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Portland, Ore. – According to Bob Skinner of Jordan Valley, Ore., Western Resources Legal Center (WRLC) came about because of a passion for defending the agriculture industry.
“I live in country that looks a lot like Wyoming – it’s high desert, and my family homesteaded there, and we have strong roots ranching in southeastern Oregon. I’m the fifth generation, and my grandkids are there now,” says Skinner, a member of the WRLC Board of Directors.
“I’m not an attorney, I’m a rancher, but I’ve been in the courtroom so many times over the years on some pretty tough things,” says Skinner, referring to battles with environmental groups over natural resources. “There’s no integrity coming from the other side, and that’s not where you folks want to be. It’s not where I want to be. It’s like lying against the ropes in a boxing ring and letting them beat on you. They can do whatever they want.”
“Cowboys don’t play offense very well, and that’s a fact. It’s hard to get cowboys to play offense – they play defense when they have to,” he adds.
That’s where WRLC comes into play, and its Executive Director, Caroline Lobdell.
“In brief, we are the nation’s first clinical program advocating for the natural resource industry at the law school level,” says Lobdell. “There are a lot of law schools in this country, and the majority have clinical legal programs, but the majority of those programs are designed to teach law students about regulating natural resource industries.”
“We are the first, and currently the only, program in the country that teaches law students how to advocate for natural resource industries,” explains Lobdell of the program that’s affiliated with Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Ore. “We are here to train a new generation of legal advocates that appreciates natural resource industries.”
Lewis and Clark Law School graduate and WRLC Chairman Steve Wildish was an integral part of getting the program off the ground and accepted into the law school.
“When I graduated from Lewis and Clark Law School in 1985 the environmental law program was just starting,” explains Wildish. “They were beginning their identity as a school specializing in environmental law.”
Through the years, the law school’s focus as an environmental law program began to build, and Lewis and Clark became recognized as the number one environmental law school in the country, and has remained in the top two for over a decade.
“That concerned a lot of us graduates. The school began to rely heavily on its environmental law reputation, and we began to wonder if we were missing something in the broader spectrum that falls under natural resources law,” says Wildish.
In 2005, that led to a group of alumni gathering together to start talking about a new type of natural resources law program. “In the beginning we thought it would be a law clinic, endorsed and receiving support and resources from the law school, but we found we were fighting a battle for establishment, even though we had people willing to step up,” notes Wildish. “They didn’t want us there. They thought a program focused on a client base of natural resource industries would tarnish their reputation as the number one environmental law program.”
After a year and a half working on the project, the center was established not as a law clinic, but as a separate 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
“Our curriculum description is a ‘clinical internship seminar,’” says Wildish. “What that means is we get to teach students practical legal skills and have a client base of natural resource users, which includes ranchers and farmers. We also help out the mining and timber industries.”
Lobdell says WRLC was told it wouldn’t get any students, they didn’t exist, and nobody would want to work on the natural resource industry side of things.
“I got a little nervous, because I set a deadline and the day before I didn’t have a single student application,” she says. “Two hours before the deadline I got nearly a dozen applications for the first year, when we could only take three or four students.”
Now WRLC takes 16 applications per semester, from students who want to learn how to advoate on behalf of natural resource users. “That was a huge win for us,” says Lobdell.
WRLC also accepts applications for legal assistance. “We aren’t on the front grounds. If you have a neighbor, or yourself, or know someone who needs legal assistance in these areas, we’d like you to contact us so we can evaluate the case as potential for us and our students to work on,” says Lobdell.
WRLC works on cases that involve the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, administrative permitting processes, administrative comments, U.S. Supreme Court briefs and the sage grouse case in Idaho. They’re also heavily involved in National Forest grazing cases in Oregon, representing multiple cattle organizations and individual ranchers.
“We don’t charge for services, because we’re a non-profit educational organization, so we’re very limited on the cases we can take, but we want to help everyone we can and we’re able to,” says Lobdell.
Wildish says he believes the only way to make a difference is through education. “The most polished representatives of what we do at Western Resources are our students,” he continues. “It’s because of them we can provide balance in education at Lewis and Clark Law School. We’re extremely proud of what we do, and we think we’re making a little difference.”
“When they go out in the world of private practice, you want an attorney working for you that respects your industry and understands you. These kids are coming out with that – they don’t have to figure out you’re not these terrible people because you’re in natural resource industries,” says Wildish of the program’s graduates.
“Our student evaluations are over the top, we get amazing feedback and our students end up getting jobs working for industries like agriculture,” says Lobdell.
“They’ve been playing the game for 50-plus years, and we’ve been at home making a living,” says Skinner of the litigation action by environmental groups. “We need to get with it and start grabbing young people and showing them what we do and that resource use is right, and telling them the other side of the issue. We’re trying to turn some attorneys out to defend our industry, and those attorneys turn into judges and then district judges.”
Lobdell expresses the hope that the University of Wyoming would step forward with a movement toward a natural resource law program, and she says WRLC has talked with Steve Easton, Dean of the UW Law School.
For more information on the Western Resource Legal Center, visit or call 503-222-0628. The Center’s representatives visited Wyoming to speak at the Wyoming Stock Growers Association summer convention in early June. Christy Hemken 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..

