Katherine Merck: Cowgirl Legal Intern

We have welcomed another intern into the WSGA office in the last week. Katherine Merck, a law student who also happened to be Miss Rodeo America one year ago at this time, has joined us as a legal intern.

Hello, everyone! My name is Katherine Merck and I am thrilled to be joining the Wyoming Stock Growers Association this summer as the legal intern. I am a native of Spokane, Washington and current law student at Gonzaga University School of Law who fell in love with Wyoming – since my first trip to Cheyenne Frontier Days in 2014 I’ve made a trip back to the Cowboy State every year and I find a reason to stay a little longer each time!

IMG_8394The sport of rodeo inspired both my love of Wyoming and my passion for agriculture. I held the titles of Miss Spokane Interstate Rodeo 2014 and Miss Rodeo Washington 2015 before becoming the first Washingtonian to wear the Miss Rodeo America crown in 2016, an opportunity that allowed me to travel all over the country to represent rodeo and advocate for our Western way of life and the agriculture industry. I continue to be actively involved in the rodeo industry and I love any reason to be outdoors, whether it is riding my horses, fly-fishing, skiing or snowboarding.

Before pursuing my law degree, I earned a double major in finance and medieval studies from the University of Notre Dame (our WSGA Executive Vice President Jim Magagna is also a Notre Dame graduate – Go Irish!). After graduating from Gonzaga this coming December, I hope to further my goal of promoting ethical justice in the areas of land use, water rights and agricultural estate planning. I plan to help famers and ranchers protect their land and way of life by assisting in the succession of land to the next generation and ensuring a viable future for our agricultural industry.

I have already learned more about these areas of law and their practical application in my first two weeks in with the Stock Growers than in two and a half years of law school! My first day on the job was spent on the Garrett Ranch outside of Casper setting up for the Environmental Stewardship Tour. The Garretts were awarded the 2017 Leopold Conservation Award for their active stewardship of their land and I enjoyed learning IMG_4185about the various projects they have implemented in conjunction with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to combat cheat grass and prevent significant erosion into the North Platte River as well as the opportunity to meet members of our ranching community and discuss some of the legal issues that they face in their operations. I finished up the week diving headfirst into Wyoming’s statutes to analyze several brand inspection and transfer issues with Jim’s guidance before heading back to Casper this week for the Select Federal Natural Resource Management Committee and Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee meetings.

The dedication of the Stock Growers to protecting agricultural interests in Wyoming inspires and encourages me to dedicate myself to this industry. I am looking forward to learning more about public land use and the statutory and political issues that ranchers face. I enjoy the financial and practical aspects of estate planning and I am excited to learn about the University of Wyoming’s Wyoming Agriculture & Natural Resource Mediation Program. I have a newfound passion for advocacy, administrative law, and lobbying already and I am thrilled to be able to learn from Jim’s expertise in these areas and expand my understanding of Wyoming ranching and the law. I am so grateful and excited for the opportunity to learn and work in my chosen field as the Wyoming Stock Growers Association legal intern and I am looking forward to a productive and educational summer!

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Katherine at the 2016 Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo

 

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Al Simpson, Katherine, Liz Cheney, & Dick Cheney

Intern Noah Schick’s Stewardship Tour Experience

This week was pretty sleepy. We irrigated and did various repairs around the Ranch. A bird had built its nest in the irrigation pipe, so the built up pressure almost blew the pipe apart, but we cleaned it out and took care of it.

We continued repairing fences that had been blown over in the storm a couple weeks back. This ended up being more difficult than we would have liked. First we tried to move them by hand, but they were too heavy. We tried using four wheelers to drag them, but again they were too heavy. Ultimately we ended up using the Backhoe to roll and drag them.

I took one afternoon to put up fence reflectors all along Red Canyon Creek. The fence reflectors are meant to help prevent birds and other animals from running into fences and injuring themselves.

On thursday John Coffman from the nature conservancy, Austin Rempel my fellow intern and myself attended the Environmental Stewardship Tour in Casper Wyoming, where we got to learn about various projects happening at the Garrett Ranch.

