” says Boardman.
“We are able to see a lot of on-the-ground projects being completed because we are able to cut through a lot of red tape, and that’s very satisfying to actually see the project up, working and utilizing the full use of tax payers dollars,” describes Boardman. “Too many times tax dollars get bottled up into administration and paperwork.”
Another program the Conservation District has is to bury open drains that are numerous in the area. Boardman mentions by burying the drains, producers are able to keep the livestock from entering drains and are able to alleviate a lot of standing water to reduce the risk of West Nile.
“We partner with local irrigation districts to help fund some of their engineering practices for irrigation systems to help conserve water,” states Boardman.
The Shoshone Conservation District has also recently awarded an $8,000 grant to Rocky Mountain High School in Cowley to help them purchase a greenhouse.
The Big Horn County School District and Wyoming State FFA Foundation also helped the school with the project.
“Those kids will be able to explore biology in plants, growth, erosion and conservation with that greenhouse,” comments Boardman.
Conservation districts are an important entity dealing with local-controlled governments, and Shoshone Conservation District Supervisor Russell Boardman mentions they have a state organization that supports them.
There are 34 local conservation districts in Wyoming, and five elected officials govern each district.
“Conservation districts also deal with conservation of soil and water resources, control and prevention of soil erosion, flood prevention or the conservation, development, utilization and disposal of water within the district utilizing a watershed approach,” explains Shoshone Conservation District Supervisor Russell Boardman.
Their statutory responsibilities also include the stabilization of the agricultural industry and protection of natural resources including, but not limited to, data and information.