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Pinedale – When Eric Peterson graduated from the University of Wyoming (UW) and found the job of UW Cooperative Extension Services (CES) Extension Agent for Sublette County he took it and never looked back.
    That was 30 years ago, and today Peterson’s job has shifted to Sublette County Coordinator and Area Natural Resources Education Specialist for Lincoln, Sublette, Sweetwater, Teton and Uinta counties. “I’ve always been an outdoors fellow and in high school and my early college career I had the aim of working with wildlife,” he says, which led to a UW degree in wildlife conservation and management. Following that he earned a Master’s in adult education.
    In his first 25 years with Extension in Sublette County Peterson worked with both agriculture and natural resources and 4-H. “More recently, since the strategic reorganization of Extension, I’ve become an area agent in the western portion of the state and my responsibilities now primarily include the sustainable management of rangelands,” he says. “My work has become much more specific.”
    UW CES has two general initiative areas that encompass its work in agriculture and natural resources.  The initiative areas are Sustainable Management of Rangeland Resources (SMRR) and Profitable and Sustainable Agriculture Systems (PSAS).  Together the initiatives encompass a tremendous diversity of program areas.
    Peterson leads the SMRR in the Mountain West Extension Area, while Hudson Hill heads the PSAS from Star Valley.
    Peterson says one of his chief efforts now is cooperative permittee monitoring. “Over the years I’ve also worked in the financial aspects of range management,” he explains. “I’ve become pretty well versed in the ins and outs and information needs that are tied to this western rangeland agriculture we have over here, with lots of BLM ground and mother cows.”
    “Extension is a good job. It provides me lots of challenges and lots of flexibility,” says Peterson. “I’m basically self-directed in my work, so I’ve got to be self-motivated.” He says he also enjoys working with “lots of everyday folks.”
    “The most common thing I deal with right now is the brucellosis. I have to stay informed on that,” he says of what his job currently includes. “Over the years, and within the years, the most common questions vary according to what’s going on in the area. It depends on the season and what kinds of things are troubling people in terms of problems or information needs that will help them make decisions regarding what they’re going to do, or need to do, at that time.”
    Peterson calls himself the “answer man for agriculture” in the western portion of Wyoming. “If I don’t know the answer I can find somebody that does,” he says.
    “The energy industry has become a larger force in Sublette County and, because of my association with ranches, I saw its effect there first,” says Peterson, adding, “Now we’re trying to figure out how we can be of assistance to the energy industry. I realize I’ll never be energy’s answer man, but hopefully some of our information can be of use to them in things dealing with rangelands and range restoration and balance and uses on those lands.”
    To stay informed and educated Peterson says he spends a lot of time learning and attending seminars. “If we as extension agents don’t keep learning we’ll soon be left behind,” he says. In addition to attending training offered through Extension Peterson says he’s also a member of the Society for Range Management.
    “It comes back to understanding what’s going on in the community, and I attend quite a few meetings and I keep my ears open. I ask questions of other sources to clarify information and build on a knowledge base to synthesize a holistic view of things,” he says. “I try to place what I learn in perspective so I can share it with people who have questions.”
    Now that Peterson is an Area Extension Agent he says his area of the state is bigger, but his topic more specialized. There are two other agents in the area that work on livestock and crops educational programming. “They’re my go-to guys for livestock and crops, and I’m theirs for rangeland programming,” he explains.
    Peterson says the 4-H program in Sublette County continues to do well. “There are always speed bumps in the 4-H program, and my role now is to council the folks who have to navigate them, rather than navigating them myself,” he notes.
    Of living in Pinedale for 30 years, Peterson says he likes the mountains, and he doesn’t like heat. “I like the small-town community, and the older I get and the nearer to retirement, the more I realize there are probably better places around to spend the winter but I expect I’ll always be here.”
    Peterson and his wife Adrianne and daughters Mae and Tandy operate a small ranch operation near Pinedale.
    Until a few years ago Peterson worked with Stella McKinstry, who retired after 60 years with UW CES. “I’m not going to follow the lead of my colleague,” states Peterson of how long he’ll be with Extension. “Not even close to that.”
Christy Hemken is assistant 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..

