Letter to the editor

Dear editor,

The Crook County Natural Resource District is your local conservation district, and strives for community-based conservation for preserving natural resources for generations to come. The Crook County Natural Resource District (CCNRD) believes there is a direct relationship between stewardship, conservation and sustainability, and is focused on helping landowners retain control of land management, with as minimal federal oversight as possible. They are your local voice for conservation.

During the 1930s, the Dust Bowl created the need to conserve natural resources, particularly soil and water. Soon it became apparent that local leadership was needed to coordinate efforts and identify priorities. Thus, the State Legislature passed an enabling act in 1941 which established conservation districts.

A conservation district is a unique unit of local government, established under State law to carry out programs for the conservation, protection and sustainable use of soil, water and related natural resources. There is a misconception that conservation districts and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are the same agency: conservation districts are grassroots entities guided by local working groups, as opposed to NRCS, which is federally funded and federally managed.

Our local conservation district, referred to as the Crook County Natural Resource District, is primarily grant funded. The CCNRD and the NRCS work in tandem on specific projects. Both entities complement each with agency strengths, but do not duplicate each other in expertise.

As a conservation district, the CCNRD can utilize technical and educational resources from NRCS, as well as coordinate efforts to meet the needs of local land-users for conservation of soil, water and related natural resources.

Program development is guided by a five-member board of supervisors, who are elected during the general election. The board of supervisors is composed of three rural members, one urban and one at-large member, who serve voluntarily to represent each district and their natural resource concerns.

In 1987, the Wyoming State Legislature granted conservation districts the authority to tax up to one mill. Since that time, 23 of the 34 Wyoming conservation districts have obtained mill levy funding. The CCNRD does not have a mill levy and is not federally funded. They receive $45,000 of annual funding from the County Commissioners to operate minimal programs to address publicly identified programs and concerns.

The main obstacle challenging the CCNRD is funding restrictions for natural resource-based programs regarding the reimbursable process associated with grant funding. Landowners or contractors must complete projects and provide receipts before submitting reimbursement requests to the Board of Supervisors.

Unfortunately, the Board of Supervisors cannot sign checks to the landowners or contractors unless there is enough money in the CCNRD bank account to cover the checks…but the CCNRD cannot get reimbursed from the grant sponsor unless they have proof of payment to the landowner or contractor. Thus creating a challenging cycle of insufficient funds to bankroll projects.

The CCNRD will be asking residents for support on the August 21 primary election ballot by requesting mill levy funding. Mill levy funding will open doors for conservation opportunities and the CCNRD would no longer need to request funding from the County Commissioners.

Mill levy funding will allow the CCNRD to participate in cooperative agreements with federal, state and local agencies for the benefit of Crook County residents. Most importantly, secured funding will help the CCNRD develop and implement programs to conserve renewable natural resources and to have a stronger voice in State government to promote local interests. We appreciate your support. Please vote YES for conservation on August 21 during the primary election.

F.A. Bush Ranch

J.O. McDonald

Julie Wheeler

John Moline

Andrew Litzel

Philip Habeck