June Msg from the WY State Conservationist

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June 30, 2015 • Natural Resources Conservation Service • Wyoming

State Conservationist Message
Astrid Martinez


WY Astrid2

June has been an exciting month. We have seen record-breaking precipitation in the state, we have visitors from all across the country, everything is so green and the birds are singing a happy tune. I want to thank my leadership team for taking over while I went home for a couple of weeks to attend to my dad, who was ill. It made my life easier while I was gone as I know I left everything in good hands.


I’d also like to thank Jennifer Hayward, district conservationist in the Pinedale field office, for coming to the state office and bringing her attention to detail and dedication to help Mary Schrader, assistant state conservationist for programs, in answering a data call for easements. Thanks to Jennifer, we were able to meet the deadline for this data call. 


Talking about visitors, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack and Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell conducted a roundtable discussion in Jackson regarding the economic and social contributions of recreation, and the importance of connecting people, especially youth, with outdoor experiences. 

WY Vilsack


Many local businesses, outfitters, county commissioners, Chamber of Commerce, and the Wyoming Governor’s Office were represented at the roundtable. Participants expressed their dependence on the use of Forest Service lands and resources to sustain local economies and keep businesses thriving in the Jackson area. Vilsack expressed his concern over the Forest Service’s budget and explained that over $1 billion per year is being spent for fire suppression, which is a huge portion of the overall budget. Consequently, this has resulted in a 38% reduction in Forest Service employees and 95% reduction in maintenance activities on the forest.

In the future, Vilsack (above center right) said he was going to request that fire suppression dollars be taken from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) budget, thus enabling Forest Service dollars to be used for other activities. NRCS Partnership Liaison Grant Stumbough represented NRCS during the Secretary’s visit.


WY Bianca Group


Soil Health Range Tour - Staff representing the national tech centers and the soil health team joined researchers and producers last week in Wyoming. The goal was to look at research sites comparing grazing management practice impacts on soil health related properties, and visit with ranchers on the challenges and opportunities they encounter when implementing these soil health practices. They viewed comparisons across three to four grassland ecosystems. Agricultural Research Service and university scientists provided presentations, and discussed soil health needs in rangelands. Sites visited include:

  • Central Plains Experiment Station-Nunn, Colo.
  • High Plains Grassland Research Station-Cheyenne
  • Marsh and Ellis Ranch Field Visit
  • Sun Ranch
  • PH Livestock Co.
  • Sims Cattle Co. Rock Rivers
  • Eisele King Ranch

Photo above, Bianca Moebius-Clune, director of the soil health division, at right, prepares to speak to the group at one of the sites.


Oversight & Evaluation Review - Eight field offices were visited (Thermopolis, Powell, Greybull, Sheridan, Gillette, Douglas, Lusk and Torrington) and the team reviewed conservation planning, planning and contracting documentation, resource concerns that are being treated and practice designs. They concentrated on two programs: Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program. The O&E team review found that:

  • District conservationists (DCs) understand and utilize the conservation planning process and what it is expected of them and the producer;
  • We have solid conservation plans;
  • Excellent planning maps;
  • Impressed with our new employees and their level of engagement, experience and confidence;
  • We were given kudos for our DCs having great communication and selling skills;
  • Impressed with the follow up with producer after practices were applied;
  • Impressed with area program managers and area resource conservationists and their level of involvement with field offices;
  • Impressed with out rigorous and strict application review process;
  • Conservationist assistant notes are better than most states but they recommended us to provide more detail;
  • They had some training recommendations for us.

We will receive the final report in the next month or so. At that point we will evaluate recommendations and findings and move forward with an action plan.


Some updates:


  • 72% of our funds obligated for the year
  • 100% obligations for the first sign up
  • Working on obligations for 2nd sign up
  • 3rd sign up last day to apply for AMA and EQIP SGI was June 19

Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) new pre-proposals due July 8.


