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Natural Resources

Jackson – Solutions to natural resource problems are not easy, and Steve Smutko, UW professor and Spicer Chair, noted that collaboration enables situations that maximize winnings for everyone.

“All my work focuses on the idea that collaboration is negotiation,” Smutko explained. “What is it that we need to have, so each party who comes to the table with an objective can have their needs met?”

Smutko, who presented during the 2013 Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts Annual Convention on Nov. 21 in Jackson, added “When we have complex problems, collaboration may be the only way to crack tough issues.”

Types of problems

There are three types of problems, Smutko explained.

The first type is simple and occurs when parties understand the problem and has a good idea as to what the solutions can be.

“We have experts and professionals who can solve those problems,” said Smutko. “Generally speaking, we elect people or appoint people to solve those problems.”

A type two problem, he said, is one where the problem is generally understood, but there are a myriad of solutions possible.

“In a type two policy situation, it is a matter of trying to find a solution,” Smutko explained. “Governments do this all the time and appoint task forces to start to look at the problem.”

“For the most part, natural resource problems fall into the type three situations,” he continued. “That is where we know the problem, but we don’t necessarily agree the problem or the problem is ambiguous.”

When all parties are not in agreement as to what the problem is, there is uncertainty in the problem or there is scientific uncertainty, Smutko noted that the issue becomes much more difficult.

Coming to the table

“When we start to talk about a type three problem, everyone comes to the table thinking about it in a different way,” Smutko said. “If everyone is trying to solve a different problem, we won’t find a common solution.”

He further added that the stakeholders who should be involved in solving type three problems come with a different perception.

“To solve these problems, there needs to be a lot of good discussion,” he commented. “Any decision that a sole decision-maker comes to will be wrong according to some proportion of the stakeholders, so collaboration works in this type of situation.”

In collaborating, stakeholders work together for a solution, rather than having one dictated to them.


Natural resource problems additionally hold complexities not seen in other arenas.

In managing natural resources, Smutko commented that considerations don’t revolve around a single issue but rather are multi-faceted.

“Stakeholders have conflicting value orientations, and everything we do has an effect on something else – including the social, economic and cultural aspects of the resource,” Smutko said.

He continued, “The issues we deal with in natural resource management span years and affect the people in the next generation.”

Smutko added that many times, decisions made collaboratively in natural resource management are precedent-setting actions with high stakes.

“The issues are also oriented around science and technology, so there is a heavy demand on the people who are talking about and discussing these issues,” he said. “Oftentimes, we also deal with uncertainty, and that is tricky.”

“We need adaptive leaders who understand these problems and are willing to engage in the complexities,” Smutko said. “There are certainly high stakes.”


“Collaboration,” Smutko said, “is simply negotiation among the parities. A successful negotiation results in a happy buyer and happy seller.”

He further noted that negotiations are often seen as a zero-sum game, where one party must lose for the other to profit. However, collaboration should be a positive-sum game, where all stakeholders can see benefits.

“Through collaboration, we are attempting to create something that we didn’t have before,” Smutko explained. “We are trying to create value.”

By collaborating, Smutko noted that benefits can be created that would not otherwise be possible. 

“If we take the time, begin to understand the other parties and what they need and understand the science, we can begin to create something we hadn’t been able to do before.”


“When we look at collaboration, we are interested in two things,” Smutko said. “One is the importance of the outcome, and the other is the importance of relationships.”

If one party is competitive and focused only on what they want without regard to the relationships, Smutko said, “We are just going to get what we need and move on.”

However, if the relationships are important, he added that collaboration can provide the opportunity for mutual gain through communication by negotiating.

“The purpose of collaboration is not so much to reach an agreement,” Smutko commented. “It is to discover if, by working together, we can achieve our interests in a way that is more fulfilling than by working separately.”

Look for more information from Smutko on collaboration in next week’s Roundup. 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 – “Soils link to quality food and quality forage, whether it’s for us or our animals,” said Jill Clapperton, co-founder and owner of Rhizoterra, Inc. and international soil health lecturer.

