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Casper – Agricultural Engineer Ryan Altenburg moved to Wyoming and started Western Heritage Consulting and Engineering in August 2011, and, with a passion for agriculture and a strong engineering background, he has seen success in his first year of business.
    “A corporate mer-ger closed the engineering firm I helped to start in Grand Junction, Colo.,” explains Altenburg. “When the owner of Water Engineering and Bio-Resource Consultants sold the parent company, the buyers opted to not continue the engineering division, so that gave me the opportunity to start my own firm.”
    At that point, Altenburg and his wife Rikki made an agreement to purchase and finalize the contracts from Water Engineering, and they started their company.
    “Those contracts gave us a start,” he says. “It expanded from there, and it has been a busy year.”
From the beginning
       Altenburg received his degree in agricultural engineering from Texas A&M University after attending Colorado State University in chemical and bio-resource engineering. The Wellington, Colo. native worked for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for five years, starting in Texas before transferring to Grand Junction, Colo.
    Following his transfer, Altenburg left the USDA and helped develop the design firm Water Engineering, where he worked until 2011 when he started his current business.
Working in ag engineering
    “Simply, we design access and infrastructure for land and natural resources,” explains Altenburg, adding, “It includes a lot of irrigation and water resources work.”
    Western Heritage Consulting and Engineering develops or improves land by designing and planning access roads, structures, utility distribution and water systems.
    “We can plan a whole property, or we can come in as a sub-consultant and design the irrigation system, pipelines and dams,” Altenburg continues. “If it has to do with raw water or surface water, we can design it.”
    “Water is the heartbeat of the West,” says Altenburg. “We make its use more efficient and more useable with our designs.”
    Altenburg also mentions that they are involved in the process from start to finish, beginning with design and permitting through completion and documentation of projects.
    “Our specialties are natural and water resources, agriculture, irrigation and dams,” comments Altenburg. “We also work on livestock and equestrian facilities.”
    He plans facilities that function properly, from pen placement to drainage.
    “We also work with wildlife and wildlife habitat,” he adds. “A lot of our clients have a farm or ranch that serves as recreational property as well. They enhance their land such that they can get benefit from wildlife as well.”
    As a certified technical service provider for the NRCS, Altenburg also provides technical assistance to the agency in Wyoming and Colorado.
    Rikki offers administrative and accounting work for Western Heritage Consulting and Engineering and helps review projects.
Far-reaching potential
    Western Heritage Consulting and Engineering works primarily in Wyoming and Colorado, where Altenburg is licensed as a professional civil engineer, but he works nationally as well.
    “We have some projects going in southern California in the Imperial Valley,” says Altenburg. “Most of our work is in Wyoming and Colorado, though.”
    With clientele that also operate internationally, Altenburg recognizes the potential for developing their firm beyond the borders of the U.S., adding, “We’ll take care of our clientele here before we get too busy internationally.”
    While Western Heritage Consulting and Engineering currently operates outside Casper, Altenburg plans to expand the business by hiring an additional engineers and building an office. They are currently seeking to hire an engineer.
Not an easy start
    With experience as an engineer behind him, Altenburg still notes that there are a number of challenges that crop up in the agricultural engineering field.
    “Engineering is a heavily regulated field,” he says, adding that obtaining the proper permits, insurance and registrations can be difficult, especially working in multiple states.
    He also mentions that building a reputation is challenging.
    “In Colorado, I am well known in the civil and ag engineering field. Since moving to Wyoming, I am working to build the same reputation up here and make the same ties,” comments Altenburg, “but with hard work and dedication, you can do anything. If you put your mind to it, work hard and do good, honest work, you will have repeat clients, and the business grows over time.”
    Altenburg realizes that building a business doesn’t happen overnight, and he has continued to establish contacts and provide service to his clients to establish his reputation in both Wyoming and Colorado.
    “I grew up on a small cattle ranch, and I always thought there was a better way to do things – a better way to open a gate, build a fence or irrigate. So I took that and ran with it,” says Altenburg. “I enjoy ag engineering. It’s a diverse field that applies numerous aspects of engineering and still has ag roots. Agriculture is where I came from and where I want to stay.”
    For more information about Western Heritage Consulting and Engineering, visit westernhce.com or contact Ryan Altenburg at 307-351-8054 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“The Gros Ventre River headwaters drain into a pristine landscape that forms a bridge between the Upper Snake and Green Rivers,” said the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) during a mid-July presentation honoring six landowners from around the state for their partnership. “This area provides crucial winter range for
elk and moose and maintains vital elk and pronghorn migration corridors. It is here that 990 acres of
river-front property are being donated by former U.S. Senator
from Wisconsin, Herb Kohl, to
the Trust for Public Land.”