Mary Schrader, assistant state conservationist for programs, will be monitoring Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program projects in July and August. Brian Jensen, state wildlife biologist, and Tomas Kamienski, wildlife biologist, are monitoring Wetlands Reserve Program projects.


Agricultural Land Easements:

  • 12 applications received for Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) and working on selections. These were due Friday, June 19.

Emergency Watershed Program (EWP): Due to the significant flooding in the state, we have requested funds from the national office for:

  • Exigency Projects: Requested $150K for Kaycee; Requested $240K for Lusk;
  • Non-Exigency Projects: Requested/waiting list for $3 million.

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) in Wyoming

Interest in Conservation Stewardship Program (general signup) has remained steady over the last five years. The 2015 allocation of 76,619 acres in Wyoming is 85% pre-approved with 2,214 acres approved at this time. The goal is to obligate all CSP general signup applications selected for preapproval by August 1, 2015.


Interest in renewing expiring CSP contracts for another five years is very high. Thirty-nine expiring contracts are in the process of renewal. It is still early in the process for the renewal signup. Approximately 207,647 acres are being considered for renewal. These contracts expire December 31, 2015. The renewal contracts will go in effect January 1, 2016.


Several storms within the last month have created flooding and stream bank stabilization problems. Flood events occurred the last week of May on the Powder River and Kirby Creek drainages. Flooding occurred the following week around Buffalo on the Clear Creek drainage and around Lusk on the Niobrara, Young Women and Old Women Creek drainages. Numerous stream bank and structure stabilization problems have occurred and EWP program funds have been requested. Currently there are three exigency projects that have requested funds and approximately $3 million has been requested to date on non-exigency funding.


The supplemental watershed plan was signed by the Chief on June 5. The design process has begun and will take approximately 15 months to complete. Tetra Tech, Inc., a nationwide engineering firm with an office here in Casper, will complete the design. The firm was contracted by the sponsors with funding through a cooperative agreement with the NRCS.


The state office engineering staff completed the Fornsturm Ag Waste facility.


Conservation Client Gateway was released to the public on May 27. This is an NRCS website which provides secure access to conservation plans, practice implementation schedules, financial applications and contracts, documents and payment information to producers. Instead driving to the field office, you can request assistance, sign documents and interact with NRCS staff from the comfort of your home.

  • Benefits: reduce the number of trips to field office to request assistance, track payments, and review your conservation plan.
  • It is voluntary. Any agricultural producer can sign up. In the future, it will be available to business entities and on mobile devices. To get started go to www.nrcs.usda.gov/clientgateway

Personnel Announcements

New Selections:

  • Casey Sheley, assistant state conservationist for management and strategy;
  • Blaise Allen, soil conservationist, Greybull field office;
  • Lee Simper, soil conservationist, Newcastle field office


  • Nick Biltoft, acting assistant state conservationist for field operations for the Rocky Mountain Area, June 16 to July 10;
  • Eric Schilt, acting district conservationist for Riverton field office, June 16 to July 10.


Dave Hovland will retire July 27. We will be honoring Dave with a farewell picnic on July 24 at Washington Park in Casper (Jefferson & McKinley Blvd, 4 p.m.). We are taking donations for a farewell present. Please send your donations to Jill Binette (Box 33124, Casper, 82602). If you are planning on joining us for the picnic, please bring an item to share.


