Wyoming’s Conservation Districts: Working Hard for Wyoming
Now that the leaves are changing and there is a chill in the air in the mornings, the summer/early fall busy season is starting to slow down for Wyoming’s 34 conservation districts. “Slowing down” being a relative term because the districts are always working to improve and conserve Wyoming’s water, soil and natural resources.
The districts have been busy on a myriad of projects including water quality sampling, soil sampling, planting trees, forestry management and water quality and quantity projects. This is not an exhaustive list, but it gives a sense of the vast myriad of responsibilities and projects the conservation districts undertake.
I started working at the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) six months ago. In those six months, I have had a crash course in all manner of conservation practices and policies which are the lifeblood keeping Wyoming’s natural resources safe and profitable for future generations.
I grew up in eastern Wyoming, went to school in Laramie and have lived my adult life in Gillette and Cheyenne. I think a lot of people like me know conservation districts exist, but I’m not sure many people really know what they do.
Over the past six months, I’ve had the opportunity to visit 12 of the conservation district offices and learn about their priorities, concerns, projects and what they hope to accomplish in the future. I hope to visit each and every conservation district office in Wyoming in the coming months.
WACD and Wyoming Water Association hosted the 2022 Watershed Conference and Tour in June in Riverton which was well attended by conservation district staff and supervisors, state and federal agency personnel and other folks with an interest in water quality and quantity. The conference was a great success with a huge range of professional speakers, including a keynote address from Wyoming Meteorologist Don Day and an update from Wyoming Legislature’s Select Water Committee Chairman Rep. Evan Simpson.
WACD also hosted a watershed training course in July in Buffalo. Thanks to a great partnership with Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, who taught the training, many conservation district employees completed requirements to become certified to do surface water quality sampling in Wyoming’s waters. I personally learned a great deal at this training and hope to get some on-the-ground experience soon.
I also had the opportunity to attend the National Association of Conservation Districts Southwest Region meeting in September. I was able to connect with my colleagues and counterparts from the various southwestern states. Many of us share the same successes, challenges and goals, and it’s important to know we aren’t alone in our quest to practice responsible conservation of natural resources.
Now, with some time and education under my belt, I’m working to define what I hope to accomplish here at WACD. I want our organization to be a professional and successful advocate for the conservation districts. There are many policy proposals and changes on the horizon, both on a federal and state level, but I plan to successfully lead the districts in navigating these challenges and opportunities.
One of those policies is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) proposed rule. WACD has been at the forefront of the fight to keep the definition of WOTUS as favorable for Wyoming as possible. We have filed comments, an amicus brief in pending litigation and participated in the EPA’s WOTUS roundtables.
Other federal and state policy issues which have garnered WACD’s attention and action include wild horse and burro management, American Rescue Plan Act funding, Wyoming’s ad valorem tax changes, Endangered Species Act, Council on Environmental Quality National Environmental Policy Act regulations and the 30×30 Initiative, just to name a very few.
One thing is for certain, WACD and Wyoming’s conservation districts are working hard every day to improve the lives of Wyoming citizens. Conservation districts are funded in several different ways in Wyoming. Some conservation districts receive mill levy revenue, some are funded by their counties and others receive grant revenue from various sources.
These districts operate leanly and responsibly, they work for the betterment of their constituents, and they take their conservation obligations seriously.
For any questions or suggestions related to natural resource conservation, please reach out to a local conservation district. A list of Wyoming’s conservation districts can be found at conservewy.com.
Kelli Little is the executive director of the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts. She can be reached at email@example.com.