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Conservation Districts

Lusk – In late October, Niobrara County Conservation District (NCCD) united ranchers from the region for a chance to discuss best practices in an effort that rekindle regular meetings from the 1990s.

“NCCD and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) used to gather the ranchers in this area every month for what we called, ‘Meeting of the Minds,’” said NCCD Manager Lisa Shaw. “We toured each other’s ranches and had speakers on conservation practices, grass ID, weeds and cattle management.”

Shaw noted that monthly meetings began to take a toll, and participation decreased.

“I think we started to burn everyone out, so we decided to let ranchers take the knowledge and apply it how they felt best worked for them,” Shaw said. “This recent event was a reunion.”

The 2016 Meeting of the Minds Reunion served to bring the group back together again and to share new ideas, introduce new people and learn from each other.

“A decade ago, many of the ranchers’ goals were to increase production so a family member could move back to their roots,” Shaw said. “In visiting with them over the summer, I realized that a lot of those ranchers had done just that, which is pretty cool in my mind.”

NCCD sent 50 invitations to the people who were the core of the original group, and additional invitations were sent to other folks who had worked with the group, taken over their family ranch or were new to the county.

“These folks will fuel the fire to revive the group,” Shaw added.

During the meeting, not only did the group catch up on the last 10 year’s worth of work, they also heard a presentation from Nancy Hersey on bale grazing.

“Nancy is new to the group, and her presentation was followed with open discussion for questions and answers,” Shaw said. “The Hanson family also provided a lot of interesting information about what they’ve been doing with crested wheat grass and cattle grazing.”

The meeting was also opened up to anyone who wanted to share something new that they were doing on their operation.

“I added a new section on technology, as that has vastly changed since the 90s,” Shaw continued. “We talked about how easy it is to use technology to accomplish things that used to take so long. We discussed precipitation, mapping, Excel sheets and more.”

To conclude the session, NCCD distributed a survey to gain direction on activities for the future.

“We will bring back the Meeting of the Minds group and tour the county to see the cool things that are happening in our area,” Shaw said. “In 2017, we also plan to host several day-long workshops to continue to learn from each other.”

Shaw concluded, “NCCD was blessed to pass the mill levy again at the beginning of November, so we are Niobrara Strong and ready to go to work for the folks of the county.”

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..

Riverton – As conservation leaders from around the state gathered in Riverton for the 71st Annual Convention, the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) took the opportunity to recognize those people who have been instrumental in the work of WACD over the past year.

Bob Budd of the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust presided over the session, announcing each award winner for the year.

President’s honor

The most prestigious award presented at the banquet is the WACD Presidential Award.

This year, WACD President Shaun Sims said, “I am honored to present the 2016 Presidential Award to a couple that has done a tremendous amount for this Association for over 10 years. They epitomize the word service.”

The award was presented to Jack and Diana Berger of Saratoga. Jack’s term on the WACD Board ended this year, after he served as a supervisor for the Saratoga-Encampment-Rawlins Conservation District since 2004.

From support at meetings and in hosting tours on their ranch to fundraising support and more, Sims said, “We are going to sorely miss Jack and Diana as Jack goes off of the local Saratoga district and the WACD Board. I hope they won’t disappear entirely, and this award is a very small token of our appreciation, not just for me but for all of us in the WACD family for all they have done for this organization.”

Elected official

As Outstanding Elected Official, WACD recognized Joel Bousman for his efforts as a County Commissioner in Sublette County.

Since he was elected in 2007, Bousman has been important in his role as a county commissioner.

“Joel helped establish quarterly meetings with the Wyoming Bureau of Land Management State Director to develop relationships with top federal agency personnel in Washington, D.C.,” said Budd.

He added, “Joel works very hard to teach and help others follow a path of sustainable stewardship as evidenced by his education efforts in the Cooperative Permittee Monitoring and his active involvement in the myriad of policy-making committees which affect Wyoming’s ranching industry.”

Budd recognized the countless hours Bousman has dedicated to assisting Wyoming ag producers in the political arena, noting that his efforts have been instrumental in conservation work.

Partners

WACD also recognized Wyomingites who have worked with the organization, honoring Andy Warren of Rawlins BLM as Outstanding Conservationist and Scot and Kim Withers as Outstanding Small Acreage Cooperator.