The property will be turned over to the Bridger-Teton National Forest, and it is the single largest private inholding in the Upper Gros Ventre River drainage.

“It will benefit wildlife and provide public access in perpetuity,” adds WGFD.

The donated property sits 22 miles up the Gros Ventre River and links the public lands of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, the National Elk Refuge and the Gros Ventre Wilderness.

WGFD notes that the property has high terrestrial habitat value for a diversity of wildlife.

“The Gros Ventre River watershed is healthy and supports a strong, native fishery, largely due to a network of smaller streams that contribute flow, riparian vegetation and channel conditions that benefit aquatic habitat and fisheries quality,” they continue. “Watershed connectivity and protection for riparian areas are important legacies we as humans can leave on aquatic landscapes. Through his donation, Sen. Kohl delivers both.”

WGFD nominated Herb Kohl as the 2017 Jackson Region Landowner of the year, recognizing his lasting contribution to wildlife conservation and public access.

Saige Albert, managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, compiled this article from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Landowner of the Year Awards Program. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Bill Winney of Bondurant says his 30 years of experience in the Navy, both as a commander on a nuclear submarine and an instructor, provided him with the necessary experience to serve the state of Wyoming as Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“I was responsible for real world education and training of people throughout my career,” Winney comments. “More and more good administration doesn’t get us where we want to go. It is time to change that equation, and I think I can bring that change.”

Educator experience

While not an educator in a K-12 classroom, Winney says, “Training and education was part of everything I did in the Navy. I taught for a little over two years.”

He went on to a position as chief engineer, then commanding officer responsible for officer trainees. 

“In the civilian world, I became a flight instructor,” he adds. “I have about 500 hours teaching in the cockpit, as well as a good bit of on-the-ground instruction.”

Winney has also dealt with the federal government and their programs, giving him familiarity with the system.

Qualified candidate

“The Superintendent of Public Instruction needs to understand what is going on in a classroom and what a teacher has to cope with,” Winney emphasizes, adding he has seen those struggles throughout his wife’s teaching career. “Wherever we landed during my 30 years of active duty, my wife Louise taught. Through her eyes, I saw many different school administrations and how they worked with teachers.”

Winney says this experience has reinforced his intuitive understanding of what teachers deal with in the classroom.

“Teachers are our front-line soldiers,” Winney explains. “Everyone else in the education world is support staff, and it is very important we keep our focus on what a teacher has to cope with and what they need.”

Leadership role

At the same time, Winney says he has experience running a large organization – including the command of a 1,200-member crew. 

“If we aren’t careful, big organizations have a way of taking control, instead of the boss controlling the bureaucracy,” he explains. “I have an understanding of that, and I learned about that in many tours and in Washington, D.C.”

He further comments that a leadership gap has occurred in the Department of Education, which he has the experience and skills to fill. 

“In several guest opinion columns that I have written for the Casper Star Tribune, I spoke about our legislature acting like a super school board. They’ve stepped into a gap in leadership that has probably existed for a number of years,” Winney says. “They have gone to a level of detail I think is inappropriate for the legislature.”

Winney further notes that while the legislature should work with the State Board of Education and local administrators, they should also not delve into details of the education system. 