Chancey Williams and Travis DeWitt started the Younger Brothers Band in November 1998 in Moorcroft. Eleven years later the band is booked solid, playing across the region, working on their third album and enjoying the success of their first video.
“It use to be that we had to call people trying to get booked and now I probably have to turn down more gigs than we actually play because we get so many calls, which is good. We like it that way because we are able to pick and choose and play at some really fun places,” says lead vocalist Chancey Williams.
Drummer Travis DeWitt adds that last year the band played about 130 shows and is even busier this year. “We’re on the road either coming from or going to a gig four days a week, so it will easily be over 200 days this year.”
Additional band members include fiddle player Brooke Latka from Casper and base guitarist Dugan Hughes from Sundance. Lead guitarist Wyatt Springsteen is from Saratoga. Williams adds that for some of the band’s bigger shows Sarah Davison of Nashville joins the band on keyboards.
The band primarily manages itself and in the last year has played across Wyoming, with some shows in Las Vegas, Nev. and a growing number at the Grizzly Rose in Denver, Colo.
“In the last year we’ve played with Lady Antebellum, Craig Morgan, Phil Vassar, Miranda Lambert, Reckless Kelly and Cross Canadian Ragweed at the Grizzly Rose. We opened for all of them and it’s been a great place for us to get our foot in the door and play for a bigger audience outside Wyoming,” says DeWitt. “People down there are starting to know us better and we have fans that are traveling farther to see us. It’s nice to see people from Denver who say they just came to watch us play. It’s a really good feeling to know we are getting more of a following in Colorado.”
Williams seconds that the bands fan base has really grown in the past year and adds that this year is looking even better. “The summer’s going to be big. We will be at the beer tent at Cheyenne Frontier Days again and at the Colorado and Wyoming state fairs. We also have the Central States Fair, Sheridan-WYO days and the Legend of Rawhide in Lusk. They’ve been calling us for the last three or four years to play and it’s always the same weekend as Sheridan, but this year Sheridan moved their date so we are able to play both and are looking forward to that,” comments Williams.
The band is also excited to play in Kaycee for the unveiling of the Chris LeDoux bronze. “It will be really cool because Western Underground is doing a concert during the day, then we’re playing the street dance Saturday night,” says Williams.
In addition to live shows, Williams and the band hope to have a third album out by the middle or end of the summer. “All of us are involved in the song writing process. We get some from songwriters out of Nashville and we write some ourselves. Travis, Wyatt, myself and some other friends just sit down and see what we can come up with,” explains Williams. “It takes a lot of songs to get 10 good ones. Song selection is the biggest thing for an album. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best singer or player in the world, if you don’t have good songs nobody will listen. For my ‘Honky Tonk Road’ album I spent several months selecting songs. It’s a long process, but once we get them all done it won’t take long for the album to come out.”
The band also just released their first video, which was produced by William’s cousin. “It was an awesome experience and it turned out better than we expected,” says Williams.
“We had no idea what to think going in and when we saw it all put together and what Chancey’s cousin did, it showed us things from another point of view. We always see things from the stage and being able to see it like that was eye opening. It turned out really well and we’re really proud of it. Hopefully it’s another way we can get someone to notice us,” adds DeWitt.
Williams and the band have received some looks from Nashville and are hopeful it will lead to something in the near future. “Nothing’s for sure yet and it’s such a long process that if we did get a record deal it would probably still be a couple years before a record came out. But the fact that they’re starting to look at us now versus not even knowing who we were a couple years ago or even last year is pretty exciting,” says Williams.
Toby Keith’s management company, TKO artist management, is one group looking at Chancey and the Younger Brothers. Williams worked for Toby in Nashville, learning the music business.
“It’s a whole different thing than playing live, and the business side is very complicated. It’s basically who you know, so I put my time in to learn that end of it. It worked out really well and I learned a lot from Toby and his company and how everything works. It got my foot in the door and his booking agent books us in Vegas now. It really paid off,” says Williams.
Both Williams and DeWitt say they love being on the road and plan to continue playing live, knowing it will lead to more opportunities.
“This is the time to be on the road, when we’re young. We’re all at the point in our lives where everybody is ready to hit it hard with nothing holding them back,” says Williams.
DeWitt adds that they are keeping their fingers crossed that somebody takes notice of the band while they continue doing what they love.
“For the entire 11 years we’ve been doing this we’ve always taken it to the next level. We are always booking bigger and better shows every year as compared to just playing at the same bar scenes. That can make you pretty stagnant and we try to avoid that,” says Williams.
“Some people just get on stage and sing. That’s not good enough for us; we put on a show for people. We want them to come out and see us,” adds DeWitt.
With packed houses and over the 3,000 views of their video on YouTube, the band’s approach is being well received by fans. Some potential songs for the next album are gaining popularity and another video is in the works. This busy group that has been popular throughout Wyoming for years is gaining momentum as they continue their trend of bigger and better things.
For a schedule and additional band information visit Chancey Williams and the Younger Brothers Band fan page on Facebook. To watch the “Six Figure Job” video search Chancey Williams on YouTube. Heather Hamilton is 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.

