USDA welcomes Byam
Casper – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) welcomes Jackie Byam as the Wyoming state conservationist.
Byam began serving in her new role in February, following the departure of Astrid Martinez, who served as the Wyoming state conservationist for the past 10 years. Byam has worked with NRCS for 19 years and has served in multiple NRCS field offices before taking on various leadership roles in multiple states.
NRCS invests in individual and local communities to keep working lands functioning, stimulate rural economies and increase American agriculture while improving the quality of air, water, soil and habitat.
Background and experience
A native to Minnesota, Byam grew up on her family’s farrow-to-finish hog farm, where they also grew corn and soybeans. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Conservation from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, starting her career with the NRCS in her hometown after graduation as a soil conservation technician.
Byam later moved to the East Coast as the assistant state conservationist for programs, continuing her leadership roles in Illinois, South Dakota and Kansas before becoming the state conservationist in Wyoming.
She is bringing a vast wealth of knowledge to support various programs in Wyoming.
Byam stated, “There will always be challenges. We are focusing on messaging to improve programs for Wyoming communities and how we can make them work here. We are here to assist.”
NRCS is a non-regulatory agency and works one-on-one with producers to find solutions to meet business and conservation goals. This partnership ensures the state’s natural resources and the sustainability of local agriculture.
Byam recommends visiting the website to find the local office to get started.
She explained, “The local district conservationist and field offices are the best resources for individuals looking for assistance. The local staff are the experts.”
NRCS provides financial assistance for selected conservation practices and technical support.
Wyoming currently has several state programs and initiatives, and NRCS is streamlining programs to improve them for landowners, helping producers strengthen programs and build conservation efforts.
“We would be hard-pressed not to find a program or an initiative for our ranchers here in Wyoming,” she added.
One program to mention is the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program – Agriculture Land Easement. It protects working farms and ranches by limiting non-agricultural land uses through conservation easements. NRCS is currently streamlining its easement program to protect the nation’s food supply.
Byam also noted NRCS is a customer-facing agency, in which they focus on staffing to assist producers – prioritizing local staff who can be out in the field working with producers.
Byam stated, “We are staffing up and filling vacancies. NRCS is hiring staff and internally developing plans to provide the best customer service to our base.”
“Our offices are here for small backyard growers to the large producers. We are reaching out and serving all,” she continued.
“Wildlife and working lands are a priority,” Byam expressed.
“NRCS piloted big game migration in Wyoming, and Wyoming was the first state to sign a memorandum of understanding between the USDA and Gov. Mark Gordon, which started in 2022,” she added.
Currently, Wyoming NRCS is working on five priority migration routes, and this pilot program is open to producers in Wyoming statewide, as there are several areas where big game migrations are known to be prevalent.
During the Western Governors’ Association meeting in June, USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Robert Bonnie announced a significant new focus on private lands programs focused on wildlife conservation efforts.
“Big game migration has evolved, and dedicated funding is being committed to this project,” Byam concluded.
Landowners interested in applying for consideration in any program should contact their local NRCS office.
Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to email@example.com.