By Grant Stumbough, partnership liaison


Wyoming Stock Growers Summer Convention – June 4 - 6

The Wyoming Stock Growers Association Summer Convention was held in Sheridan and the theme was “Nuts and Bolt of the Agriculture Industry” which highlighted the purpose and mission of various agencies and organizations and how they assist and support the industry.  Sage grouse was discussed at length in numerous committee meetings and at the general session. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) have released final environmental reviews for proposed land use plans on portions of public lands in 10 states across the West. The plans are now undergoing a 60-day Governor’s Consistency Review period and concurrent 30-day protest period, after which Records of Decisions will be signed. The land use plans focus on three key elements to include conserving the sagebrush landscape, controlling invasive species and managing encroaching development. Brian Jensen, state wildlife biologist gave an excellent presentation on the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI), which was well received by ranchers. U.S. Senator John Barrasso spoke to the group and will be working with other senators to introduce the Federal Water Quality Protection Act to strike a balance in state and federal management of U.S. waters and to effectively address the “Waters of the United States" rule, which is strongly opposed by many stock growers members. The convention focused on other issues, including predator management, wild horse management, big horn sheep intermingling with domestic sheep and agricultural labor issues. 


On June 17, NRCS hosted the 3rd quarter State Technical Advisory Committee  (STAC) meeting. Cheryl Mandich, American Bird Conservatory, presented information on Working Lands and the long-billed curlew. NRCS provided reports for the easement and sage grouse STAC subcommittee, Chuck Schmitt, state conservation engineer, discussed Dull Knife and there followed a roundtable discussion. For STAC minutes, click here.

High Plains Area Resource Update

By Jim Pike, district conservationist in Cheyenne field office


The 2008 Farm Bill contained a provision within the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) called Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP). The purpose of the program was to address aquifer overdraft across the continental United States. Priority areas were identified one of which was the Ogallala Aquifer, a portion of which exists in southeast Wyoming. Development of the aquifer for irrigation in Laramie County dates back to 1922 and by the end of the 20th Century, there were in excess of forty thousand acres being irrigated from groundwater. The declining water levels of the Ogallala are well documented by monitoring wells maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Wyoming State Engineer's Office. The water production and static water levels of most irrigation wells in Laramie County have declined since the 1980’s. Several attempts to address the aquifer overdraft have been attempted with little success.

In 2010, the Laramie County Conservation District and the NRCS field office entered into a partnership in order to apply for AWEP funds with the intent of retiring irrigation wells. The proposal for AWEP was accepted by NRCS Headquarters and funded for five years. The process for implementing AWEP was the same as EQIP and successful applicants received payments under practice 349 to permanently convert their irrigated acres to dryland crop or pasture. The first payment was made when the applicant had successfully petitioned the Wyoming Board of Control to abandon the existing irrigation water right on the contracted acres. The land was either seeded to pasture (practice 512) or a new conservation plan was developed for dry cropland. The wells were decommissioned (practice 351).


During the five-year period, 2,234 acres were enrolled in AWEP, which reduced water consumption from the Ogallala Aquifer by 3,351 acre feet annually. This equates into more than one billion gallons annually.

Meet Pathways Students

WY Jimenez2

Joshua Muñoz-Jiménez, High Plains Area Pathways student

"I am currently an agriculture sciences senior at Florida International University with a certificate in agroecology. I have experience in farm management and horticultural production, namely my time as a farm manager of a 2,000 acre fruit and bamboo farm in the heart of the Central American jungle. My expected date of graduation is May of 2016.

In Wyoming, I have been fortunate to learn about a field I was previously very unfamiliar with - cattle ranching. I have learned about grassland ecology and just the right amount of grazing necessary for such an ecosystem to thrive. Previously I would've thought that the grasses would thrive better onward without any sort of foraging on them, yet it is quite the opposite! Performing range inventories and site similar indexes has been very nourishing to my knowledge of grasslands and plant identification. While in Wyoming, I would like to increase my understanding of high-intensity low-duration grazing systems, as well as spend some time in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons."

WY Liz2

Liz Marie Navas Pachero, High Plains Area Pathways student

"I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, where I enjoy salsa dancing on the weekends, going to the beach every other day and eating some good mofongo. I am currently enrolled in my last year at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, where I am active in the American Society for Civil engineers and the concrete canoe team. Soon to be a civil engineer, I am following my big brother’s footsteps.


