Wyoming FFA Celebrated on Sept. 26Written by Jennifer Womack
By Jennifer Womack, Wyoming FFA Foundation Executive Director
With membership nearing 2,500 and communities, like Green River, adding new chapters, there’s much to celebrate!
It’s been said that experience is life’s greatest teacher. Wyoming FFA is built upon this idea, encouraging our state’s young leaders to experience careers, test their entrepreneurial skills and set and achieve important goals while they’re still in high school. Lessons learned have a lifelong impact.
We at the Wyoming FFA Foundation aren’t alone in our excitement about Wyoming FFA. The program continues to gain the attention of individuals, communities and schools statewide. Membership has nearly reached 2,500, a new chapter started this school year in Green River, and efforts are underway to bring the program to more Wyoming communities.
Each April, the Wyoming FFA Association – our sister organization – hosts Wyoming’s largest youth gathering. Over 1,500 attend the annual convention. While the main focus is often on the convention sessions, students participate in public speaking events and Career Development Events, attend a career fair and participate in enrichment workshops. It’s four days jam-packed with personal growth opportunities for Wyoming’s most motivated young leaders.
In the coming weeks, Wyoming FFA’s nine-member Wyoming State Officer Team will begin traveling the state, visiting local chapters and members. They’ll conduct leadership workshops, speak to classes and partake in activities with members across the state. They’ll learn about the positive impact FFA chapters and individual members are having across the state. They’ll leave behind words of encouragement and inspiration for younger FFA members.
This November in Fremont County, FFA members from across the state will gather for industry tours, enhanced ag knowledge and leadership workshops and training. The Foundation hosts an annual tour, believing that the best leaders are well informed about industry, agriculture and those things important to our day-to-day lives. During Finding Inspiration and Reaching Excellence (F.I.R.E.) and the Chapter Presidents Conference (CPC), hosted by the FFA Association, students are again encouraged to strive for important goals and be positive, active members of their communities.
Students leave the FFA program destined for all walks of life. As I recount recent graduates, I can think of farmers, ranchers, attorneys, accountants, a moviemaker and a college teacher. While their chosen career paths take them far and wide, I know they enter the workforce and society with appreciation and understanding for American agriculture. As I think of the of the 610,240 FFA members who belong to one of 7,665 chapters in the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, I’m thankful that appreciation for agriculture is being spread far and wide. I’m equally thankful for the leadership training as I look among them and see individuals I someday hope to see leading our state and nation.
As you can see, we at the Wyoming FFA Foundation have a lot to be excited about. Each and every day we have the opportunity to see FFA making a positive difference in the young lives around us. We’re able to enhance this impact by investing in classroom infrastructure, scholarships, leadership training, tours, career fairs and more. We also ensure that every Wyoming FFA member has the opportunity to own an FFA jacket embroidered with his or her own name. Expectations accompany wearing the jacket. As members zip up their blue jacket, they learn important life lessons like professional dress, representing oneself and one’s organization with pride and the importance of being a part of something larger than oneself.
On Sept. 26 in Torrington, the Wyoming FFA Foundation and Torrington-Lingle FFA are teaming up to host the annual Blue Jeans Ball. This event allows those of us who support the program to come together and celebrate what’s right with America’s youth. It’s events like this, and supporters like you, that allow the Foundation to continue investing in FFA and the impact it has on Wyoming’s young people. Tickets are just $50 each and include a prime rib dinner, a great auction, a dance and some time with Wyoming FFA’s finest. We hope you’ll join us in this celebration of the Wyoming FFA and the growing number of outstanding young people who belong to the organization.
Department of Environmental Quality Deserves Our SupportWritten by Bobbie Frank
By Bobbie Frank, Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts Executive Director
I don’t know about you, but if I am out enjoying all our state has to offer in terms of recreation, including enjoying our waters, and if I want to go for a swim, I pick a waterbody in Wyoming, that, well…has water. Actually I don’t, because, as those close to me know, I am an aqua-phobic. But if I weren’t, I would want to take a swim where there is water!
I think we can all agree it would be nice if all of Wyoming’s drainages, draws and intermittent and ephemeral streams had water – and water in enough quantities to swim and kayak. These are the uses that are protected for in Wyoming designation of a water as a “primary” contact recreation water. If it can’t support these uses, then the water is protected as a secondary contact water.
