Wyoming conservation districts see resolution passed at national meeting
San Antonio, Texas – During the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) Annual Meeting, held during the early part of February 2019, Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) membership accomplished significant achievements for the association.
“NACD had a good, productive meeting,” commented WACD President Todd Heward.
Notably, Heward, Wyoming’s voting delegate, and Dan Rice, WACD vice president and alternate delegate, worked hard on the delegate floor to garner support for a resolution titled “EPA National Rivers and Streams Assessment Program.” Ultimately, the resolution passed with several minor amendments.
At their November convention, WACD passed a resolution that would allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to allocate funds used for their streams and rivers Nationwide Assessment to states.
The National Rivers and Streams Assessment program works to “determine the extent to which rivers and streams support a healthy biological condition and the extent of the major stressors that affect them.”
WACD Executive Director Bobbie Frank explained, “Under the program, EPA randomly selects sites and takes a one-time snapshot to provide a report card on the condition of waters.”
“Last spring, Wyoming landowners were being contacted by a consulting firm that was basically duplicating data the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality had obtained the year before,” she continued.
While some states may find the data necessary, for Wyoming, the program doesn’t make sense because it duplicates local efforts.
“This resolution asked NACD to take up a position that allows the funds used in this program to be passed to the states,” Frank said. “Wyoming would assume about $500,000 to use for other water quality efforts.”
As an example, Heward said the funds would be diverted to the 319 program, which would allow Wyoming and local conservation districts to develop additional projects that would improve both water quality and water quantity.
“Hopefully we can see some progress with this resolution between NACD and EPA,” Heward said. “Wyoming has done such a good job monitoring its water bodies. We are pleased other states accepted this resolution and passed it.”
At the national level, NACD can utilize its influence to persuade EPA to adopt the policy and better use funds for water quality projects, rather than duplicative data-gathering efforts.
“For some states, the National Rivers and Streams Assessment Program makes sense,” Frank said. “In Wyoming, we have conducted our own monitoring, and those funds would be better used if allocated to the states.”
In addition to work on the delegate floor at NACD Districts, Heward took the opportunity to hear Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Matthew Lohr speak about the agency, noting Lohr was a refreshing change.
“I was pleasantly surprised and impressed with Mr. Lohr,” Heward said. “The biggest things were his impressive background. He hasn’t been in the agency a long time.”
Lohr’s fresh perspective and background in farming will allow him to connect with producers, Heward added.
“He was very open and down to earth,” Heward explained. “Mr. Lohr doesn’t really have an agenda to keep climbing the political ladder. He’s here to lead the agency.”
Heward also noted Wyoming has stepped up to lead the development of the Public Lands Resource Policy Group (RPG), which targets public lands issues related to NACD.
“The Public Lands RPG hasn’t been very active in recent years, and we made a strong push to see it move forward,” he said. “We offered some help to see the committee move forward at NACD.”
Heward will serve on the committee for Wyoming, with Rice as the alternate.
“The RPG is targeted at addressing the issues we have here in Wyoming and the West as a whole,” he explained. “Strengthening the committee was a big highlight. We will be able to work on meaningful issues we have.”
A new chairman from Nevada was elected for the RPG, which bodes well for the future of the committee.
“Our chairman has the time and interest to move the Public Lands RPG forward,” Heward said. “We need to make sure we step up and are there. Our voice needs to be heard.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to email@example.com.