Ag supports Wyoming industriesWritten by Saige Albert
“Too often, people don’t step back and think about where this state would be without ag,” said Wyoming Business Alliance President and panel moderator Bill Shilling at the Wyoming Stock Growers Winter Roundup on Dec. 14. “We assume, as we travel the state with the extraordinary landscapes and expanses, that ag has value and is important in the state.”
As part of a panel discussion, representatives from the energy, tourism and wildlife industries, as well as the Wyoming County Commissioners Association, explained how agriculture has been an integral part of their success.
Wyoming Office of Tourism Deputy Director Alan Dubberley began by saying there are many connections between tourism and agriculture.
“Being the original stewards of the land, we have a lot to be thankful for in what you do,” said Dubberley, speaking to producers. “We get to take the best of Wyoming and share it with the world, and that is managed by agriculture.”
The Office of Tourism works to promote travel through the state and bring nonresidents in. The industry recognizes that nearly 30,000 jobs are related to tourism, and visitors to the state spend $2.6 billion.
“We are very serious about managing our brand of ‘Forever West,’” said Dubberley. “Wyoming is the home of Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park and Devils Tower National Monument, and it is the authentic Western adventure – we try to sell that.”
Dubberley also mentioned his office works to be accountable to the citizens of Wyoming and to promote the things that agriculture has worked so hard to maintain.
“Everything that WSGA stands for – the work ethic and the tireless dedication to sustain the landscape, the open spaces and the wildlife that we have – is really strong and good for tourism,” added Dubberley. “We are proud to stand next to you in this state.”
Wyoming Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife Executive Director Bob Wharf added, “The state of Wyoming would be nothing without agriculture.”
Wharf explained that ag practices began to tame the West, and the importance of those practices bring Wyoming’s rich heritage.
However, with the growing urbanization of populations, Wharf noted that fewer people understand our heritage, and a number of areas are beginning to grow away from their agricultural roots.
“I think we really need to be cognizant of the fact that times are changing,” said Wharf. “We could always count on the fact that people in communities knew about he importance of ag, but now some of those communities are drifting away from agriculture.”
Wharf mentioned that the success of his organization is due to partnerships with the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and the Wyoming Wool Growers Association.
“I’m proud of the things we have been able to accomplish,” commented Wharf. “We are a lot better off when we can work with each other and when we recognize we have common goals.”
“As a sportsman, we could never pay to feed and shelter our wildlife,” added Wharf. “I know that it is on the back of agriculture’s producers, and I appreciate it.”
The energy sector is also actively engaged in Wyoming and works closely with agriculture.
Petroleum Association of Wyoming Vice President John Robitaille said, “There is a common theme and a common force that we are here to fight for together.”
Robitaille mentioned that federal government involvement impacts all facets of Wyoming through a variety of regulations, noting that endangered species, wild lands and resource management plans are only three of many areas in which agriculture and energy work together.
“The wild lands were a scary issue, and together we were able to prevent and stop that. We’ve also been involved in various lawsuits for endangered species,” explained Robitaille. “It comes back to the common theme that if we work together we can make a lot of difference.”
With representatives of the agriculture industry, Robitaille also saw success in eliminating the “rare and uncommon lands” designation from Wyoming state laws and in the Wyoming produced water initiative.
“We heavily rely on the stewardship that you provide for wildlife habitat and reclamation,” added Robitaille. “We are here to try to help Wyoming lower its taxes and to keep Wyoming citizens working.”
Aside from industry, Wyoming’s local officials also recognize the importance of agriculture in the state.
“Some of the forces that are represented here today are travel, tourism and energy. The commissioners’ view is that these industries are tied together to ensure that we have a robust economy at the local level,” said Wyoming County Commissioners Association Executive Director Cindy Delancy. “We are so diverse in Wyoming that there is room for all these industries to get together. As we continue to move forward, it’s not an either/or situation.”
Delancy explained that Wyoming is unique in that the many industries work together to ensure the success of the state. She added that the agriculture piece of the puzzle is important because ranching and ag are a part of Wyoming’s custom, culture and traditions.
She also added that the Wyoming County Commissioners Associations is working closely with the legislators and the Governor’s Office, saying, “There is a healthy dialogue going on as far as trying to move in the right direction going forward.”
“Wyoming has the highest number of elected officials participating as cooperating officials,” said Delancy. “I’m pretty darn proud that we are leaders as far as involving our local officials.”
Delancy continued that the work of public officials extends into the agriculture sphere, as they work to be involved in public lands issues, including resource management plans.
“The commissioners get it – they understand that public land available in Wyoming should be available for all multiple users,” said Delancy emphatically. “Every day, county commissioners are working, having those discussions and making sure that public land remains available for public use.”
“The county commissioners come from ag backgrounds, they are actively engaged in ag, they understand the role that ag plays, and that see that ag is a large part of Wyoming,” added Delancy.