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Conservation Districts

Nashville, Tenn. – The last week of January, a delegation of 11 Wyomingites attended the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) Annual Meeting at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, where they participated in robust policy discussions and the opportunity to lead conservation conversations. 

“Convention numbers were up from the past, and there was a lot of talk on how to strategize and keep conservation efforts intact under the direction the administration is heading,” said Shaun Sims, Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts president. 

Farm Bill

Among the top subjects addressed during the convention, Sims and Campbell County Conservation District Manager and Crook County Conservation District Supervisor Jennifer Hinkhouse noted the 2018 Farm Bill and USDA reorganization were top of mind.

“One of the hot topics of the day was the farm bill and the route that it's going today,” Sims said. 

Hinkhouse added, “NACD already has their farm bill principles laid out, but we continue to have conversations as the bill comes together.”

In particular, Sims noted funding for conservation on-the-ground will remain the top priority for NACD, including funding for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). 

“We need to get more people on-the-ground doing conservation work,” he commented, “and there was discussion about how to do that.”

Sims further explained NRCS is an important partner enabling conservation work to be realized on the ground.

“We, at the conservation districts, are the locally elected officials in states, and we are a liaison to help direct where funding goes on the ground,” Sims added. “We partner with NRCS to support the work of districts and landowners.”

Hinkhouse said, “Year after year, we talk about partnerships on projects, the farm bill and more at NACD, just to stay on top of what’s going on.”

Hot topics

In addition, Sims said robust discussions also considered USDA’s reorganization and how that process will play out for those who utilize USDA services. 

“Nothing is certain with USDA’s reorganization, but there was some speculation on what will happen in USDA,” he said. “We had good conversations.”

Urban agriculture was also an important topic for NACD during the meeting. Sims explained a big push for urban food markets, urban gardens and other similar concepts has been seen lately. 

“In Wyoming, we don’t see this push,” he said. 

Sims continued, higher return on conservation dollars can be seen with rural projects, but he also recognizes the importance of teaching urban areas more about food production. 

“We believe we can spend a lot of money growing a little bit of food in urban centers, or we can put the money toward growing a lot of food in commercial agriculture settings,” he said. 

A variety of agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA and U.S. Forest Service all provided updates, as well. 

For Hinkhouse, meeting with forestry groups were also important. 

“I represent the Southwest on NACD’s Forestry Resource Policy Group, and we met to focus on forest stewardship plan and how those plans can be most effective for landowners,” she said.

Education opportunity

In addition to policy conversations, Hinkhouse explained NACD also hosts outreach and education breakout sessions that cover a wide variety of topics. 

“These breakout sessions provide a really great resource,” she said, noting district employees are able to gain practical information and knowledge during the sessions. “We talked about everything from soil health to communications 101. These sessions are always a great part of NACD.”

Currently, NACD is focusing on soil health, Hinkhouse explained. 

“There is a big push to create soil health champions throughout the U.S. These champions are people who really work with the land day-in and day-out,” she said. “This initiative is landowner-based and provides great examples of things that can be done to improve soils in a way that’s applicable on the ground.”

Policy resolutions

During NACD’s business meeting, Wyoming’s delegation successfully took three resolutions that passed the board to be supported by the organization and guide policy work going forward. 

The first of three resolutions dealt with reform to the Historical Preservation Act. 

Sims said, “The resolution looked at dealing with reform to the act to make it more timely and less restrictive and get through the process of cultural resources and consultation of tribes.” 

A second policy said any wild horses gathered or collected on the range should be spayed or castrated, regardless of whether they were going back to the range or to adoption. 

“Then, the horses would be a non-reproducing segment of the population, which is hopefully more palatable to wild horse advocates than slaughter,” Sims explained. 

“The final resolution was to emphasize state primacy over wildlife that are not designated under a congressional designation,” he continued. “The wildlife are owned by the state, and there have been a number of court cases that continually erode primacy over things like wildlife. We feel like this needs to be addressed by the government.” 

For example, government entities are exerting influence over species like sage grouse and Bighorn sheep, though the species aren’t regulated by Congress. 

“We were really happy to see these resolutions pass,” Sims said. 

“Overall, we had a really good mix of district employees and supervisors from all across Wyoming,” Hinkhouse added. “It was a good meeting.” 

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..

Reno, Nev. – Representatives of the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) represented the state’s 34 local conservation districts in the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) Annual Meeting, held Jan. 31 to Feb. 3 in Reno, Nev.

The NACD Annual Meeting brings together top conservation leaders from across the nation for educational sessions, workshops, networking and national awards recognizing leaders in conservation.

“This annual convention is an important venue for our issues from Wyoming and our fellow western states to be discussed and policy to be established,” said Shaun Sims, WACD president.

Resolutions

A highlight of the 2016 meeting was passage of a key resolution that Wyoming has been working on for several years.

“We worked with our counterparts from Kansas and several other states to see the successful passage of a policy resolution opposing the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule,” said Brian Lovett, Wyoming’s National Board delegate. “Having recognition across our organization of the challenges the WOTUS rule will present in implementing conservation and management practices is very important to us.”

