State’s leaders focus on natural resources
Johnson and Sheridan counties – Agriculture and the commitment of Wyoming landowners to improve the state’s natural resources took center stage at several stops along the Sept. 8-9 Governor’s Natural Resource Tour in Johnson and Sheridan counties. The annual two-day event is held in a different part of the state each year.
Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal said the tour provides an opportunity to take an up-close look at ongoing efforts and give some thought to what can be done to improve the state. Attendees, including legislators, community leaders and natural resource professionals, have a chance to see what’s happening beyond the highway viewshed, network with other leaders from across the state and take ideas back to their own communities.
Johnson County rancher Ryan Fieldgrove explained his family’s efforts, in partnership with 23 other ranchers and local natural resource professionals, to rehabilitate sage grouse habitat and enhance area rangeland conditions. He also explained the use of biological control, herbicide application and the grazing of goats to control leafy spurge on the ranch.
Fieldgrove told the 150-person audience that during the worst of the drought he decided to reduce his cowherd to 80 head, a small number given the size of his ranch. At the time he said he didn’t realize, “I was making a huge mistake. The Red Angus cows fell to the bottoms of the draws and on the hilltops there was still grass. That seems like common sense, but I missed it.” Since that time he said he’s revised his grazing management, which includes cross fencing and pasture rotation.
Stream restoration, often done in partnership with private landowners, received a great deal of discussion in both Johnson and Sheridan counties. With the proper placement of instream structures, waterways can be engineered to properly manage silt, enhance vegetation and improve fisheries. Given limited direct benefits to landowners, natural resource managers overseeing the projects said they have to address large stretches of the stream and involve multiple funding partners. Establishment of funding sources like the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust Fund, mentioned at a project along the Tongue River, have made more stream restoration projects a possibility.
Advancement in the use of water discharged during the production of coal bed natural gas was also highlighted during both days of the tour. In Johnson County, a visit to what’s called an EMIT facility included discussion on the treatment of water and its discharge to the nearby Powder River. At two separate stops in Sheridan County the irrigation of alfalfa with CBM discharge was highlighted. The first site, overseen by a company called Beneterra, is sub-irrigated with an underground drip system and this year produced six tons of alfalfa to the acre. Mineral development company Fidelity is applying water to its lands via a sprinkler system with similar success.
“We saw some remarkable things being done with the CBM water,” noted Governor Freudenthal. “They’re making a lot of efforts to try and manage this question about the water, particularly as we move into the Big George where the quantities of water are greater and the constituents in the water are more severe than they were in the early stages of development. I think the industry needs to be commended for that.”
A stop at Mountain Meadow Wool Mill in Buffalo had tour attendees marveling at the ambition and innovation within Wyoming. With equipment in place, partners Valerie Spanos and Karen Hostetler, are making roving and yarns from the state’s high quality wool with plans to expand. Spanos said a reduction in the nation’s wool mills has allowed their company to acquire equipment at reduced prices.
Jennifer Womack is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at email@example.com.