During the Wyoming Stock Growers Association Winter Roundup on Dec. 7, Clapperton discussed factors that contribute to healthy soil, as well as management practices for improving land productivity and longevity.


According to Clapperton, aboveground diversity is a mirror of below-ground diversity.

“If we only have one type of plant above ground, we know need to add some more diversity below ground,” she said.

Increasing plant and soil diversity is beneficial for both humans and livestock, she explained.

“What lives in the soil can actually be a super benefit for everybody. The more biodiversity we have below ground and the better infrastructure, the more flexibility, resilience and resistance we have,” said Clapperton.

Through the increased resiliency in healthy, thriving soil environments, plant matter is able to drain properly and hold moisture.

“It doesn’t matter what drought hits us. It doesn’t matter what floods. We’re going to be able to survive,” continued Clapperton.

Soil structure

One of the primary characteristics of soil health is soil structure.

As structure is a characteristic that is not easily observable, Clapperton explained that measuring water infiltration can be used to determine soil structure.

“If we’re measuring infiltration, we’re measuring how fast the water goes down and how much water the soil holds,” she said.

Another way to determine soil structure is by analyzing the diversity of organisms living in the soil.

In situations where soils are tilled, the surviving organisms will rebuild communities in the soil, which is important in building desirable soil structure, said Clapperton.

“Even the poop from these organisms provides more structure in our soil,” she explained. “They provide more surface area for more colonization by bacteria and more biological activity.”

The tunnels that organisms build in the soil increase the amount of air space and water space in the soil.

“If we foster these communities, we get infiltration and water holding capacity,” said Clapperton.


“Biology is what unites the chemical with the physical,” said Clapperton.

She noted that soils must be biologically active and establish a strong soil infrastructure in order to recycle nutrients.

Soil productivity is more than tons of forage or a crop produced, continued Clapperton.

“How good is the forage for feed? We need to ask that question. If we’re putting all of the nutrients into the food, then we don’t leak things out,” she said.

Soils that do not have a strong infrastructure may also leak sedimentation.

“When we lose the soil, we’re losing the biological activity, and we don’t want to do that,” commented Clapperton.

Biologically active soils are also beneficial for the environment, stressed Clapperton.

In a study done by a colleague, Clapperton noted that the researcher found in intensive grazing situations, bacteria that utilize methane increase in the soil.

“All of these bacteria in the soil that use methane as an energy source will start growing. By the second time we make a round, they’re already there and we’re actually using methane,” she said. “We’re not net emitters. We’re net users. That’s a really good thing for the environment.”

Soil organisms

Numerous soil organisms create the intricate food web found in healthy soils, said Clapperton.

One of the primary organisms that holds soil structure together is mycorrhizal fungi, which require a live plant host.

Mycorrhizal fungi confer drought and disease resistance on plants by improving soil structure and shuttling nutrients to the plant.

“They’re actually moving water and nutrients to extend the range of absorption for the roots,” she said.

Amoebae are another class of organisms that are important in controlling plant diseases.

“They’re the predators that eat up the bacteria and fungi, making sure that those stay under control,” continued Clapperton, noting that nitrogen is a byproduct of amoebae that is beneficial to plants, as well.

Although not commonly seen in native range, earthworm populations are critical for soil health.

“Even though we don’t see them, we know they’re there. We can tell looking at the soil,” she said. “It’s like really coarse ground coffee.”

In addition to improving infiltration and air movement, the slime produced by earthworms is rich in calcium and ammonium nitrates, which promote plant and rhizobacteria growth.

“It’s a very growth promoting effect,” concluded Clapperton. “The more earthworms we have in our soil, the better.”