Laramie – After 50 years of Extension and education work, 37 of those years at the University of Wyoming (UW), Associate Professor of Rangeland Ecology and Watershed Management Dan Rodgers is officially retiring from his position.

As he reflects back on his career at UW and his experiences working in Wyoming, one of the highlights for Rodgers has been helping students discover their passion for learning and rangeland management.

“Working with the students has probably been the most rewarding part of my career here at UW,” says Rodgers, “Especially trying to get them motivated and to get them to think that they’re going to school for themselves.”

Growing up

Growing up farming and ranching in north central Texas taught Rodgers many invaluable lessons in agriculture.

He explains that his father was pivotal in his education and love of learning.

“I was the oldest son and my dad tried to teach me everything he knew or heard, and he read a lot,” says Rodgers. “I tried to soak it all in.”

In school, Rodgers notes that he learned to be self reliant as his knowledge in certain topics rose above what his ag teacher could teach him.

“I made my own plant collection the first time I got interested in plants. My teacher just told me there was a book in the library I could check out on it,” he comments.

After showing his teacher his collection of grasses, Rodgers’ teacher had him teach the class about all that he had learned.

“That was probably my first attempt at teaching anybody. That led me to plan to go vocational ag,” Rodgers notes.

Ten days after graduating from high school, Rodgers began attending East Texas State College to obtain a degree in Agricultural Education.

Change of plans

As he was preparing to start the final year of his Agricultural Education program, Rodgers was given the opportunity to meet with a friend of his advisor about a graduate school program.

“He offered me support if I could start in January,” explains Rodgers. “So, I went back home and figured out how I could change that Ag Ed program and change to a general ag program, take about 22 hours that fall and could graduate in January.”

That January, Rodgers left to begin his master’s program in Range Management at Texas Tech.

“After 1.5 years there, I was done and trying to decide what to do, but that had been so good I thought, ‘Well maybe I should just keep going to school until I flunk out,’” he jokes.

While attending a range meeting in Wichita, Kan., Rodgers interviewed with several colleges for the PhD programs.

“Utah State University (USU) had a teaching assistantship available. I went home and married my girlfriend and off we went,” says Rodgers.

During the three years he was at USU, Rodgers gained experience teaching a variety of different courses, while also working on his research project.

Early career

After completing his PhD, Rodgers began looking for work closer to family in Texas.

“I saw a job for an Extension Specialist at Texas A&M University (TAMU),” says Rodgers. “I didn’t know what they did for sure, but I went down and interviewed with them.”

In September of 1967, Rodgers began working for TAMU as their third state Extension Specialist.

“That was fun for a long time except every biennium, the legislature gave us another area range specialist job and those guys all were working the good ranch country,” he laughs.

While he was able to do all of the youth work he wanted to and enjoyed working in east Texas, Rodgers decided that a career change was in order.

“I was spending more of my time doing budgets, plans to work and reports than I was range work,” Rodgers comments.

Wyo bound

After seeing a job advertised at UW, Rodgers applied to and interviewed for a position in the Ecosystem Science and Management department.

“I started to work here on June 1 of 1980, which is coming up on 37 years now,” he says.

For the first 11 years of his career at UW, Rodgers’ focus was primarily on Extension, with only a month of teaching and two months of research.

However, after losing several faculty members in 1991, Rodgers convinced the department head to switch him to a focus on teaching.