Philip Ellis, a rancher and stockman from Chugwater, has been elected president-elect of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). The election by the NCBA board of directors was conducted Feb. 7 at the organization’s annual meeting during the 2014 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show in Nashville, Tenn.

 Ellis was previously NCBA vice president and has been active in the organization for many years. Among positions he has held are regional vice president and chair and vice chair of the NCBA Policy Division. Ellis also has been active in the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association for more than 20 years, and held numerous positions with that organization, including president from 2003-05.

 Ellis also has been involved in the Chugwater community, serving as president of the Platte County Chamber of Commerce from 1999-2001 and on the board of Chugwater Economic Development, Inc. from 1991-2012. In addition, he has served on the Chugwater Valley Church Council several times over the past 25 years.

Torrington – By mid-spring, chuckwagon cook Charlie Ferguson has already finished preparing meals for cowboys across the South, and he’s made his way back north to continue his work.
    For the last 16 years Charlie has called Torrington home, but before that he worked mostly in Texas, which gave him his chuckwagon roots and his early experience.
    “I’ve always worked for big ranches, even before I got out of high school,” says Charlie. “All the big ranches pulled a chuckwagon, and as I got older I became interested in cooking and became good friends with the cooks. I’d ask questions and watch and learn, and they’d show me a trick or two.”
    After picking up some skills, Charlie says he started competing in cooking contests at ranch rodeos.
    “I had a knack for it, and people started asking me to cook for them,” he says. “Now everybody knows me as a cook, where I used to just be a cowboy.”
    In addition to cooking for ranches, Charlie also does promotions for Certified Angus Beef (CAB) and has worked for Pace Picante Sauce. He also caters, but he says, “I’m basically on a ranch in the middle of nowhere, on roundups.”
Doing it ‘right’
    Although a few ranches still pull chuckwagons because of their novelty, Charlie says he works for outfits that find a wagon essential.
    “They’re so far from town there’s no way to pack a sack lunch or run into town to eat. Usually there are 20 guys working, and we have all the horses, men and food on location,” he comments. “The work is really efficient that way – much like a military operation.”
    Charlie says there are usually a few modern conveniences, but he cooks with a wood fire in Dutch ovens.
    “I try to do it as right as possible, without all the extras,” he says. “One time I went to see my uncle, and we went to a restaurant to eat, and I hadn’t sat at a table to eat in four months.”
Food affects morale
    Charlie’s favorite part of being the cook is the status a cook holds on a ranch.
    “Being the cook, you have a lot of pull on the ranch; you’re second-in-command, and people respect you,” he says. “The food on a ranch can make or break morale, and it’s rewarding when everyone enjoys a good meal, especially after working hard all day.”
    Charlie says he tries to vary his menus as much as possible.
    “If we’re out for two weeks, I do my best to have something different for every meal. ‘Stew’ has gotten to be a cuss word on a ranch, because some people make stew for every meal. I try a lot of different things, and I’m always looking for different recipes,” he notes.
    The quest for the new and different has led Charlie to publish two Dutch oven cookbooks: Recipes from a Texas Chuckwagon and Charlie Ferguson’s Cowboy Cuisine.
Promoting Angus beef
    Speaking of his work with CAB, Charlie says it was his connection to Buck Reams that got him started.
    “I cook with Buck Reams in Texas, and he’d done work for them, so they called me and asked if I’d do a job at Ashland, Kan., where I cooked for a bunch of chefs from Ritz Carlton as part of a beef promotion for the hotel,” he explains.
    Following that event, Charlie cooked at Longmont, Colo. for more chefs, and then traveled to Bend, Ore. Charlie says the responses to meals cooked at the chuckwagon are usually surprised.
    “They can’t believe what they’re eating was prepared on the premises,” he says. “When the chefs got off the bus in Kansas I had my grate with coals under it and cooked the steaks in the open, and they had never seen steaks cooked like that. They have infrared burners that sear their steaks.”
     Charlie says he brings mesquite wood from Texas to all the other locations where he cooks.
     “The mesquite wood makes the meat taste so much better than charcoal,” he notes.
Location schedule
     To manage the many locations in which he works, Charlie keeps a wagon in Texas and one at Torrington. He says most ranches have a team to pull the wagon, and if not he has one he can supply.
     Of the connections that keep him busy cooking for most of the year, Charlie says they took a while to build.
    “Everybody knows me now, and my name’s out there now, and if I can I’ll work them into my schedule. Around Christmas people will call for spring work, and in mid-spring they’ll call me for the fall,” he says.
Cooking in the future
    Looking to the future, he says, “More than anything, I worry about the newer generation, and the chuckwagons and the way we work. The Western way of life is beginning to fizzle out, and I hope that people will see that it’s still there, and we still work like we used to. It’s still rolling, and it’s still fun.”
      Although he’s had a few people show interest in learning the art of chuckwagon cooking, Charlie says it’s not for everyone.
    “A lot of people aren’t cut out for it. I get up at 3 a.m. The cook is the first one up and the last in bed, and they’ve got to keep things rolling and always be ahead of the game. It’s hard work.”
    For more information on Charlie Ferguson’s cookbooks or to purchase one, call him at 307-532-0975. Christy Martinez 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..