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

Denver, Colo. – “In the last 100 years, temperatures have increased by 1.5 to two degrees Fahrenheit,” says USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) research plant physiologist Jack Morgan. “By the middle of the century, a number of models project the temperature to increase from two to three degrees to as high as four to six degrees.”
    Morgan addresses the implications of a changing climate, noting there is concern that changes are becoming more dramatic.
    “People talk about climate change in a very blanket way, but it depends on where you’re at and the plant community,” he says. “North Dakota won’t look like or change like Arizona.”
    Morgan urges producers to talk to a local specialist to determine what climate change might look like in their region.
    “If the climate warms, the consequences are more precipitation worldwide and extreme weather events,” says Morgan.
Growing concerns
    “What concerns me most in terms of rangeland is consistent drying in the southwest and more southern latitudes,” says Morgan. “Through the years, we found a pronounced drying in those areas.”
    Morgan adds that the Mediterranean is consistently predicted to see more drought, as well, but other areas could see increased flooding and production.
    “Warmer temperatures could have a number of effects on rangeland,” he explains, marking a longer growing season, more pests and diseases, as well as altered hydrologic cycles, as potential consequences. “Timing for rainfall is also expected to change.”
    Plants respond differently to these changes, and Morgan notes that some will be favored, while other species will be outcompeted.
    “Increases in temperature can have positive and negative effects,” he explains. “It stimulates the cycling of nutrients in the soil and enhance growth. These types of positive responses are expected to be most important in humid to sub-humid climates.”
    “It can also cause desiccation and independently affect plant phenology,” he continues. “The particular outcome depends on where you are in the country, and we often find that the positive effects offset the negative.”
Increasing CO2
    Morgan says changes in temperature directly relate to increases in the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2), and CO2 concentration changes also affect plant growth.
    “We know plants directly respond to carbon dioxide,” he explains. “CO2 is a substrate for photosynthesis. If we increase CO2, we see increases in photosynthesis and plant growth.”
    However, different plant species also respond differently, particularly when looking at C3 plants compared to C4 warm season grasses.
    Most plants are classified as C3, meaning they use CO2 to build a three-carbon compound in the leaf during photosynthesis. C4 plants, however, use CO2 to build a four-carbon compound and have been found to be more efficient in higher temperature climates.
    Originally, Morgan says they believed C3 plants would dominate when CO2 levels increased, but that wasn’t the case.
    “CO2 closes pores in C4 plants, and the response is really important – it makes them more water efficient,” Morgan comments. “CO2 has been important in the ability of these plants to move in and become dominant.”
    As a result, woody plants and shrubs seem to perform better in environments with a high CO2 concentration, which should be of concern for ranchers who use rangelands for grazing.
    “Some plants don’t respond much to CO2 because they run out of nitrogen,” explains Morgan. “Woody plants that can fix their own nitrogen really respond, however.”
Effects on livestock
    “The important thing to keep in mind is how climate change unfolds, and how it affects livestock operations will depend on where you are in the U.S.,” says Morgan. “CO2 is going up, we will see higher precipitation, forage production will increase and winters will be milder. It will have positive effects on livestock production.”
    Morgan also encourages producers to think about water and shade, as well as breeds and species more adapted to heat. For producers dependent on grazing, while forage ability may increase, Morgan cautions that species composition will be of concern.
    “Weather patterns are expected to become more variable and important factors for livestock managers to deal with in the future,” he adds.
    “My conclusions are that climate change and CO2 have likely already affected world rangelands,” says Morgan. “It can affect plant production and species shifts, but because plant communities are complex, projecting exactly how species will shift is difficult. Rangeland monitoring will be really important – even more important – in the future.”
    Morgan addressed the Small Ruminants Committee at the National Institute for Animal Agriculture Conference in Denver, Colo. on March 27. Saige Albert 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..

Riverton – At the 29th Annual Fremont County Farm and Ranch Days, held in Riverton on Jan. 30, one of the last presentations of the day was on new forages being developed by the University of Wyoming (UW). 

Anowar Islam, UW Extension forage specialist, detailed his research on tall fescue, sainfoin and fenugreek for use as winter pasture, silage and hay crops.

In 2012, Wyoming agriculture supported 1.4 million head of cattle valued at $1.8 billion. Hay is by far the largest crop worth $307 million, five times ahead of sugar beets, but Wyoming ranks 17th in the nation for its alfalfa yield and 24th for all hay types. 

