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Leading the Industry: Scasta receives Outstanding Young Range Professional Award

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Laramie – In mid-February, the Society for Range Management (SRM) recognized Derek Scasta, University of Wyoming Extension rangeland specialist, with their Outstanding Young Range Professional Award.

“The Outstanding Young Range Professional Award recognizes SRM members who exhibit superior performance and leadership potential in any range-related area,” says the organization, who noted Scasta’s research and outreach work has implications that reach far beyond the borders of Wyoming.

“This award is a huge compliment for me,” Scasta comments. “I have a lot of mentors within SRM, and recognition by my peers is very humbling.” 

He continues, “This is the culmination of two decades of work on range issues, and I can’t be any prouder.”

Scasta further recognizes that the people he has worked with – including agency folks, elected officials, ranch owners and managers, and the public – have also played a role in his career.

“I have worked with some great people through my career, and they are a big part of the reason this recognition comes back to Wyoming,” he says. “I work with great people throughout this state.”


Scasta spent his early years in Texas and Oklahoma, where he was born, raised and educated.

“I have degrees from Texas A&M University, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State Universities (OSU) in range and agriculture,” he describes, noting he approaches range management from a livestock perspective. “I’ve always been interested in sheep and cattle, focused on agriculture and all the natural resource issues across the West.”

“In the last 10 years or so, I’ve been focusing on range issues,” he says. 

However, before he came to Wyoming, Scasta worked as a county Extension agent for eight years before getting his Ph.D. at OSU. He also worked in row crop agriculture during his time in Extension. 

“After I got my Ph.D., the job at University of Wyoming came open,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to work in the Great Plains and Northern Rocky Mountain states.”

After visiting Laramie, Scasta says, “My values and perspectives on life fit well with the folks and culture in Wyoming. I’ve enjoyed every minute since, and I really love Wyoming.”

Wyoming work

At UW, Scasta’s time is split between Extension, research and teaching, with about 50 percent of his time spent working in Extension.

SRM notes, “Dr. Scasta’s research and outreach span the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain regions, and from tallgrass prairie to sagebrush steppe and mesquite-dominated rangelands to high-elevation forests. He has assessed the effects of drought, fire and grazing on rangeland vegetation, livestock production and ungulate spatial distribution while engaging audiences on hot-button topics including predators, prairie dogs, wild horses and fire.”

His work appears in more than 40 articles published in refereed journals. 

Scasta describes, “My research usually addresses concerns people in the state have. We’ve worked on feral horses in the Red Desert and prairie dogs in the Thunder Basin National Grasslands. We’ve also worked on public lands grazing allotments and also in addressing fire- and drought-related questions.” 

“The research questions I work to answer should have applied outcomes for ranchers, agency personnel and non-governmental organizations,” Scasta says.


Though teaching is a relatively small percentage of his charge, Scasta has dedicated hours to mentoring UW students. 

“He is an accomplished educator and communicator with an uncommon aptitude for educating learners of all ages to further the application of recent advances in rangeland management, while addressing complex problems that have stymied managers and agencies for decades,” SRM explains. “An award-winning teacher and student advisor at the University of Wyoming, he developed two new courses, Applied Fire Ecology and Nutritional Ecology and Management of Rangeland Ungulates, and he instructs students in special projects and experiential learning.”
Each year, Scasta advises and coaches members of the UW Range Club, this year leading them to winning SRM’s largest student award – the Trail Boss Award.

SRM involvement

In his brief career, Dr. Scasta has actively contributed to SRM at both the section and parent society levels, while demonstrating devotion to developing future SRM members and range professionals as a university professor,” SRM says.

SRM comments, “Dr. Scasta has demonstrated extraordinary potential and promise as a range management professional and a future leader in the range profession.”

Scasta cooments, “We’ll just keep doing good work in Wyoming for the people of Wyoming.” 

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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