What’s the distinction? Well, the water quality criteria utilized to determine if there is a risk to human health is a “risk management” standard. If the water is a primary contact recreation water then the E. coli standard is 126 colony forming units per 100 milliliters, and if it’s secondary, the standard is 630 colonies. Why the difference? Because the risk of immersion and ingesting quantities of water increases when the activity involves immersion in the water. In a lot of Wyoming’s waters, there is such minimal to low flow that the risk of ingesting just does not exist, unless you are drinking directly from the creek, which most folks know is ill advised. This standard we are discussing, E. coli, does not protect waters as “drinking water” sources.
Recently the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has been under fire in the press for their Categorical Use Attainability Analysis (UAA) for recreation uses on Wyoming’s waters – unfairly so. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has historically required that waters be protected for “fishable/swimmable” uses unless it is demonstrated that such uses cannot be supported or attained. The process for demonstrating what uses can or cannot be attained is called a UAA. DEQ has long recognized, as most reasonable folks do, that not all “waters” in Wyoming have water and are capable of supporting primary contact recreation activities that involve full body contact and immersion. In 2007, EPA disapproved DEQ’s attempt to remedy the fact that all waters in Wyoming have water quality criteria applied as though they are all swimming holes. They began working on a very innovative, defensible and streamlined approach to determine which waters in Wyoming support primary contact recreation uses and those that support secondary uses, such as wading, fishing, etc.
In 2010, the Conservation Districts and DEQ discussed DEQ’s proposal to use technology and Geographical Information Systems (GIS), combined with a set of criteria, including flow, distance to public recreation areas, schools, campgrounds etc., to determine which waters should be designated primary and which are secondary. This was combined with a very robust field verification process where DEQ personnel collected data on approximately 150 sites and the local conservation districts collected field data on 720 randomly selected sites to compare to the model results. We had conservation districts out overnight in the backcountry, in urban areas and everywhere in between to take data.
Most folks agree technology is a great tool but may not always reflect the on-the-ground conditions and realities, hence, the level of time and resources that went into collecting field verification data. The results, with some tweaking, and a few changes based on EPA input including adding criteria such as flow, the model largely matched what was reality on the ground. DEQ also used an extra protective approach, designating waters, despite flow levels, located near a school, park, campground, major trails, etc., as primary contact. The action ensures that waters likely to see a higher use due to vicinity of a recreational area would receive the higher level of protection.
After all of this work, DEQ went back out with a notice and invited anyone who had additional information to submit that for consideration last August. Based on that feedback, DEQ finalized the Categorical UAA, packaged it up and sent it to EPA approval in December 2014.
EPA did not approve the submission, no doubt as a result of some letters they were receiving from some groups in Wyoming indicating they were left out of the process. EPA denied approval, despite the fact that they felt the approach was technically sound, based on a determination that DEQ was required to hold a “formal” public hearing with a transcriber. Although DEQ did not concur with this requirement, they have chosen to go forward with a hearing on Sept. 16 from 5-8 p.m. in Casper.
In addition to misplaced outcry about being left out of the public input process, there has been some attempt to turn this issue into a grazing issue. Frankly, it’s a disservice to all who are committed to water quality to turn this into an us-versus-them issue. We all can contribute to E. coli loadings, whether it is from our recreation activities in the water, septic systems, livestock, waste treatment plants or wildlife. Interestingly, the E. coli criteria are an “indicator” that there may be pathogens that could cause illness, not a definitive that such pathogens are present. There are E. coli in all warm-blooded animals, but only certain strains pose a risk to human health.
Interestingly, according to researchers, in a paper published in July, “U.S. Recreational Water Quality Criteria: A Vision for the Future,” humans are more likely to get ill from human waste than animal waste. This is also discussed in EPA’s “2012 Recreational Water Quality Criteria” document. Further, the illness-causing strain of E. coli is not often found in grazing cattle according to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service technical note on nutrient management. Despite that, we all have an obligation to do what is reasonable to protect our state’s water quality.
The Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts encourages folks who are informed and knowledgeable about the time and effort that has gone into this process and who agree that one Categorical UAA and its public input process is much more efficient use of tax payer’s money and potentially hundreds of individual UAAs, each with a separate public input processes, to show up and weigh in at the Sept. 16 public meeting.
If there are instances where the public feels a waterbody was not designated correctly and there is a demonstration of primary or secondary use support, they can still be submitted in the form of a site specific UAA, even after the adoption of the Categorical UAA.