WACD Executive Director Bobbie Frank noted that Wyoming brought a similar resolution last year, but it failed.

“We already had policy that opposed the expansion of jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act, but this resolutions strengthened that,” Frank said.

The resolution reads, “NACD supports the repeal of the WOTUS rule through the legislative process through U.S. Congress and supports efforts to gain judicial relief for the WOTUS rule.”

Frank added that WACD also shared examples of overreach that are already going on.

“During the convention, there were a number of resolutions that were addressed, but many didn’t have an impact on Wyoming,” she said.

Honors and education

Also during the event, WACD received recognition on several fronts.

“Shaun Sims finished his term and went off as an executive board member,” Frank commented. “He was recognized for his service.”

Wyoming’s programs for district training were also recognized by NACD during the event.

NACD also featured a number of informational presentations, of which Wyoming speakers presented several.

Frank spoke during one of the break-out sessions, describing the Pathway to Water Quality project, and WACD’s Cathy Rosenthal presented on the categorical Use Attainability Analysis that Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality released.

“Cathy talked about how we helped DEQ with field verifications and worked collaboratively with them,” Frank explained.

Sessions

Congressman Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) kicked off the Feb. 1 general session with a Nevada welcome address, and change management consultant and motivational speaker Michael Tchong served as the session’s keynote speaker. A Leadership Luncheon that day featured remarks by National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson.

A General Session on Feb. 2 included presentations from U.S. Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller on their work to build the legacy of natural resource conservation and the importance locally led conservation has had in those conservation efforts. 

The sessions also featured a special video address from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who mirrored Weller’s emphasis on the importance of local leadership to get conservation on the ground and the value of creating and sustaining partnerships at the local, state, regional and national levels.

The session concluded with a panel discussion that featured the National Conservation Planning Partnership Leadership Team. The panel shared their vision for the future of conservation planning and the work already underway in an effort to reinvigorate conservation planning as the foundation for voluntary conservation delivery.

Saige Albert, managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, compiled this story from several sources. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

New Orleans, La. – From Feb. 1-4, 12 of Wyoming’s leaders in conservation traveled to New Orleans, La. for the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) annual meeting. 

Nearly 900 attendees represented 58 states and territories at NACD’s annual meeting.

“NACD convention was a great opportunity for conservation leaders to meet with leaders from neighboring states and partnering organizations to discuss natural resource issues,” said Travis Hakert, Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) board member from Gillette. “Wyoming’s issues included Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS), the Endangered Species Act (ESA) – specifically sage grouse – and wild horse and burro management, among others.”

Award winners

Conservation districts from across Wyoming were represented at the convention, and WACD was recognized for its efforts throughout the year. 

“Wyoming was honored at this year’s convention with two awards of recognition,” Hakert said. “The first was for paying 100 percent of our dues from 100 percent of conservation districts in the state to NACD.”

The second award recognized the state of Wyoming for having exemplary standards for their district supervisor and employee training program.

Wyoming representation

In addition to representing WACD, Hakert serves on the NACD Board of Directors and sits on the Legislative Committee. 

“The Southwest Region of NACD passed a resolution on the WOTUS rule to ask for a withdrawal of the rule,” Hakert explained, noting that Wyoming is joined in the Southwest Region by Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah. “It also passed unanimously in the Pacific Region.”

The Pacific Region includes Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Guam, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa.

However, Hakert noted that the resolution was not passed out of the Legislative Committee at NACD because some members felt that current NACD policy already achieved the goals of the resolution. 

“We were really trying to pinpoint a withdrawal with the policy,” he continued. “EPA is still working on the WOTUS rule, and NACD is on record to oppose any further expansion of the jurisdiction by the EPA .”

Meeting highlights

“The highlight of the convention was a special presentation given on the Mississippi River Restoration and Conservation Efforts by Major General Michael Wehr, commander of the Mississippi Valley Division of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. 

“One of the great things about these meetings is that people come from all over the U.S.,” Jennifer Hinkhouse, district manager of the Campbell County Conservation District, who also attended the meeting, said. “We get to hear about projects that are of national importance but are also important to the state we are visiting.”

Hinkhouse noted that, while each project solves unique challenges and each individual location is different, there are applicable aspects that can be used. 

“Even though every project is different and has issues that we might not see, there is always some aspect of the project we can take home, and we can utilize what they are doing,” she added.

Breakout topics

During the meeting, a number of breakout sessions were also held, highlighting topics ranging from water management and soil health to the Farm Bill. Conservation district and industry professionals from throughout the nation taught these sessions.

Hinkhouse presented a breakout session titled, “Generating Success Through Partnerships,” in cooperation with Jonathan Sloan, National Wild Turkey Federation forester.

“We talked about building capacity through partnerships from a money standpoint to do different projects, as well as creating partner positions,” Hinkhouse explained. 

She further explained that partnerships to improve capacity include opportunities to partner with non-governmental organizations and, in some cases, even federal agencies like the Natural Resources Conservation Service. 

“It was a well attended workshop, and there were some great questions,” Hinkhouse said. “We are always happy to help and share information.”

“This was a really good convention,” Hakert added, “and we had great representation from around the state.”

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..