Sublette County Conservation District (SCCD) has had quite a year! But I under- stand that not all our constituents know just how much your local Conservation District does to promote conservation and best management practices of our natural resources within Sublette County. So, to wrap up the year, I thought it would be fun to look at all that SCCD has accomplished in 2021.
First off, for those who may not know, SCCD has the mandate to assist and promote the protection and preservation of public lands, natural resources, soil, water and wildlife; the development of water and prevention of floods; stabilization of the ranching and agriculture industries; protection of the tax base and providing for the public safety, health and general welfare of the citizens of Sublette County.
That said, the projects that come across our desk vary greatly. That is why we have several “programs” to address our local values and natural resource issues, which include Surface Water Quality, Wildlife Habitat, Trees, Education & Outreach and Range Management. Not to mention, SCCD often partners with federal, state and other entities to get conservation on the ground
through various grant opportunities. In addition, we work directly with private land- owners to understand the resources within the bounds of their property.
We are partially funded by the Sublette County Commissioners and managed by an elected board of supervisors. Our board keeps the SCCD on track, ensuring that we are meeting the needs of our constituents all-the-while addressing the natural resources concerns in our county as they arise. I don’t have enough column space to tell you everything so here are the highlights of 2021!
Surface Water Program
We collected surface water samples at 54 sites throughout the county, four times from April to November, plus we collected macroinvertebrate (bugs) samples at 27 of those sites. In addition, we acquired the necessary laboratory and field equipment to monitor creeks more effectively for E. Coli. We also initiated a water quality trend analysis, which is expected to be completed in the coming year.
Small Water Development Projects
The purpose of the Small Water Project Program (SWPP) is to participate with landowners in providing incentives for improving watershed condition and function. This year, we were able to sponsor four solar/tank infrastructures on existing water wells, four new wells with tanks and three irrigation structures.
Our Range Program is really focused on rangeland resilience and sustainability. We work with federal, state and local government as well as private landowners to promote overall rangeland health throughout our county. This year, we worked with several landowners to improve private land productivity through conservation plans and private land inquiries. We partnered with several different agencies and private land- owners to cooperatively monitor 21 grazing allotments (nine BLM, 12 USFS) and were funded three Rangeland Health Assessment grants which will help us work with partners to develop cooperative monitoring.
We also utilized management tools, like deploying the mobile water trailer to promote livestock distribution, deployed 3.5 miles of deferment fence to help rest or defer grazing and we acquired a range drill seeder for private landowners. In addition, we just acquired an aerator to help improve rangelands throughout the county.
Seedling Tree Program
Our Seedling Tree Program offered low-cost seedling trees and shrubs for conservation purposes. In 2021, we were able to move over 1000 trees/shrubs to the county. You can buy seedlings and planting supplies now on our website to get yours in the spring.
Wildlife Habitat Program
Our Wildlife Habitat Program is focused on implementing projects that enhance wildlife habitat since our county is critical for many wildlife species. This year, we hosted the One Rock at a Time: Slowing Rangeland Erosion Workshop to promote low-tech mesic habitat restoration. And, once again we offered the Great Conservation Idea Grant Assistance Program to pro- mote local conservation small projects.
A large part of the wildlife habitat program right now is converting fences to wildlife friendly. Hundreds of miles of fence have been inventoried and as funds become available, conversions can take place.
Education & Outreach
In addition to promoting conservation practices through our natural resource pro- grams, we also understand the importance of sharing conservation with the residents and visitors of Sublette County. Maybe you have read our monthly newspaper articles (like this one!), perhaps you get our quarterly newsletter, see us on Facebook, visit our fair booth or wave at us in the Parade of Lights in either Big Piney or Pinedale.
In addition to all this, we have partnered with BOCES to deliver Conservation Conversations in the spring and we have our annual Arbor Day event where we gave trees to students throughout the county. We got to interact with students in our schools through our Pen Pal program with our first- graders, Kindergarten Day at the Boulder Fish Hatchery and various teaching opportunities with our homeschooled students. Last but not least, we were able to hold the Spring Expo again this year, bringing in over 360 folks to learn about high altitude gardening.
Collaboration and Partnerships
In addition to all this, we are collaborators at heart. The only way we can get conservation on the ground is by way of working together. Our staff actively participate in the Upper Green River Basin Migration Corridor Fencing Initiative, USFWS/ Partners for Fish and Wildlife, Wyoming Range Mule Deer Project (Wyoming Game and Fish Department), JIO/PAPO Inter- agency Office, Roosevelt Post Fire Monitoring, Wyoming Conservation Exchange, Sublette County Invasive Species Task Force, Sublette County Forest Collaborative, Sublette Mule Deer Migration Task Force, WGFD Elk Feedgrounds Initiative and the Wyoming Big Horn Sheep Working Group.
Land Use Planning
And just when you thought our list of awesomeness couldn’t get any longer, we also had our hands in the complicated aspects of planning through our status as a cooperating agency, reviewing federal decisions, participating in the NEPA process at various levels, completing subdivision reviews or having an active role in the Coalition of Local Governments.
The SCCD is very active on behalf of Sublette County natural resources that afford us our lifestyle. It’s fun to reminisce the past year and see just how much we have accomplished on the behalf of the people and the natural resources we all hold near and dear.
What an honor it has been to serve Sublette County this year. Here’s to 2022!