This years Leopold Conservation award was given to the Garrett Ranch for Pete Garrett and his family’s voluntary conservation efforts. The Environmental Stewardship Tour gave ranchers from around Wyoming the opportunity to come and learn about these conservation efforts directly from the Garrett Family.

The tour started off with a power point presented by Pete Garrett and members of the Wyoming game and fish department. They discussed two projects. First was an effort to install imitation beaver dams to prevent erosion of stream banks. They airlifted Aspen wood to create the beaver dams. They also used Christmas trees to try to slow the sedimentation of the stream beds.

They also discussed an effort to use pesticides to eradicate cheatgrass in several large fields.

We ate lunch and then piled into school buses for the actual tour. We learned about a variety of efforts to improve the land there and help preserve wildlife diversity. I was personally most interested in the Controlled burns and artificial controlled burns. They burned thousands of acres to rejuvenate the soil by returning plant matter into the soil. They also used a method involving a rodo tiller like tool to chip brush and incorporate it into the soil. They did this in a maze of 30 yard or so sections. This pattern was important because it allowed them to comply with regulations so it would not be considered a disturbance. It also let them catch a lot of snow drift and so it improved water retention.  They also said that this pattern of intermittent grass and brush was helpful to the local deer population.

Jedidiah’s Detailed Environmental Stewardship Tour Report

The Garrett Ranch is nestled in the sage-covered hills about 30 miles out of Casper, Wyoming. This family-owned ranch has been in operation for 80 years. The ranch is home to cattle, horses, pronghorn, deer, and other wildlife. The Garrett’s land is comprised of both irrigated hay meadows and non-irrigated rangelands along the North Platte River. Their exceptional stewardship of their land earned them the 2017 Leopold Conservation Award.

One accomplishment that deserved this recognition was the reduction of sediment flowing into the North Platte River. In the Bolton Creek area, the soils are comprised of easily weathered clays. Rainstorms or spring runoff are extremely detrimental to these soils, making huge gullies where the water runs. This soil ultimately ends up in the North Platte river as sediment, altering the course of the river and reducing the quality of fish habitat. To remedy this, the Garrett family worked with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to build dams in the creek to catch the sediment. They hauled aspen trees that had been logged on Muddy Mountain, and relocated beavers to the Bolton Creek area. In addition to the beaver’s efforts to dam the creek, the Garretts also installed manmade dams to catch sediment. The efforts were a success. Not only did the amount of sediment in the river decrease, the water level was raised so that the floodplain and the surrounding trees could utilize the water again. Additionally, the manmade dams caused the water to remain flowing and free of ice in the winter for livestock water. Although the water conservation efforts of the Garrett family somewhat expensive, they were very effective and made a positive impact on the environment.

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3 of our Wyoming Stock Grower 2017 Range Land Interns: Tyler Flatt, Jedidiah Hewlett, and Andrew Mainini at the Garrett Ranch.

In addition to the work done on their waterways, the Garrett family partnered with the Wyoming Game and Fish to improve their rangeland pastures and BLM allotments. They conducted several controlled burns to reduce the amount of sage brush and cedar present on the range, especially in the draws where water was more readily available. This effort did not destroy the sage grouse habitat, but improved it. Where the sagebrush canopy cover was reduced, more grass and forbs grew. These plants attracted more insects, which are of great importance to sage grouse chicks. The removal of sage brush also improved the mule deer habitat and allowed for increased cattle grazing utilization in the pasture. Due to the increased costs of conducting controlled burns on the range, the Garrett family implemented a new method of removal. Using a heavy-duty mulching head on a skid steer, they pulverized and tilled the sage brush underground in strips through heavy stands of sage. These efforts accomplished a more controlled removal of sagebrush, while reducing the cost and risk involved with controlled burns. The removal of sagebrush on rangeland and improving habitats is another reason the Garrett family was deserving of the Leopold Conservation Award.