Islam is seeking to change the yield statistics through the use of grasses and legumes that are better adapted to Wyoming’s semi-arid climate. 

Alternative forages

“Tall fescue is very adaptable and has a wide range of uses,” Islam said. “It can be used both for forage and seed. Our plentiful sun and low humidity are great growing conditions for tall fescue.” 

“Also, it has less diseases and pests than alfalfa and is only damaged by severe weather events,” he commented.

The cool season perennial grass does have toxicity problems and works best in mixes. Tall fescue is not stressed by fall grazing and winters well.

“Depending on weather conditions,” Islam said. “Doing an early cutting of tall fescue seems to have very good seed and forage production. Tall fescue is very grazing tolerant, but it seems to have better seed production with haying.”

“Early cutting for seed production and fall grazing doesn’t seem to affect the next year’s growth,” Islam noted. “Also, tall fescue does not become sod bound. A 50/50 mix with tall fescue and an alfalfa legume are seeing 10 years of sustainability.”

Forage legumes improve soil health, decrease environmental pollution, have high forage yield and quality and increase pasture productivity and sustainability when mixed with grasses.

New varieties

A new alfalfa variety has been developed in Wyoming that is resistance to Brown Root Rot called Lander. It is the only Brown Root Rot resistant cultivar that has been bred in the United States. 

The legume, sainfoin, has been used for years in Canada and cannot be planted with alfalfa bacteria. Sainfoin generates its own nitrogen and does not need fertilizer. Sainfoin works well as a cover crop for barley, oat and wheat.

“The Shoshone variety was developed by UW,” Islam said. “Shoshone has better yield and winter hardiness than other sainfoin varieties. It performs well with grass mixes in dryland and irrigated conditions.”

“The newest sainfoin development is Delaney,” he added. “It is a multiple-cut sainfoin with high yield traits and produces a higher yield on the third cut than other strains.” 

While fenugreek may be best known as an herb, spice and vegetable used most commonly in Indian cuisine, Canada is pioneering the semi-arid crop as livestock forage.

“Fenugreek uses limited water and can be grown in low rainfall areas without irrigation,” Islam said. “It is a great multi-purpose crop, unfortunately there is no information available about how it would fair in Wyoming.”

“I have been testing fenugreek varieties in Laramie and at the Sustainable Agriculture and Research Center in Lingle,” Islam mentioned. “The last couple years have showed promise both in irrigated and dryland conditions.”

Melissa Hemken is a correspondent for 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..

Casper – Public Lands Council (PLC) Executive Director Ethan Lane and National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) Government Affairs Associate Chris Heck likened Washington, D.C. to a three-ring circus.

“Think back to when we were kids at a circus – the old circus before the animal rights people ruined them,” Lane said.

A traditional circus isn’t complete without a man-eating lion and a lion tamer with a chair and whip, a group of clowns packing them into small cars and an elephant wrangled by peanuts and bullwhips, he said.

“This is Washington, D.C. right now,” Lane commented.

Appropriations bills

Despite the chaos in D.C., Lane and Heck both emphasized that appropriations is the priority issue.

“Every year, the government has to be funded,” Lane said. “This is must-pass legislation, and it’s a great opportunity to make changes.”

Thus far in 2017, the House of Representatives has passed all of its appropriations bills, while the Senate has passed none of theirs.

“There are 12 legislative days left in this year, and a lot fewer days until Dec. 8 to fund the government before it shuts down,” he added. “The work rests on the Senate side of Congress.”

With the tight deadlines, Lane predicted that the bills will likely not go through the subcommittee mark-up process. It is also likely that the Dec. 8 deadline will be extended until next spring.

“When they get to the floor, there will not be much time for amendments,” Lane said. “We’re not as worried about adding in new pieces because we got our priorities in early. We are worried about preserving those pieces.”

Both the House and Senate versions of the bill include language delisting the grey wolf.