“He was tickled to death to get out of that bind, so I’ve been heavy teaching for nine months with two months of Extension that I can do in summer and then just one month of research time,” comments Rodgers.

“In 1996, we started the WyRED, which the Wyoming Resource Education Days,” he notes. “I’ve continued doing Extension work in the summer, workshops and youth camps, as well as identifying plants for people.”

Looking back on his career at UW and toward the future, Rodgers concludes, “It’s been real fun, working with students and working with ranchers and agency people all over Wyoming for 37 years.”

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..

Riverton – UW Instructional Technology Educational Specialist Stan Skrabut spoke about Evernote, a “high tech red book,” during the Fremont County Farm and Ranch Days in Riverton on Feb.9.
“I know as producers you’re everywhere. Maybe you’re in a field, or a barn. You could be milking cows, or downtown buying things. You could be looking at a fence or an irrigation ditch and have a thought on how to fix or improve it. You have these great ideas and thoughts, then off you go to another thing, and eventually wonder what it was you thought of earlier,” said Skrabut.
He suggested Evernote as a way to capture and organize these thoughts and ideas when they occur.
“Evernote is a piece of software that you can put on a smart phone, computer, iPad, etc. You can use it on many different devices. Number one in what I try to find when looking for a tool is that it’s easy. This isn’t tied to just a computer, or phone, and that’s good because I’m not always at a computer, and I want to be able to use it wherever I’m at. Another important part is it’s free, and free is good,” noted Skrabut.
He suggested starting with the website, where producers can download and install the program onto any devices they may have.
Once downloaded, the software can be used to collect ideas via typed or voice recorded notes, pictures, articles and links to websites, to name a few options.
“At a basic level you can click on new note, and type or copy and paste the information you want to record. Say you’re driving, well there is a little button I push, and it automatically starts recording my voice. Then I can save that, and when I’m home I can listen to my babbling,” explained Skrabut.
“In the case of using my phone, I can take a picture and email to Evernote. If I find a webpage, I can highlight text and with the click of a button send it to Evernote. I can forward emails necessary for specific projects to Evernote, and I can take pictures of receipts and send them to Evernote,” said Skrabut of some the ways the program can be used.
Information sent to Evernote can be sorted into folders by topic, date or any other personal preference. Searches by word or phrase can be done across all folders, bringing up anything pertaining to a specific subject, and making it simple to find everything that was previously stored relevant to that subject.
“Farmers and ranchers have their red books with all this information on cattle, fields, etc. in them. It’s a great book, but really hard to search through. This electronically allows you to record and search information, and Evernote will even search through pictures you’ve taken or copied and pasted into it,” explained Skrabut.
“This is a way to extend your red book, and include some of those things you don’t capture well with it. Pictures are an example – they just don’t fit and pretty soon your book is too thick.
“But, in addition to things that won’t fit into your red book, you can also put all the information you do record in it on Evernote. These include things like immunization records or other health issues. You can create a folder, or series of folders, based on tag numbers. Then as you keep notes, you will be able to search, chronologically, what you’ve noted about that animal because Evernote will time stamp each entry,” said Skrabut.
“The idea is to use this tool instead of writing something down and strategically placing it in a place where you will never find it again. Basically this is about collecting anything. There are different ways of going about it, but in the end it’s all put in one place where you can search and revisit it later. It is a tool that is very useful for me, and hopefully you can find a relevant use for it on your operation,” concluded Skrabut.
For more information on Evernote and a learning guide, visit 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..