The conservation efforts of the Garrett Ranch are truly noteworthy. Their dedication to land and water preservation makes for a bright future as younger generations take on the role of environmental stewards. Wyoming should treasure ranches like the Garrett ranch, and be thankful that ranchers like Garrett Family are established to provide a habitat for livestock, wildlife, and humans alike.

Andrew’s 5th Week at the E Bar U

Well it’s the middle of hay season and we have been very busy here at the E Bar U. While the hay is drying in the mornings we are constantly in a rush to do other chores such as check water, fill oilers, and move cattle that have wandered from their summer pastures before our hay needs to be turned and bailed. Oilers are basically mobile back rubs that are filled with a mixture of diesel fuel and a chemical called remedy, which is a type of fly control. By using these oilers, it is not uncommon to not see any flies on the cattle, even during the hottest part of the day.  This allows the cattle be more productive because they spend far more time grazing rather then fighting flies or sitting in water to keep them off. Decreasing the amount of flies will also reduce stress in the cattle. Reduced stress will lead to higher weight gains in immature cattle and promote a healthier herd.

I was also privileged enough to attend the 2017 Environmental Stewardship ranch tour at the Garrett Ranch Company near Casper, Wyoming. The Garrett ranch was a very impressive ranch that has taken a non-typical thinking approach to managing their resources.  One of those ideas was improving riparian areas by adding the beaver to the area and air dropping aspen trees in via helicopter as a food source as well as building material for their dams. The beavers were added to the ecosystem in hopes of reducing soil erosion by creeks and increasing flood plains in riparian areas to better distribute water across the creek bottoms.

Jedidiah Learns Outside of the Ranch

Weekly Work Summary- June 19-24, 2017

This week we finally licked the first cutting of hay. After swathing on three different days, we got the last meadow laid down. Although we were hindered by the fact that we blew two tires in the process. The first tire was on the swather tractor, so we swapped it out for the newer baler tractor. All went well until we needed to change the tractor’s computer from the 540 RPM for the baler to the 1000 RPM for the swather. After a call to the equipment dealer and pressing buttons MANY times to obtain the proper combination, it worked! The second tire that blew was on the swather, but luckily Mr. Perry had a new tire, so we were back in the field after we had the local tire shop put it on the old rim. This week we have had a pretty good breeze, which dried the hay quickly, but has made baling a challenge. We had to bale late at night or very early in the morning in order to get enough dew that the alfalfa wouldn’t turn to dust. After one good day of hauling, we got the previous meadow in the stack. All we have left to do is haul the bales off the last meadow and we will be done with haying for a month or so.

The weed control goats arrived on Monday and have been very content eating leafy spurge. We had to put a learning fence in the corral because they did not respect the boundary fence at first. It didn’t take them long to figure out that the electric fence was not their friend! We were also relieved to find that they are well trained and friendly. To bring them in at night, we just shake the bucket of grain and they come in by themselves!

The Perry’s and I attended the Wyoming Stock Grower’s Environmental Stewardship Tour on Wednesday. The tour was hosted at the Garrett Ranch outside of Casper, WY. Throughout the day, we listened to presentations about their recent projects with the Game & Fish Dept. and took a bus ride to see some of their work on the range land as well. Because of their outstanding conservation efforts on their land, the Garrett ranch received the 2017 Leopold Conservation Award.

On Saturday, I attended a grazing education field day by Dr. Blaine Horn from the Johnson County Extension office. The workshop was hosted by a ranch in Crook County on the Wyoming/South Dakota line. We for the first half of the day, we learned about range plant identification and range land soils. After lunch, we did some clipping and weighing to estimate the amount of production on the pasture, and completed an exercise to estimate the amount of forage eaten by a cow in day.

Jed Week 5 Pic 5Jed Week 5 Pic 1Jed Week 5 Pic 2

Intern Andrew’s Garrett Ranch Experience

All rangeland interns were present at the Garrett Ranch Environmental Stewardship Tour. Andrew Mainini took note of many interesting facts covered throughout the course of the day on the ranch.