I have been working with the NRCS for 4 summers and I’ve enjoyed every single experience of it. I’ve had the opportunity to work in both area offices and the state office, meeting people all over the state and learning everything I can.


I’ve been able to experience the beautiful scenery and experiences that Wyoming has to offer. This is enough to start and check off my very own summer bucket list. I’ve visited the Tetons, Yellowstone Park, Mt. Rushmore and Devils Tower. I went to my first rodeo, first camping trip and got a hot air balloon ride at the balloon rendezvous. Still have a few to check off, like floating the river, riding a horse and fishing. Hopefully doing those this summer!

It has been a very different experience living in the State of Wyoming compared to a very small, very crowded island, but I’ve fallen in love with the big plains and mountain range. I feel very lucky to have had this experience and am eternally grateful to everyone that has welcomed me in the state."


Rocky Mountain Area Update

By Nick Biltoft, acting assistant state conservationist for field operations for the Rocky Mountain Area


With all the "actings," you might think you were in the middle of filming a low budget movie. Before RaeAnn Dubay completed her detail to Wyoming as “acting” assistant state conservationist for field operations for the Rocky Mountain Area (AC), she encouraged me to VOLUNTEER for a stint as “acting” AC. Now that I am “acting” AC, Eric Schilt is “acting” district conservationist (DC) for the Riverton field office. We have been working with Rocky Mountain Area staff, mainly Jim Haverkamp, “acting” area resource conservationist, to review and peer review Farm Bill program applications. During my acting stint, I have continued to peer review a few applications. With Jim Mischke, DC for Thermopolis, out of commission for a while with knee replacement surgery, Dawn Peil is “acting” DC, except for this week, where Holden Hergert is “acting” for the “acting” DC.


Also, Rigo Lopez, newly selected AC, was in the west area for his house hunting trip, as well as the Oversight and Evaluation review last week. Several of us got to spend some time with him and we look forward to his arrival and first day of work on July 13. 


WY Don Kessler

 Many of us were sad to hear of the passing of Don Kessler on June 11 after a short battle with cancer at the age of 64. Don worked for more than 30 years for the Soil Conservation Service/Natural Resources Conservation Service in various positions around the state. He loved Wyoming. Being a NATIVE of Wyoming was a sense of pride. I would kid him now and then, saying, “Yah, but you were born in Nebraska (Scottsbluff)!” To which he countered, “Only because I had too!” He never wanted any attention so his last wishes were no memorials or funeral. For those of us who knew him, that was typical Don Kessler.


I emailed a local Riverton producer with the news of Don’s passing and this is what I got as a reply: “Thanks for sending me the obit. Sad to receive, but good to know. I often think about Don. He spent a lot of time encouraging me to “think sprinkler,” and we still continue marching along that path. From zero acres sprinkled to over 90%. I’d like to be able to take credit for all of the good ideas, but the reality is that Don and many others contributed mightily.”

Above photo is of Don Kessler from October of 1996. I was cleaning out some electronic files and found it the other day. Midvale Irrigation District was stock piling larger than normal pipe around the Sand Mesa Pipeline project route, and I wanted to take some pictures. Being the pipe was so large, I wanted something for reference and Don volunteered - almost even “hammed” it up.


This is how many of us who worked with Don over the years will remember him: wearing a brown and gold jacket, with hoodie inside, cap, and aviator sun glasses.

Salinity Management for Soil and Water

by Roger Stockton, state agronomist


Salt is usually given to mean sodium chloride, but other salts also occur in the western United States. Salts come from the local geology, primarily shale and sedimentary mudstone. Salt is a greater concern in the west due to precipitation isn’t great enough to leach salt below plant root zones dependably, as is generally the case in areas receiving more than 16 inches of annual precipitation.