“This is good news and major progress on an issue we’ve been pushing really hard on,” he explained.

The House version of the bill also includes language related to wild horses that will give the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) more flexibility to transfer wild horses and euthanize horses on the advice of a veterinarian. This language is critical for the agency to manage the horses according to the act.

“We also continue to work to against any funding cuts to watershed programs, conservation programs and mandatory farm bill conservation programs receive no CHIMPs,” Heck said, explaining that CHIMPs are changes in mandatory programs that allow appropriators to make spending reductions to mandatory programs. “CHIMPs are often used to make additional funding cuts to conservation beyond what the farm bill intended. For conservation efforts to be effective, their programs need to be adequately funded.”

Tax bill

Another piece of legislation that is important for both houses of Congress and the White House is the tax bill.

As of Nov. 30, the House has a bill that has worked its way through the process, but the Senate has yet to pass a measure.

Provisions regarding the estate tax, deductions, caps on interest for ag operations and more are all part of the bill, and Heck said, “Everything changes every day and every minute. The final bill will be dramatically different from what we see today.”

“This bill will add about $10 trillion to the debt,” Lane added. “There are a lot of open gates with not much time left to close them.”


Lane and Heck echoed Gov. Matt Mead in their enthusiasm for modernizing the Endangered Species Act (ESA)

“We’ve taken a lot of interest in modernizing the ESA, and we are working closely with members on The Hill to craft modernized legislation that would resemble recommendations,” Lane said, noting that sage grouse, wolves and grizzly bears are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to endangered species.

“As we look at the rest of the country, we’ve got northern long-eared bats, voles and gnats,” he continued. “Most terrifyingly, the Monarch butterfly has been proposed for listing. Anyone who wants to keep themselves up at night should look at the range of the butterfly.”

Related to sage grouse, Lane noted PLC is encouraged by the process that has begun to unfold.

“Ranchers have been helpful in providing feedback and commenting on the things that are unfolding with sage grouse,” Lane said. “We are also encouraged by the Forest Service’s delayed implementation of their sage grouse plans. Forest Service backed off and recognized that they have to go through a similar process in BLM with revisions to make sure their plans are effective.”

“BLM’s plan revision is due Dec. 1, and Forest Service is due the first week of January,” Heck added.

Despite process, Lane said that implementation will be key. Both PLC and NACD will continue to work with Department of the Interior and USDA staff as they move forward.

Wild horses

Another rangeland issue across the West is wild horses, and Heck serves as the chair of the National Horse and Burro Rangeland Management Coalition.

“The coalition has been very active,” Heck said, meeting with House and Senate Appropriations staff to discuss the Stewart Amendment, which allows BLM and Forest Service to utilize all potential tools in wild horse management. “The language brings management of wild horses back to the Wild Horse and Burro Act and bring all the tools back to BLM and Forest Service.”

The amendment does not allow slaughter of horses, but it does allow a veterinarian to authorize euthanasia for horses.

“We’re proud to see the wild horse and burro advisory board this past October recommended that, three years from now, BLM should not have a single, long-term holding facility,” Heck explained. “That means the focus of wild horse and burro management would once again be on-range management. Currently, over 60 percent of the program's budget is spent on off-range holding, while range conditions continue to degrade and populations continue to outpace management efforts.”

Getting involved

With so many issues facing ranchers in the West, Lane and Heck encouraged ranchers to get involved and actively participate to ensure that their interests are protected.

“We are looking to continue to improve our grassroots outreach and increase our advocacy efforts,” Heck said, noting that NACD utilizes e-mail and print publications, known as e-Resource and Forestry Notes, to inform their membership on issues.

“On the PLC side, we have the Daily Roundup that provides information to our members,” Lane said. “We also have the Weekend Roundup which is geared for just producers. It includes some of the viewpoints of our opposition for ranchers to think about.”

He concluded, “We’re appreciative for active participation from our members. People who don’t participate can’t benefit from being engaged. Those of us that are involved need to share our passion with our neighbors and get the word out.”

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..