What we don’t want to see is this good, scientifically-defensible approach abandoned. There are a significant number of drainages, dry draws and ephemeral and intermittent waters in Wyoming that have little to no water. Today they have water quality criteria and standards applied that treat it as though it is capable of supporting swimming type activities. The Categorical UAA corrects that problem.
More detailed information on the Categorical UAA can be found on DEQ’s website at content.govdelivery.com/accounts/WYDEQ/bulletins/1107acb.
Wyo Wool Growers Association Tackles Sheep Industry IssuesWritten by Amy Hendrickson
By Amy Hendrickson, Wyoming Wool Growers Association Executive Director
On Sept. 15, the Wyoming Wool Growers Association (WWGA) will hold its 87th Annual Wyoming State Ram Sale in Douglas. This annual event is a cornerstone of the WWGA’s efforts to promote Wyoming’s robust sheep industry. This year’s Consignors and Buyers Appreciation Dinner will feature a presentation on the Ram Sire Tests conducted in cooperation with and through the University of Wyoming.
Each year WWGA conducts two ram sire tests. The first runs from June to August, and the second begins in late September and runs thru mid-March of the following year. Both Ram Sire Tests are conducted at the University of Wyoming. The presentation by Doug Zalesky and Kalli Koepke will explain the data collected and how to read and gain information from the indexes published from it.
The sheep industry in Wyoming is facing some serious challenges at a time when there is a resurgent interest in wool and lamb. As a naturally sustainable product, wool is increasingly favored by apparel manufacturers because of its natural ability to insulate the body and readily wick away moisture. As a quality protein, high in nutrition, interest in lamb as a protein alternative is growing. This is good news for the industry.
Unfortunately, federal policies governing land use and labor threaten the future of Wyoming’s producers. The U.S. Forest Service continues to press forward with its intent to eliminate sheep grazing allotments in favor of Bighorn sheep based on shaky science and analysis. Despite the growing body of science that indicates the cause of pneumonia in Bighorns, like in any species, is multi-factorial and likely caused by numerous bacterial agents, of which Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae is only one, the Forest Service marches forward with its Bighorn Framework based on the misguided model that assumes the mere presence of domestic sheep grazing is the source of Bighorn die-offs.
Not to be left out, the Bureau of Land Management is now incorporating Forest Service-type grazing restrictions in its Land Use Planning Guidelines for domestic sheep. Every livestock producer, whether raising sheep or cattle, should be concerned as the finger pointing increasingly includes other domestic livestock as responsible for disease in wildlife.
In addition to the pressures of federal land management agencies, recent proposals by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) threaten the viability of a large percentage of Wyoming’s sheep industry. According to a University of Wyoming analysis, DOL’s proposed H-2A program changes would reduce the profitability of a range sheep operation employing two H-2A herders to a point that continued operation would be impossible, concluding that such an operation would be “able to pay both total operating and total ownership cost only eight percent of the time.” The impact of these proposed changes directly affects a substantial portion of Wyoming’s sheep industry, and the loss of these large sheep operations will impact smaller operations that already have great difficulty in finding shearers and veterinarians, markets for their products and transportation for their animals destined to those market. Related businesses, like supply stores, equipment dealerships and grocery stores, will also feel the impact.
Nonetheless, our industry is strong and is battling hard to save a way of life. The tireless efforts of many producers to keep our concerns before policymakers ensure our message is being heard. We are blessed with a congressional delegation that understands and cares about these issues and works hard to educate others about them. The recent congressional field hearing in Evanston held by Representative Cynthia Lummis is an example. Our state legislators are also interested and make a point to educate themselves on our industry, as evidenced by the attendance of State Senators Stan Cooper and Dave Kinskey at the WWGA Midyear Meeting. Our message is being heard.
The 87th annual WWGA State Ram Sale is evidence of the resiliency of our industry. With a history of quality rams, like the top-selling Rambouillet ram in 2014 that came from the Wyoming State Ram Sale, we have more than 300 rams consigned this year and buyers coming from as far away as Kansas City, Mo. WWGA members have reason to be proud of their organization and their industry. Keep fighting!
Wyoming Water Development Office Looks Toward FutureWritten by Harry LaBonde
By Harry LaBonde, P.E., Wyoming Water Development Office Director
The Wyoming Water Development Office (WWDO) is in the middle of our busy summer season having initiated 57 new or expanded projects that were funded in the 2015 Legislative session. As these projects begin, the WWDO is also now accepting new applications for projects to be considered during the 2016 legislative session. The application deadline for new projects is Aug. 15.