Cokeville – Beginning in 1992, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) established the Cokeville Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. 

Centered on a 20-mile stretch of the Bear River, the refuge is associated with wetlands and uplands and is managed as a satellite of the Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge, which sits 75 miles to the east in Sweetwater County.

Importance of the refuge

“Cokeville Meadows National Wildlife Refuge was established to protect wetland and riparian habitat associated with the Bear River that is important to a diversity of migratory birds,” says the FWS on their website.

With less than five percent of Wyoming’s land area functioning as wetland, FWS marks making wetland communities within the state as important to wildlife.

“The heart of the refuge is the mosaic of wet meadows and cattail and bulrush sloughs,” adds FWS. “Many of these wetlands were originally created and maintained by agricultural practices.”

The area was also nominated as an important bird area by Audubon Wyoming.

The wetlands associated with Bear River are both natural and human made, according to FWS, with natural wetlands flooding as a result of high water events following spring snowmelts. 

Irrigation systems creating runoff in the 1930s and 40s have also resulted in persistent wetlands, and diversion dams in the Bear River create irrigation opportunities that support hay production from the native meadows. 

New and expanding

Cokeville Meadows is a relatively new wildlife refuge, but the FWS marks it as a growing endeavor. The area was identified as the number one priority in the Bear River Focus Area Plan for the Inter-Mountain West Joint Venture.

“While the approved acquisition boundary for the Refuge totalling 26,657 acres, only 9,259 acres have been purchased or protected through conservation easements to date,” says the Refuge’s website. “Newly acquired lands are posted with boundary signs and evaluated for a variety of factors.”

According to the FWS, land acquisition is ongoing from willing sellers only.

Because it is newly established, the Cokeville Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is currently not open to public use. 

“However, over the next several years, Refuge staff will begin public planning processes that may open Refuge lands to a variety of public uses, such as wildlife viewing, interpretation, fishing, hunting, environment education and photography,” adds FWS.

While much of the refuge is closed, the Netherly Slough Wildlife Viewing Area provides informational displays and wildlife viewing from a roadside area off of Highway 30.

Cooperative efforts

With local ranchers and Refuge managers working together, a number of efforts are being pursued to increase the productivity and viability of the land.

“Under Special Use Permits, local ranchers and Refuge managers mutually benefit by working cooperatively to reach Refuge habitat goal and projects goals,” says the Refuge website. “Ranchers assist Refuge staff with irrigation of wet meadows and other wetlands, maintenance of ditches and other irrigation facilities, providing food plots for wildlife and maintenance of vigor of wet meadow vegetation through selective haying.”

Efforts for weed control, conversion of marginal cropland to permanent native vegetation and other projects, including refuge cleanups, fence maintenance and construction are ongoing as well.

The website adds, “In exchange, ranchers receive hay, crop and grazing shares.”

“This management regime maintains the vigor of wet meadows and other vegetation that critical for wildlife,” continues the FWS. 

Close efforts with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department have also provided Cokeville Meadows National Wildlife Refuge to identify and achieve management goals and objectives, as well as to conduct annual wildlife inventories. 

Refuge species

FWS says the Refuge supports one of the highest densities of nesting waterfowl in Wyoming, with at least 32 water bird species affected. 

“It has excellent potential for the reintroduction of trumpeter swans and provides habitat for resident species, including greater sage grouse, mule deer, elk and pronghorn,” the organization adds. 

Other species on the refuge include White-faced Ibis, Black Tern, sandhill cranes, black-necked stilts, American bitterns and a variety of waterfowl, marsh and shorebirds. 

Educational opportunities

Despite the fact that the facility isn’t yet available for public access, Refuge staff is available to conduct both off-site education and off-site interpretive programs for students or other groups on request. 

The Refuge office is located at the Seedskadee national Wildlife Refuge and is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For more information, visit or call 307-279-2800. 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..