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Sheridan – With the knowing-doing gap between scientists and managers continuing to grow, Virginia Matzek from Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, Calif. notes that there are steps land managers can take to improve research available.

“There are things that I think managers can do better,” she comments. “I think managers can think experimentally and embrace the idea of getting quick and dirty data.”

By doing those things better, Matzek says steps could be taken to improve research done in the field by managers. 

“Is there a natural control that can be compared? Or is a mosaic of treatments present that can be used as feedback for other managers or scientists?” she asks. “When something happens on a ranch, we can figure out quickly the validity with quick experiments about what to do next.”

Three-fold approach

Matzek notes that early practitioner Sandy deSimone wrote a paper on restoration ecology in looking at what it means for managers to be involved in science and management.

“Her technique is three-fold,” Matzek says. “She looks at scientific literature, then does the quick and dirty experimentation to get an initial sense of where to go or to delineate options. The third step is the ecological intuition using her.”

Ecological intuition, she explains, is the experience of the manager on the land and their experience managing that particular landscape, including its response to treatments. 

Setting priorities

Matzek also looks at how managers can take an active role in setting research priorities.

“In our survey, we asked how managers would set research priorities by asking, ‘What research questions would you like to have answered so you can be better at your job?’” she notes. 

The huge variety of responses gleaned from the question were sorted into a handful of categories.

“We looked at basic science and applied science as our categories, but we also had a third category that we had trouble classifying at first,” she notes. “They were the trans-disciplinary, interdisciplinary or social science problems.”

The third category looked at political and social context behind management, including mandates from agencies and the political climates.

“The questions in the third category looked at dealing with the permitting burdens,” Matzek says. “Those weren’t the kind of questions I thought of answering myself. We, as scientists, need to make friends with the social scientists across the hall to answer these questions.”

Of the responses, 25 percent were categorized as trans-disciplinary, 30 percent were basic science questions and 40 percent were applied science questions.

Basic science

Matzek explains that basic science questions included those items that may help managers to predict what will happen in the future.

“These questions included, how are native and non-native plants going to respond to change, questions about nitrogen deposition and what happens if invaders are eradicated,” she says. “These topics are great, because, as an ecologist, they are right up the alley of theoretical restoration and response to change. If we know anything about community ecology, we could answer these questions.”

Managers, she says, are looking for these answers to aid in risk assessments and predictive management.

Applied research

In the realm of applied research, Matzek notes that managers are particularly concerned about the problems of scale in space and time from research. 

“It was very high on manager’s lists to have research that was across the same scale as far as acreage and time, as far as years, that management occurs,” she comments.

She continues that a review of the top 20 journals publishing the most invasive plant research was conducted. During the review, 347 articles were read and compared against a list of criteria to determine their relevance for managers. 

“The actual mix of articles is extremely heavy on the basic science,” Matzek explains. “It shouldn’t surprise us that the research in trans-disciplinary or social science is small.”

However, the basic science presented in journals lack explicit connections to management that rangeland managers were seeking.

Species interactions – or those things that ecologists like to study – were overrepresented in journals.

Improving both sides

“Scientists can do better to recognize and state explicitly the management implications of basic research, especially when doing predictive work on community invasion and change,” she says. “Managers, however, can also communicate their research needs to scientists.”

Matzek adds, “I think we can encourage professional societies to do a research needs assessment to look at the next 20 years of basic plant research and to get stakeholders concerns into the research agenda.”

Matzek spoke during the 2013 Wyoming Society for Range Management Annual Meeting, held in Sheridan. 

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.

 

Effective Date: 1/1/2012

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In the early days of 2018, the Wyoming Livestock Roundup’s staff traveled across western Nebraska, visiting farms and ranches, feedlots and agriculture industry stores, realizing Nebraska’s western ranches are similar to Wyoming’s southeastern corner.

The stories from across Nebraska’s Panhandle were collected in our 2018 Winter Cattlemen’s Edition, inserted in this week’s Roundup.

Nebraska’s Department of Agriculture says, “Nebraska’s agriculture has been described as an extensive and diverse industry with an abundance of natural resources. The landscape varies from large pastures dotted with feeding cattle to miles of rolling hills bursting with a wide variety of crops and everything in between.”

Nebraska is a leader in the U.S. in terms of agriculture outputs and ranks third in the nation for total livestock receipts. The state ranked first in beef and veal exports, commercial red meat production, commercial cattle slaughter, Great Northern bean production, all cattle on feed and popcorn production in 2016.

It also ranked second for all cattle and calves, pinto bean production, Proso millet production and bison.