The Garrett Ranch is located in Casper, Wyoming and is the 2017 Environmental Stewardship Award recipient. The Garret ranch is a family owned and operated ranch that works closely with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Together they have taken strides to ensure the longevity of the ranch as well as the natural resources that the land provides. Some issues they have had to taken steps towards repairing or controlling are erosion control, cheat grass control and further rangeland development.

The soil type on the Garrett Ranch is extremely erodible, especially in riparian areas across the ranch.  These areas are a cause for concern because as time goes by the soil in riparian areas begins to give way and create deep cuts in the stream banks form. To overturn this, the Garret Ranch has introduced the beaver back in to their ecosystem in the hopes that the dams created by the beaver will displace enough water to slow down the effects of excess water creating these deep cuts. One major problem in this is that beaver use aspen trees to create their dams as well as it is the main component of their diets. Aspen trees are provided to the beavers via helicopter drop on the Garrett Ranch. I find this management technique very interesting and would like to see the long term affects.Andrew Week 4 Pic 1

Just as many ranches in Wyoming the Garrett Ranch is in the constant fight with cheat grass (Bromus tectorum). To manage this, they aerial spray their ranch and they have made great strives against cheat grass. After visiting the ranch, it was extremely impressive to see the lack of cheat grass. I found it difficult to find any substantial populations of it.

The Garrett ranch is an area of prime sage grouse ecosystem and it holds a very high amount of birds. Being such a prime area, the ranch is very limited to the popular rangeland development techniques such as sagebrush removal and prescribed fire. To overcome this, they have started cutting swaths of sagebrush in small parcels. It is important to keep the sizes on these swaths under the rangeland disturbance size determined by the state of Wyoming. To cut these swaths, they use an implement that can be put on equipment and almost acts like a brush hog that can cut up enough sage brush to eliminate in from that area. In these swathed areas, grass production has increased and an abundance of wildlife can be found close to these areas as well.

After visiting the Garrett Ranch I was extremely impressed in the quality of their rangelands. I think erosion control is a topic often over looked by operations across the country. Erosion control, especially in riparian areas can ensure quality water distribution through out ranches and can increase productivity.

Tyler’s Take on the Environmental Stewardship Tour

Tyler Flatt had a very busy week, between keeping things in line at the Ladder Ranch and traveling to Casper for the Environmental Stewardship Tour and presentation of the Leopold Conservation Award, which was awarded to the Garrett Ranch. 

This week has been a little slower week than normal. Monday I disked and leveled the rest of the new hay pasture. I am glad that I am finally done with that. Tuesday, we woke up early to move cattle up to the forest then we left to go to Casper to go to the Environmental Stewardship Tour. Before we got there we had to go drop a bull off that had been escaping for a couple of weeks. After that we came back to Casper, had dinner and went to the hotel. On Wednesday, we went to the ranch and learned about their environmental practices and then we took the tour. After the tour, we went straight home. On Thursday and Friday we had our final dockings and they weren’t too big but they were about 800 lambs each. I am happy to be done with dockings and dealing with sheep. Saturday we moved some more cows into a new pasture and then I came back and just did some yard work around the ranch. Overall a productive week, next week we have more moving and we are going to start haying.

Moving cattle at the Ladder Ranch.

Tyler’s Environmental Stewardship Tour Report

It was interesting to see how many differences there are between my ranch’s landscape and the landscape of the Garrett Ranch. I thought that bringing in the tress for the beavers was a clever idea as well as the use of the Christmas trees. I think that if ranches thought more outside the box like this that they could accomplish more with respect to environmental stewardship.

The tour was interesting and I learned a lot more than when we talked about their projects. I really liked the idea of using solar wells. I have heard of these types of wells but never really understood how they worked or how effective they were. Another interesting fact that I learned was how much more expensive it was to have someone do a controlled burn than to use mechanical clearing. In Texas, you can become your own prescribed burn manager, it takes a while but you can do it yourself and it cuts down on costs. So I was thinking if Wyoming had a similar program, ranchers would be more inclined to use prescribed fire on their land if they wanted to. On the other side of that, in my area of Texas we don’t have to worry so much about invasive grasses such as cheat grass. We have mesquite tress, but they are not as bad as cheat grass so I can see where using a brush beater would be more beneficial. I also learned that by using the brush beater rather than fire it created better habitat for the sage grouse as well as produced better grazing for livestock so it was a more well-rounded practice. I feel like I could take this back to Texas to a prairie chicken refuge and show them how mechanical could possibly be better than fire in that particular area.