During his 30-year career in the Rawlins BLM office Warren has “excelled in his performance and set a new standard by which all should aspire to achieve in the conservation of Wyoming’s natural resources,” read Budd.

“There are literally over 2 million acres of rangelands in Wyoming that Andy has worked with to improve range condition,” Budd continued. “Andy truly defines the terms conservationist, partner and friend of conservation districts and agriculture.”

The Withers’ 10-acre property east of Cheyenne has been developed with the help of WACD, starting with tree planting several years ago.

“Now, hundreds of trees later, with windbreak plantings, backyard habitat plantings and livestock protection planting, they hear the wind more than feel it,” Budd said. “Scot and Kim have also worked to diversify their grassland acreage as well.”

News reporter

The Wyoming Livestock Roundup was announced as the Outstanding New Reporter for 2016. In addition to working with conservation districts to report on natural resource issues around the state, Publisher Dennis Sun was recognized for his participation as a landowner in several projects.

“Dennis’ background with natural resources give him the ‘in’ he needs to provide excellent coverage of natural resource issues in the Roundup,” said Budd.

Employees

Several WACD employees were honored for their work throughout the year. Katelyn Vaporis was recognized as Outstanding Technician, Anita Bartlett was honored as Outstanding Employee, and Brian Lovett received the Outstanding Supervisor Award.

Vaporis, of the Kaycee Field Office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, has been instrumental in assisting the region with Emergency Watershed Projects and “has worked hard to go above and beyond her regular work duties to ensure that producers and landowners of southern Johnson County have all the knowledge and tools they need to improve their operation,” said Budd.

Bartlett, also in southern Johnson County, has continued to expand and develop the Powder River Conservation District and its program by working with agencies, contractors and landowners to bring them all closer together. In addition, she has served on the WACD Employee Association Board as president.

Finally, Brian Lovett was recognized as Outstanding Supervisor for WACD.

Lovett has bridged the gap between WACD and two of its partners – the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality – through his work with both agencies.

“Brian has also served as Wyoming’s voting delegate at National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) Convention in Reno, Nev. this past year,” Budd said. “As a voting delegate on the Legislative Committee, he was instrumental in helping to see passage of NACD policy to oppose the Waters of the U.S. rule. Brian is an asset to Laramie County and Wyoming.”

New Board members

With Berger and Lovett both completing their terms on the WACD Board, Todd Heward and Jeri Trebelcock will step in as Board members.

Saige Albert, managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, compiled this list of award winners from the 2016 Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts Convention. Contact Albert at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Casper – The Wyoming Natural Resources Rendezvous recognized a number of members of Wyoming’s ag community, and the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) recognized their partners and contributors from the last year in a series of awards.

Shaun Sims, WACD president, presided over the awards ceremony, recognizing state and federal employees, ranchers, community members and WACD employees for their hard work over the past year.

News reporter

WACD recognized Cassandra Matney of the Lusk Herald for her work promoting conservation in the Niobrara County area.

Nominated by the Niobrara Conservation District, Sims said, “Cassandra has written numerous articles on the new district office building, open house and the school’s high tunnels, which the district was involved in.”

Additionally, she writes weekly articles detailing the activities of the country and highlighting activities of the district.

Teacher of the Year

The WACD Teacher of the Year, Colleen Courtney, was nominated by the Crook County Natural Resource District (CCNRD) Board of Supervisors.

“Ms. Courtney seeks to provide engaging, hands-on opportunities that encourage students’ desire to learn more,” Sims said during the awards presentation. “Ms. Courtney spends numerous hours creating new lessons and perfecting the old.”

As a 24-year teacher, Courtney coordinates many science-related lessons with CCNRD to enhance her students’ knowledge of natural resources.

Cooperator

Jason and Maureen Oedekoven of Recluse were honored with the Outstanding Cooperator Award, which was presented to the couple for their willingness to improve their property and enhance conservation efforts.

“The Oedekovens have been improving the property since they purchased it,” Sims said. “They have implemented numerous management practices, including waste management, nutrient management and weed management.”

In addition, Jason served on the Campbell County Conservation District Board of Supervisors from 2008-12, and the Oedekovens have worked with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to install livestock water pipelines, solar water tanks, windbreaks and riparian area fencing.

