Water, soil tied in SRM meeting
Green River – From around the state, members of the Wyoming Section for the Society for Range Management (SRM) gathered Sept. 12-14 in Green River with Soil and Water Conservation Service membership for their annual conference, themed “Rangeland and Pasture Soil and Water Conservation: Driving the System.”
“Soil and water drive all systems,” said incoming Wyoming SRM President Bryan Christensen. “Without those two things, we can’t have plants.”
This year, the conference paired classroom sessions with an outdoor field tour to bring their skills into practice.
“One of the reasons we had our meeting in September, instead of November, is because we can go outside and have a field tour,” Christensen said. “We are holding a session where we will actually collect data. We’re going to showcase AgTerra’s digital technology and field collection.”
He added that on-the-ground exercises are, in many cases, more productive than just sitting in a classroom.
Mae Smith, current president of Wyoming SRM, commented, “We, as range people, prefer to be outside to do our learning and teaching. For us, being outside and learning is the best. We are actually going to get away from the theoretical and get outside to put our skills into practice.”
For SRM, partnerships are also important.
Smith comments, “Soil and water are always a priority for SRM, but we have really brought the topic to the forefront this year, especially since we are working with the Soil and Water Conservation Service at our meeting.”
While it has been nearly a decade since the two organizations have held a joint meeting, Smith added, “We’re always working to collaborate and build partnerships to best involve our members.”
“The Soil and Water Conservation Service works closely with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and many conservation districts,” Christensen said of this year’s meeting. “They focus more on cropland and pastureland than our organization typically does, but we see that all three are usually blended in many operations. Most producers use all three land uses in livestock production.”
The three-day meeting was packed full of informational meetings, including a panel discussion about candidate conservation agreements (CCA) and candidate conservation agreements with assurances (CCAA) as it relates to reclamation.
“The trona mines here in the Green River Basin, and Bridger Coal, as well as some of the coal mines in the Powder River, were represented on our panel,” Christensen said. “They are in the stages of putting together a CCA and CCAA to do mitigation projects based on their disturbance.”
Oil and gas companies in the Jonah Field took similar actions to mitigate their activities over a decade ago, and Christensen said, “It was really good to hear from them and see what they are trying to accomplish.”
Smith added, “We also talked about a wild horse GPS collaring study, which was appropriate for this region of the state.”
With over-population of horses in the herd management areas of Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek, Smith noted that the University of Wyoming launched a new study to collar horses and collect habitat data from the areas that they frequent.
“We got to see a lot of current data from that study, which was really interesting,” Smith noted.
As SRM moves forward, Christensen will transition into leadership in the next month, and he said he is looking forward to serving the organization over the next year.
“I’m a homegrown Wyoming boy, born in Farson,” he said. “I graduated from the University of Wyoming and now work out of Pinedale as the NRCS ecological site specialist for the soil survey.”
For his term, Christensen explained that he hopes to really harness the technology available to continue to connect SRM with producers and the public.
“There are some technology things we need to do to get up to speed with society,” he said. “We’ll be working on coming up to the 21st century in our section.”
This year, Wyoming SRM added a Facebook site, and they are going to continue to focus on their web presence.
Smith said, “We are also working to get some of our committees rejuvenated.”
Wyoming SRM has an information and education committee and a producer affairs committee, and Smith explained they are continually seeking ways for members and prospective members to engage.
“We hope to continue to build these committees to help our members engage,” Smith commented. “Hopefully, moving forward, we will be in better touch with producers across the state.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.