“Cash receipts from farm marketing contributed to over $23 billion to Nebraska’s economy in 2015 and 6.1 percent of the U.S. total,” according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. “Nebraska’s 10 leading commodities, in order of value, for 2015 cash receipts are cattle and calves, corn, soybeans, hogs, chicken eggs, dairy products, wheat, hay, dry beans and potatoes.”

Find the 2018 Winter Cattlemen’s Edition, featuring western Nebraska inserted in the paper. Enjoy a glimpse inside the agriculture industry of Wyoming’s neighbor to the southeast.

Casper – At the 2013 Wyoming Stock Growers Association Winter Roundup, Tom Hirsig, Wyoming insurance commissioner, was brought in to explain the important aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Hirsig stated, “The facts are so misinterpreted, a person can’t make a good decision by just watching the media.” 

Hirsig was involved with insurance for the past 25 years or more before Governor Matt Mead appointed him as Wyoming’s insurance commissioner. 

The changes the ACA made to how the insurance industry operates are eliminating all lifetime and annual limits from plans. Also dependents can be kept on their parent’s plans until the end of the month that they turn the age of 26. 

Preventative care, such as colonoscopies and mammograms, will now be covered by the ACA as well. No longer will health questions be asked when applying for health insurance, either. 

“Health has nothing to do with health insurance anymore,” said Hirsig.

Wyoming’s high rates

The state of Wyoming experiences high, if not the highest, insurance rates in the country. 

Hirsig’s response to the question of why insurance rates are so high is, “We’re sparsely populated. There aren’t tons of doctors, and we don’t have tons of large hospitals that can provide large economies of scale as far as providing healthcare to people.” 

Medical loss ratio

The federal government also created a clause called the Medical Loss Ratio that makes insurance companies spend 80 percent of every dollar they receive from premiums on medical care and health care quality improvements.  

This ratio limits the amount of premium dollars spent on administrative costs. If, for any reason, the insurance companies do not spend the 80 percent, they have to refund it to their customers. 

“Insurance companies are very tightly regulated, even more so now than they ever have been as far as rates,” said Hirsig. 

Insurance rates

Since health is no longer a factor in determining a health insurance plan, insurance companies are relying on three factors to differentiate health insurance rates. 

The three factors are age bands, location rating and a tobacco use rating. 

Under the three to one age band, if the youngest population is charged $100 a month, the oldest population will be charged $300 a month. 

“That really drives up the rates for the younger population and brings the older population down incriminatingly,” he said.

Wyoming’s location ratings have been divided into the areas of Casper, Cheyenne and the rest of the state. The federal government determined the location ratings. 

Plans have also been made uniform in that citizens can no longer pick and choose what options they want with their plan. A single, 65-year-old male will have maternity and newborn care on his insurance plan, whether he likes it or not. 

“Health insurance premiums are going up because they deal with unlimited benefits, no health qualifications and they cover lots of expensive programs,” said Hirsig.

Insurance plans

The new insurance health plans have become very simplified and are ranked using metallic levels to describe them. 

The levels are platinum – the highest level where 90 percent of healthcare costs are covered, gold – covering 80 percent, silver, which covers 70 percent, and bronze, which covers 60 percent of costs. 

“This may simplify how people shop for insurance. They can gauge what they can afford and get a good idea what they will pay,” replied Hirsig.

Employers 

In 2014, employers will have to determine a group size to see if they have to provide insurance or not to their employees. 

The federal government determines a group size by full time equivalents. This is calculated by the number of full-time employees and the amount of hours they work in a week. 

“Part-time employees and any seasonal employees that have worked more than 120 days are also calculated into determining the full time equivalents (FTE),” said Hirsig.

Any employer over 50 FTE has to have insurance for all their full-time employees. There is no requirement for employers to provide health insurance if they are under the 50 FTE limit. 

Self-employed individuals will purchase insurance in the individual marketplace or outside the marketplace.

Enrollment

The enrollment period for the ACA is Oct. 4 to March 31, 2014. The annual enrollment after the first year will occur Oct. 15 to Dec. 7.

“We used to be able to buy health insurance whenever we wanted it. If we don’t have insurance today and if we don’t buy it by March 31, we can’t buy any health insurance until the following year,” warned Hirsig. 

To enroll for the ACA, people can visit healthcare.gov or call the consumer hotline at 800-318-2595. 

Wyoming also has technology specialists called navigators that can help. Navigators can be reached by calling 211 or visiting wyoming211.org

Fraud

Hirsig also warned about fraud and said people should not simply Google “Wyoming Healthcare,” as it is not the same system. Also, Hirsig mentioned that no one should be calling to try and enroll people into the ACA.

“When anything is this big and misunderstood and gets this much media attention, fraud is going to be rampant,” he commented.

Madeline Robinson is the 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..