“There needs to be confidence on the part of the legislature that the Board of Education and Department of Education are doing what they should,” he says. “I will work to establish that confidence.”

A working relationship with legislators will enable him to accomplish that goal. 

“The legislators have seen me and heard me talk in front of their committees,” Winney says. “They have a decent idea of how I think, and I hope to be able to move that into a confidence that I’m doing things the way they want.”

In the classroom

Winney emphasizes that in the classroom, testing is too extensive and Common Core Curriculum has gone too far. 

“The testing our young people face and teachers cope with I view as far too extensive,” he explains. “It is appropriate to run testing programs so we can determine where students if they are learning, but I think our testing has reached a point where it significantly takes away from the time a teacher spends with young people.”

At the same time, Winney comments, “There is also a lot of objection in the state to Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards.”

While a good idea, he explains that bureaucracy turned Common Core into a program that loses focus. 

“I would work to make sure Wyoming maintains control of curriculum and doesn’t give up that authority,” he says.

Service

In addition to the role in education, Winney says that the role on boards and commissions is also important.

“I will take a look at the issues that become current on the boards and do my homework,” he says. “I’ve run big budgets, and I can help to take a look at what boards are doing.”

Winney says he will take the role of Superintendent of Public Instruction very seriously, if elected. 

“I support Wyoming’s long-term goals and education future Wyoming generations,” Winney says.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Casper – South of Casper in the Bates Hole area, Garrett Ranch Company works to improve the habitat on their ranch. Their work has improved streamflow and water quality, improved rangelands for cattle grazing, mule deer and sage grouse and overall increased the functionality of the ranch.

  This year, the Garrett Family, led by Pete and Ethel Garrett, received the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) and Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA) Environmental Stewardship Award and Leopold Conservation Award, recognizing their work in and dedication to conservation.

Stewardship recognition

“This is the 23rd year of the WSGA and WDA Environmental Stewardship Award and the seventh year that we have partnered with Sand County Foundation to award the Leopold Conservation Award,” said Jim Magagna, WSGA executive director, during a June 21 tour of Garrett Ranch. “The award represents the hundreds and thousands of ranchers across Wyoming who practice good stewardship.”

“The Garretts are among the exemplary examples of stewardship we see from Wyoming ranchers,” he continued.

During the event, Pete and Ethel were joined by their family, Steve, Kim, Dalton and Tyler Garrett and Jack and Laura Miles, along with a number of other friends and relatives.

“We feel very honored to even be nominated by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) for this award, and winning is an even higher honor,” Pete commented. “Every member of the ranch has been involved in making this happen.”

About the ranch

Since 1937, the Garrett family has ranched south of Casper. They gradually acquired more land through the early 1990s to expand the operation to its current size, allowing them to support multiple families.

The Garretts started doing conservation work to improve their range quality and utilization in the 1980s.

“We started working with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) doing water projects to provide rotational grazing and better use our pastures,” Pete explained. “We developed springs, put in tanks and added solar wells.”

In making these additions, he noted their water quality improved, which, in turn, improved the health of their calves.

They began working to eliminate stands of decadent sagebrush in the late 1990s to improve grazing availability and sage grouse and mule deer habitat.

“We started by burning sagebrush and mountain mahogany, then we started mowing it later,” Pete explained.

They’ve also sprayed cactus, cheatgrass and cedar to improve grass production on the ranch.

Water work

Most notably, the Garrett family has worked to improve the quality of Bolton Creek to reduce erosion and sediment going to the Platte River.

Keith Schoup of WGFD explained that the Garretts have done restoration work on Bolton Creek to restore the riparian areas and reduce streambank erosion.

“We looked at four strategies, and we decided to use insta-dams to restore Bolton Creek,” he said. “We started by using aspens from Muddy Mountain aspen removal efforts and flew them, using a helicopter, to Bolton Creek.”

By flying in aspens, they were able to supplement the food supply for beavers, influencing beaver to continue building dams.