Laramie – As interest in equine science at UW increased, Amy McLean, a Michigan State graduate, moved to Laramie to develop the equine science program and has seen great success in the last two years.
    “Before I came, there was no horse judging team and the equine management course had not been taught in several years,” explains McLean. “The only equine course being taught was Brenda Alexander’s course on equine nutrition and physiology.”
    McLean says she has been working on developing an equine science option for animal science majors by adding new classes and competition teams since she arrived at UW in August 2009.
Equine science option
    Along with equine management and equine nutrition and physiology, there are four additional courses available for students, and McLean mentions that they are always full.
      “The equine behavior and welfare course is a new course that we added this year,” explains McLean, noting equine health and disease, equine evaluation, advanced equine evaluation and equine behavior and welfare are also available.
    UW approved the equine science option on March 26, and two new courses, equine reproductive management and advanced equine management, were approved April 23.
    She adds that she hopes the program will build on the knowledge that students have coming to the university, particularly those who have transferred from a community college.
    “I’m hoping our program will not take away from the junior colleges, but will promote what they are doing and be the next step to complement their efforts,” McLean explains. “The last thing I want for this program is for it to be competition for Wyoming community colleges.”
    She also hopes to build a partnership with Wyoming community colleges to make more courses available to university students, noting, “Laramie County Community College (LCCC) already has two riding courses at the Hansen Arena, so we are hoping to utilize some of their man power to give credit to our students.”
Hands-on opportunities
    McLean works to ensure students have hands-on opportunities to continue learning about horses. Within the first two weeks of being at UW, McLean started a horse judging team to do just that.
    “The first year, I took students on a spring trip to the American Paint Horse Association contest in Fort Worth, Texas,” she says. “Our team was seventh overall. We attended another contest that trip and were fourth and fifth high overall.”
    McLean says their success was exciting, since they were competing against well-established schools with large programs.
    “The next year, fall of 2010, I competed students in the limited division, which is for students who haven’t judged before, and we had great success at the All-American Quarter Horse Congress,” says McLean, listing both individual and team accomplishments.
    The team posted scores high enough to earn them reserve champion status at the Arabian Nationals, with all four team members placing in the top individually.
    In just their second year competing, Fall 2011, UW’s judging team proved their ability once again with Stephanie Schroeder of Douglas, Ruth Uptain of Casper, Lacey Teigan of Laramie, Lisa Eckhardt of Watkinsville, Ga. and Corinna Slingerland of Lander competing.
    McLean says, “At the Congress, we won halter, Stephanie was high individual, Ruth was second high, Lisa was fourth and Cori and Lacey were in the top 15. As a team, we were reserve at the Congress.”
    UW’s impressive performance prompted a long-time coach from West Texas A&M to call the scores into question.
    “Actually, the scores were not right – they had left out the reasons,” says McLean. “When they added reasons scores in, all of our students moved up. Everyone was really shocked.”
    The following month, the team grabbed reserve champion honors at the American Quarter Horse Association World Show, losing to West Texas A&M by only one point.
    “As a team, they were so consistent and solid,” says McLean. “We were the only team that placed in every team event.”
    With their successes over the past two years, McLean says she is in the rebuilding phase now, because students are only allowed to compete one year in the senior judging division.
Learning experiences
    Aside from judging wins, McLean says her students participate in events around the state as well.
    “Our students ring-stewarded and scribed at the youth horse shows at the Wyoming State Fair and Colorado State Fair,” says McLean, noting that the opportunity is a learning experience as well. “It’s a really nice way to them to work with people who have judged a lot.”
    UW’s horse judging team also applied for a grant to teach horse judging and ranch horse versatility in Europe.
    “We were one of the few schools, aside from the big programs like Colorado State and Texas A&M, that were selected,” says McLean. “The American Quarter Horse Association is sending four of our students to Europe this summer.”
    To facilitate the program, McLean notes that community support has been helpful.
    “UW has two donated horses that came from Jackson Land and Cattle, and they have been used and are well-bred, well-trained horses,” says McLean. “We will use these horses to promote the university and allow students who don’t have access to a horse to ride and compete. I am so grateful for the donation.”
    UW also has two burros adopted from the Wyoming BLM and two mammoth donkeys that have been donated to further equine knowledge.
    To learn more about UW horse programs, visit or contact Amy McLean at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 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..