“The Jason and Maureen Oedekoven family exemplify conservation of Wyoming’s working lands and exhibit exceptional contributions to on-the-ground conservation practices, leadership in the field of conservation and community and civic involvement,” Sims commented

NRCS employees

As outstanding conservationist, Jennifer Haywood of NRCS in Pinedale was recognized for 19 years of service as a GIS specialist, conservation planner and now a district conservationist.

“Jennifer has been a leader within NRCS, not only managing efforts within her field office but assisting other within her division, as well as at the state level,” Sims said, noting that Hayward has also been actively involved in a number of working groups and collaboratives to conserve both species and landscapes.

Sims continued, “Over the last 19 years, Jennifer has gained the respect and trust of landowners and land managers in Sublette County.”

The 2017 Outstanding Technician was NRCS Planner Jason Nehl of Crook County NRCS, who has been involved in improving and implementing new programs, as well as serving as a competent source of knowledge on natural resource issues.

“Jason is deserving of the Outstanding Technician Award because of his commitment to the land, the landowners and his expertise as a technician who truly serves Crook County,” Sims explained.

Elected official

As another highlighted honor, Sen. Dave Kinskey of Sheridan was recognized with the Outstanding Elected Official Award.

Sims noted Kinskey immediately jumped in to promoting conservation efforts after being appointed to fill the late Sen. John Schiffer’s position on July 15, 2014.

“Sen. Kinskey is a strong voice for ranchers, co-sponsoring legislation to protect them from trespassing,” Sims said. “In another effort to strengthen the agriculture industry, Dave supports programs critical to our agriculture economy, such as predator control and water development.”

Powder River Conservation District, who nominated Kinskey, expressed their appreciation for Kinskey’s dedication to advocating for the agriculture and natural resources communities.

Technical efforts

WACD also honored an Outstanding Employee and Outstanding Supervisor.

Saratoga-Encampment-Rawlins Conservation District’s Joe Parsons was recognized as Outstanding Employee. Parsons has served as the district manager since 2015, but he has worked with the district since 2012. His work establishing relationships and working to become the “go-to entity to get local projects done” led to his recognition this year.

Then, Sheridan County Conservation District Supervisor Susan Holmes was recognized as Outstanding Supervisor.

“Most importantly, Susan brings a lot of expertise to the table,” Sims explained. “She is not afraid to ask the hard questions when needed. Her dedication to the district and the natural resources of Sheridan County is obvious.”

Presidential Award

Finally, to round out the awards, Sims presented the Presidential Award to Lindsay Patterson of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality for her work on the Categorical Use Attainability Analysis for Recreation, among other things.

“Lindsay has done a tremendous job in working for Wyoming’s water resources and with local districts to ensure Wyoming is focusing its attention and effort on priority water resource issues and protecting our priority waters. We greatly appreciate her hard work and partnership,” said Bobbie Frank, WACD executive director.

“I am honored to receive the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts Presidential Award for my work on the Categorical Use Attainability Analysis for Recreation,” said Patterson. “Many, many people made significant contributions to the project, including WACD and Wyoming’s conservation districts, so I greatly appreciate the recognition.”

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..

Anaheim, Calif. – While Wyoming temperatures dipped below zero, a number of representatives from a variety of Wyoming conservation districts attended the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) Annual Meeting, held this year in Anaheim, Calif. on Feb. 2-5.

“The conference went very well,” says Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) Executive Director Bobbie Frank. “It was productive for us as an association, and we had good representation from Wyoming.”

Frank notes that representatives from the Washakie County, Popo Agie, Converse County, Weston County, Campbell County, Uinta County, Little Snake River and Laramie County Conservation Districts, along with representatives from WACD, were all present in California.

Top issues

During the convention, Frank notes that many people were excited to hear that the Farm Bill passed the Senate, marking achievements for all conservation districts across the country.

“We heard an update from Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller on Feb. 4 about the streamlining and consolidation of Farm Bill programs,” Frank comments. “Hopefully this will make things easier for producers.”
WACD brought a resolution forward to NACD several years ago urging consolidation of the programs to simplify conservation efforts for producers, as well as for NRCS staff members.

“Now they are going to go into regulation development,” says Frank. 

Sage grouse

As a major topic discussed during the event, Frank notes that the organization passed a resolution on sage grouse and the BLM and Forest Service land use and resource management plans.