However, they began building artificial dams – insta-dams – after they realized it was difficult to maintain a food source for the beavers during winter months. The insta-dams were constructed using material from Winter Storm Atlas in October 2013 and using old Christmas trees from the City of Casper.

“We installed 31 Christmas tree diversions to stop sediment and reduce head cuts,” Schoup said. “We also have 13 of our 21 insta-dams still functioning.”

They have also planted 1,100 willows and 700 cottonwood trees along Bolton Creek.

“The Garrett family, along with many other partners, have been really instrumental in improving habitats in Bates Hole and along Bolton Creek,” Schoup emphasized.

Praise from all

During the June 21 tour, a number of people provided praise to the Garrett family, noting their hard work provides positive results for both wildlife and livestock.

WDA Deputy Director Stacia Berry noted, “The Garrett family recognizes the value of the beef cow and their work on the range. This family provides a great example of the true balance between livestock and wildlife.”

“We’re thankful for the work of the Garretts and their commitment to conservation,” Berry added.

Justin Binfet of WGFD commented, “The Garretts embody the spirit of conservation and cooperation. They have a true dedication.”

“Pete cares so much, and we have been able to share friendship and mutual understanding through our work,” Binfet continued, explaining that the family has been involved in a variety of efforts while working with WGFD. “Pete has been involved in the Mule Deer Initiative and on the Bates Hole-Shirley Basin Sage Grouse Working Group. The Garretts are always available when we call on them to work together, and they’re often the first family we think of as we look for partners.”

“The Garrett family is not only passionate about wildlife, they care about the heritage and future of their livestock operation,” he said. “These qualities are demonstrated in their engagement and commitment to conservation.”

For more information on Garrett Ranch Company and their conservation work, read the Jan. 7 edition of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

After Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) Senior Investigator Kim Clark retired late last year, the WLSB hired Ken Richardson of Alturas, Calif., a small town of about 2,000 people, to take the position.

“I grew up on a family cow/calf operation in the high desert in California,” Richardson says of his background. “Our cattle ranged in the California mountains in the summer and lower ground in the winter here.”

Richardson notes that the high deserts of Wyoming are similar to his home state, and the similarities are enjoyable.

In addition to his ranch background, he worked for many years with the brand department at the California Bureau of Livestock, and he’s achieved a combined 30 years of experience in the livestock division and in law enforcement. Most recently, he retired from Modoc County as undersheriff on Feb. 29.

“Overall, I have a pretty well-rounded career, but coming back to the industry I love is a great opportunity,” he says. “Working for the industry is going to be my biggest thrill coming to Wyoming.”

As the new leader for the division, Richardson notes that he’s excited for the position, and he looks forward to building relationships, both among the investigators and with the public.

“Wyoming is a big state, and getting all the investigators in one place doesn’t happen enough,” Richardson says. “We can call each other, but we get so busy that it’s hard to really keep in touch.”

Due to his proximity to both Oregon and Nevada while in California, Richardson says he is experienced and prepared to network with other states and work together.

Over his first year, Richardson hopes to work to gain the trust and support of both the WLSB staff and producers across Wyoming.

“I think there is room for the unit to grow,” he says. “People need to talk, visit and get to know each other. I come from a rural background that sees the value in building those relationships. One of our goals this year is building the trust with local law enforcement and local ranchers, as well as training those local sheriff’s offices.”

He also emphasized visibility of the WLSB’s law enforcement unit, saying that he will be driving marked law enforcement vehicles to increase the awareness within community that the WLSB law enforcement unit is active.

Among the work of the WLSB, Richardson says 14 to 15 percent of their work goes toward missing livestock, but the bulk of their work is in animal welfare cases.

“We’re the first line of defense for welfare calls,” he says. “We’re also there to assist the local law enforcement and county sheriffs. Right now, I think our relationships with county sheriffs are very positive.”

Richardson is based in Pinedale and will also serve as the Region Two investigator for the WLSB.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..