“We’re in the third year of offering an online ag business degree,” says Casper College instructor Marty Finch. “We saw a need to fill with the rural nature of Wyoming, and a lot of those rural people want to get degrees despite being place-bound.”
Finch says the program is open to anyone, but was originally targeted for more non-traditional students. “I have a student from Belgium in some of my online ag classes this fall. Some are in the military, and several are from outside Wyoming. There are also many mothers and wives in rural settings who are continuing their education with online courses,” notes Finch of his student base.
Casper College has also been in contact with Colorado State University (CSU), which is starting an online Bachelor’s of Ag Business degree. But, in order to be eligible students must have an associate’s degree. “This online program fits that requirement, and allows students to continue their education beyond an associate’s degree, should they choose,” adds Finch.
“We don’t offer a completely online ag degree, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen in the future. Casper and CSU are both doing it, and I think it’s only a matter of time before we offer one as well,” comments Northwest Community College Assistant Professor of Agroecology and Range Management Micah Humphreys.
He adds that Northwest offers online ag and equine courses, in addition to a number of “hybrid courses,” where students spend some time in a face-to-face classroom setting, but most of the work is completed online.
“Among our online classes are an equine nutrition course and a computers in ag course,” adds Humphreys.
Justin Wood is a traditional student who originally attended school on campus in Casper and is now completing his degree online.
“Rent and cost of living in Casper was a huge expense. I save a lot of money taking classes online. It gives me a lot more freedom in scheduling my days, too, and would make it much easier to get a part-time job,” explains Wood. “It’s much easier to find work when you don’t have to leave for a couple hours in the middle of the day to attend class.”
Cost per credit hour is the exact same at Casper and Northwest colleges, regardless of whether a class is online or in a classroom.
“One thing I don’t like is that to get my bachelor’s degree online, I have to go through CSU. Laramie doesn’t offer one, and the closest I can get is a Business Administration degree. There is a huge price difference between going online at Laramie versus CSU, and it bugs me that I live in Wyoming, but can’t get that degree here. I don’t know if Casper has any control over that, but it’s something worth considering if you’re planning to continue your education,” comments Wood.
To the best of Finch’s knowledge, Casper was the first community college in the state, and quite possibly the nation, to offer an online ag degree. He says in the first couple years it was a struggle to get everyone on the same page and ensure students understood what was expected, but he says this year everything “just clicked.”
“This year students just know how to get the job done. It used to take three weeks to get everyone lined out and on the same page, but the students this year are doing great. You have to be dedicated and able to utilize the learning styles compatible with online learning” comments Finch.
“With online classes you can learn as much as you want to in a lot of cases. I preferred attending lecture on campus, but I really like having the freedom to dedicate more or less of my time during the week to a class depending on how much I’m understanding,” notes Wood, adding that the quality ag instructors he works with also make online learning a positive choice.
“I haven’t had any teachers outside my ag classes offer a lot of assistance, but within the ag program my professors have tried to get to know the students and helped out and just care. If I have a problem I can email Marty and he will get right back to me within the day. His emails always have his phone number and you can call him with anything. He says you can call, and he actually means it. That’s a big help,” explains Wood.
At Northwest College students are exposed to additional forms of technology in classroom setting ag courses. Integrating the iPod Touch into an agroecology class allows students to access a variety of class-related information via the devices.
“Last year was our pilot year, and we used the iPod Touch in our agroecology course, which is a basic plant and soil sciences course,” explains Humphreys. “We used it as a study tool, lecture aid and to do quizzes and tests through our college website. We can also use it for remote lectures, which is great for students who are on the livestock judging team or involved in other school activities,” says Humphreys.
The program is popular with students, according to polls from last year. “The device is useful in so many ways – it has the world-wide web on it and a variety of education specific applications, several of which we used in the class. Students really saw it as learning a long-term skill they can continue to utilize throughout their college experience,” comments Humphreys.
In the Casper online program there are two ag professors backed by the entire Casper College Ag Department, which Finch feels is a positive thing.
“Todd Jones lives in Hyattville and he teaches some courses in the spring semester. It’s fun to have him involved because he is a specialist with a master’s in ag economics who has his own business. The students benefit from his business world experience and unique teaching style,” comments Finch.
Each professor can set up their class as they see fit, to an extent, much like in classroom-based courses. Finch uses a lot of forums and discussions in his classes, whereas Jones incorporates a lot of videos in some. Humphreys’ class structure is also very influence by access to the web, and he utilizes plant videos, pictures and notes in a variety of ways through the iPod Touch.
“There’s a huge difference in how teachers set up their classes, which can take some time to figure out,” notes Wood.
“I’m really considering continuing it. I will likely switch my major to Business Administration – I would much rather have a piece of paper on my wall that says UW and not CSU. I am also a Hathaway Scholarship recipient, and I don’t want to just not use those funds. I really enjoy the ag classes, and being able to spend more or less time on class work as I need too. I really love the freedom it gives me,” explains Wood.
“You have to be very self-motivated and directed to get this accomplished online. But it sure meets a lot of needs,” adds Finch.
“The skills students gain from learning how to properly utilize technology are a huge help to them down the road. Those skills are useful in so many ways in today’s world,” comments Humphreys.
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..