“It took some work to pass the resolution, but we got it through working with Oregon, Colorado and New Mexico,” she explains. “Oregon brought the resolution forward, and it was adopted by the full board of directors on Feb. 4.”

The resolution initially died in committee, but after some work, it was brought forward on the floor. 

“To receive consideration on the floor, resolutions must receive a two-thirds majority vote,” Frank says. “It was overall passed with only two no votes.”

Importance

The resolution addresses concerns with the BLM’s approach to sage grouse issues, and Frank says that regardless of Wyoming’s Executive Order on sage grouse, WACD agreed with all aspects of the resolution.

“The resolution supported range-wide disturbance caps but only if they are developed by state, local or multi-jurisdictional efforts,” she explains. “It also looks at efforts to provide adequate funding for biological control chemicals for invasive species control, which we support.”

Efforts to manage invasive species on public lands and the use of candidate conservation agreements with assurances on public lands as a voluntary tool for producers were also represented in the resolution.

“The Oregon conservation district that developed the resolution did a great job,” Frank adds, “and we were overall able to get it passed, even though most of the country doesn’t have to deal with sage grouse.”

“Seeing the western states all pull together to get this resolution passed was the most significant part of the conference,” she says. “That was really great.”

EPA

During the conference, representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency also spoke and addressed continuing water concerns.

“The Government Accountability Office issued a report in December that talks about how the Clean Water Act needs changed to allow EPA to regulate non-point sources,” Frank says. “The EPA briefly touched on that.”

In addition, the agency emphasized cooperation and coordination with local agencies and its importance in regulating waters.

“It was overall a pretty quiet convention, but it was a good event,” Frank adds. “It is great to see western states pulling together and to see a Farm Bill come out.”

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..


SIDEBAR:
Wyo leadership

In addition to attending the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) annual meeting. Wyoming participants are involved at a higher level. 

Shaun Sims is a member of the NACD Executive Board, representing the Southwest Region, and Travis Haskert of Campbell County serves as Wyoming's voting delegate. 

"Jeri Trebelcock from the Popo Agie Conservation District also represents the Southwest Region for the employees association," says Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts Executive Director Bobbie Frank. "We have some very active members."

 

Evanston – On Nov. 15, the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) hosted their annual awards ceremony, recognizing numerous individuals for their contributions to the association and individual conservation districts. 

After recognizing Dan Dockstader as Outstanding News Reporter, Liz Withers-Thoman as Teacher of the Year, Mike and Priscilla Sims as Outstanding Small Acreage Cooperator, John Heyneman as Outstanding Cooperator, Allison McKenzie as Outstanding Conservationist, Randall Wendling as Outstanding Elected Official, Mary Jones as Outstanding Technician, Zach Byram as Outstanding Employee and Todd Heward as Outstanding Supervisor, WACD President Shaun Sims took a few moments to recognize a very special contributor to WACD with the Presidential Award.

Sims commented, “This is my last convention serving in the capacity of president of WACD, which means it’s also my last opportunity to recognize an individual or an entity with the President’s Award.” 

In the past seven years, Sims has recognized Wayne Garman and Curtis Grandstaff, Dennis Thaler, Randy Wiggins, Cathy Rosenthal, Bob and Joe Budd, Jack and Diana Berger and Lindsay Patterson. 

“Each year, I get back to look back on the year and contemplate who it is that has stood out,” Sims said. “This year is a little different. I wanted to look back not on just the past year but my last eight years of service and award this recognition to someone who has been integral to my success, my ability to serve and subsequently a service to this organization.”

Sims continued, “It goes without saying that one individual stands clearly out in their contribution over the last eight years to me and WACD. It is not often that we all get an opportunity to thank our most important partner for their role in our success, but today, I am grateful and so very pleased to recognize, my wife, Lacee Sims, with the 2018 WACD Presidential Award.”

Since he has served as WACD president, Lacee has booked airplane tickets, travelled numerous miles, filled out vouchers, attended meetings and graciously served as a photographer for WACD events, in general helping everywhere she visits. 

“Most importantly,” Sims commented, “she knocked me upside the head when I needed it.”

“I cannot even begin to list all of what she has done for me and WACD,” Sims commented. “Lacee, thank you.” 

Learn more about individual award winners in the photo spread below, where Shaun Sims and Stacia Berry are pictured presenting awards. 

Saige Albert, managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, compiled the information in this article from WACD’s awards program. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..