Other newsworthy items regarding recent events at WWDO include three main items. Jon Wade, the planning division administrator, retired on June 12 after 35 years of service at the WWDO. Barry Lawrence has been named to replace Jon as the Planning Division Administrator. Many of you may know Barry, as he has been employed at the WWDO since 1999, and he has managed the state’s weather modification pilot program since inception in 2006, as well as the operational weather modification program in the Wind River Mountains.
We also have our Wyoming Water and Climate Web Atlas. This tool can be accessed at wrds.uwyo.edu/wcwa.html. It is a collaboration between the Wyoming Water Development Commission (WWDC) and the Water Resources Data System (WRDS) that allows the user to access water data and reports using an on-line mapping tool.
One of the areas that is receiving a lot of focus in the office is the Governor’s Wyoming Water Strategy. The Strategy defines 10 water initiatives and the WWDO is responsible for implementing four of these initiatives. Initiative Number Six, “10 in 10,” is very ambitious, as it seeks to build 10 new reservoirs in the next 10 years. Currently, WWDO has 15 different reservoir projects that are in varying stages of planning, including reconnaissance review, alternative analyses, feasibility studies including environmental review, design and permitting.
From these 15 projects, 10 will be selected to proceed to construction over the next 10 years. Five of these projects have completed the feasibility analysis stage and the WWDO believes that each of these five projects represent a viable project. As such, the WWDC, Legislature and Governor have appropriated funding to proceed with permitting and design on each project.
These five projects are briefly described below.
First, Alkali Creek Reservoir, located in Big Horn County, will impound approximately 8,000 acre-feet (AF) of water. The proposed dam is a 110 feet high earth fill structure. The reservoir will provide a minimum recreation/fishery pool of 2,000 AF and provide almost 6,000 AF of late season irrigation water to the lower Nowood River drainage.
Next, Upper Leavitt Reservoir, also located in Big Horn County, will impound approximately 6,600 AF of water. The new dam will replace/enlarge the existing Leavitt Reservoir, which holds 643 AF, with a 95 feet high earth fill dam. The reservoir will provide an additional 4,460 AF of supplemental irrigation supply to the Beaver Creek and Shell Creek drainages along with a 1,500 AF minimum recreation/fishery pool.
Next, Big Sandy Reservoir Enlargement, located in Sublette and Sweetwater counties, will impound an additional 11,000 AF of water. If maximized, the project will enlarge the existing reservoir by raising the existing spillway by approximately five feet. The additional water storage will be used to improve the reliability of the irrigation supply for Eden Valley Irrigation and Drainage District.
Middle Piney Reservoir is also located in Sublette County and impounds approximately 3,370 AF. It is owned by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and, due to safety of dam issues, is at risk of being decommissioned. This project will reconstruct a portion of the earth fill dam to resolve the safety issues. The WWDO intends to enter into a long-term management agreement with the USFS to provide water to downstream irrigators. Also contemplated is the ultimate acquisition of the dam and water rights by the state of Wyoming.
Finally, West Fork Battle Creek Reservoir is a proposed new reservoir in Carbon County that will impound approximately 8,500 AF of water on West Fork Battle Creek, tributary to the Little Snake River. The 260-foot-high roller-compacted concrete dam will supply 5,000 AF of irrigation water, 1,500 AF of water for fishery purposes downstream of the dam and a 2,000 AF conservation pool in the reservoir for recreation and fishing.
All five of these projects are entering the permitting phase of development and will be required to undergo a rigorous National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, which will include an environmental impact statement and public comment process. Pending a determination that these projects represent the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative, the Army Corps of Engineers should be in a position to issue a 404 permit.
The NEPA process also fulfills requirements of federal agencies with land management jurisdiction to obtain right-of-way permits from BLM and special use permits from USFS. The NEPA process will be comprehensive and is expected to take three to four years to complete for each project. Design, land acquisition, state permits and water rights will be completed concurrently with the NEPA process. Construction is therefore expected to start on all five facilities in the next three to five years.
Governor Mead is very supportive of building additional water storage projects in the state because of the resulting benefits that accrue from these projects. Reservoirs provide water for irrigation of crops thereby benefitting the local economy, environmental benefits through water conservation, fisheries and wildlife habitat enhancement, flood protection, flatwater recreation from conservation pools, and they allow Wyoming and its citizens better endure the periodic droughts that frequent our state. For these reasons, reservoir storage will continue to be a high priority for Wyoming’s water development program.