Overall I learned a lot of interesting and different environmental practices. It was fun to see ranching from a different angle. Where you can be a successful rancher as well as an environmental steward and how much easier it is than I thought. Also, it was amazing how much better this is for the wildlife and livestock when you work them together. I had a great experience and I am glad I got to be a part of it and learn new ideas and practices.

                  Tyler with a few fellow WSGA Interns.           Docking Lambs.

More Adventures at the Ladder Ranch for Tyler

Like the past few weeks, this week has been super busy around the ranch. On Monday a few of us went to a pasture to clean it up and brand a few cows that we missed the last time. Tuesday, we docked about 800 more sheep. We were shorthanded this day so it took quite a bit longer than usual but we were still home by 6 PM.

Wednesday, we went up and moved some cows into another pasture. My horse I was riding this day was being a little stubborn so we had to have a little lesson but then she was okay the rest of the day.  Thursday I spent all day disking a new field across the way. Sitting in a tractor all day got really boring and lonely, it’s a good thing it has a radio.

Friday I finished disking and started leveling the land. Saturday I spent all day leveling again. These were really slow days and it is surprising how tired I was even though I really didn’t do anything.  Saturday, I finished leveling in the morning and then brought up hay bales for the rest of the day. It was a pretty exciting week and I am looking forward to next week.

Tyler Pic Week 3-1

 

Rangeland Intern Noah Schick: Week 2 at the Red Canyon Ranch

This week John and I began surveying the pastures here at Red Canyon Ranch to see what percentage of grass the cows are grazing. The goal is to have them graze no more than 25%. We haven’t crunched the numbers yet, but it looks like Barot Slope pasture is well under this margin.

We had a couple of guests this week, including a soil science phd student from Yale. He took samples in Barots slope pasture to experiment with using a spectrometer in the field to measure soil carbon levels.

The Nature Conservancy also hosted a butterfly count on Friday. In the morning we had a group of about fifteen kids come to the ranch in order to catch and identify as many butterflies as we could. We caught about twenty different species of butterflies. We had another group come in the afternoon. We went to Sink’s Canyon for the afternoon, and again caught about 20 different species of butterflies.

 

Andrew: 1 Month in at the E Bar U

This past week marks the end of my first month on the E Bar U and I couldn’t be more excited about the time I’ve spent here as well as what the next couple months will bring. Hay season is in full swing as we are consistently busy cutting, raking, bailing and hauling from our fields. This is my first experience haying for a large operation and the amount of hay needed to carry operations through the winter amazes me. In just one day we hauled nearly three hundred bales and that filled a single stack yard. Where I am from in Texas three hundred bales is more then enough to get through our colder months. One important thing I leaned about haying is that the alfalfa hay must be cut before the weevil gets to it. A weevil (Hypera postica) is a beetle type insect that originated from Europe, this insect grazes primarily on alfalfa fields and can be known to destroy an entire alfalfa crop. Cutting the alfalfa hay before the weevil gets to it will ensure a quality hay crop.

Andrew Pic Week 4-2

This week we took a set of two year old first calve cows to their summer pastures. Before we trailed to pasture we sorted the steer calf pairs from the heifer calf pairs in the pasture. Once we gathered the pasture and pushed them to a corner, we then held the bunch and begun turning steer pairs back.  Having your steer pairs and heifer pairs in different pastures takes away some of the work when it’s time to ship in fall. Now, all that needs to happen when its time to shift is gather those pairs from their respected pastures and split off your big calves from your smaller ones and load them on the truck. Taking away the task or sorting heifers and steers in the corrals during shipping will lead to less stressed cattle due to that they will be worked one less step in the shipping process.

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