In dryland or rain-fed agriculture, salt shows as white scaly areas in low spots or wetlands. Salt moves with water and is deposited on the surface as the water evaporates. The water can move overland or below the surface through conductive soil layers. The reason “extra water” is available to move salt to the low spots is fallow cropping systems. The area developed under native prairies, which used all available water each year while fallow doesn’t use water in alternate years. The hilltop and hillside fallow is the recharge area for the saline seep at the bottom of the hill. Frequently, the recharge area is hundreds of acres while the seep is 5-10 acres. Leaky irrigation canals can also serve as recharge area. Treatment for the problem is to remove nearly all cropping system fallow from the recharge area or re-vegetating the area in native grasses and forbs.


In irrigated agriculture, salt can come with the irrigation water, depending upon its source, in addition to naturally occurring salt. If a salt problem is suspected, thorough soil and water analyses are the first diagnostic tool.


One management option is to change crops to a more salt-tolerant crop; barley and sunflowers are two of the more tolerant species.  Another option is to over-irrigate the crop above its water requirement to leach the salt below the plant root zone, a technique known as adding a leaching fraction to the amount of irrigation. This is somewhat practical with furrow or flood irrigation because a large volume of water is applied quickly, although the lower third of the field is typically under-irrigated and salt may continue there.  Sprinkler and micro-irrigation are more difficult to add a leaching fraction to because of lower application volumes. Be aware that leaching salt will also leach nitrates, leading to a whole different set of environmental issues.


A related, but different problem is an over-abundance of free sodium or sodic soils. This is sometimes referred to as alkali soil because it is high in carbonate and bicarbonate, which binds to calcium removing it from solution, which leads to too much free sodium. This causes the clay particles to disassociate thus disrupting pore space and water infiltration and making the soil seem hydrophobic. Sometimes an application of gypsum will correct this situation. However, this affects the chemical balance in the soil and needs a complete soil analysis to ensure correct treatment.


Most of these problems are treatable, but there is a lot of site-specific chemistry involved. Get complete soil tests and consult an expert. Remember, soil is a living ecosystem with physical, chemical and biologic systems interacting to function. It takes years for the system to fully respond to change, but improvement can be seen yearly. Consult a soil-health professional for additional advice.

Wyoming Conservation Innovation Grant Update

Implementing a Conservation Exchange for Wyoming

By Kristiana Hansen, assistant professor and Extension water resources economist

Dept. of Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Wyoming


Project Partners:

  • Sublette County Conservation District
  • Natural Resource Conservation Service
  • Wyoming Stock Growers Association
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • University of Wyoming

    For many years, landowners in the Upper Green River Basin, working with the Sublette County Conservation District (SCCD), have been discussing ways they might generate revenue from conservation practices that provide social and natural resource benefits beyond the ranching community. From these initial conversations has developed a multi-institutional partnership focused on establishing a conservation exchange in Wyoming.[1]


Conservation Exchange Concept

A conservation exchange is an innovative way to provide private-market financial incentives to landowners for engaging in environmentally beneficial activities. Through such a program, landowners implement practices on their land that generate measurable conservation outcomes to maintain or enhance wildlife habitat and water resources. As such, they are the “sellers” in the exchange. Examples of practices include grazing management and irrigation practices and timing. The revenue that landowners receive can help keep their ranches in operation. The “buyers” in the exchange will likely be energy companies seeking off-site mitigation for impacts from their energy-development activities that cannot be avoided or reclaimed otherwise. Buyers may also include local/national conservation/environmental foundations and others looking for ways to support the high-quality recreational and environmental amenities that characterize Wyoming.


A conservation exchange can provide a new revenue stream to keep family ranches in operation and ranch-based communities thriving in a changing economy. It also provides financial incentives for landowners to support wildlife habitat and local riparian processes so that they flourish alongside human communities. To the extent possible, the conservation exchange focuses on rewarding not conservation practices but measurable outcomes.


Current Status

The Upper Green River Conservation Exchange is located in the Upper Green River Basin of Sublette County, where local landowners and natural resource managers have identified three ecosystem services as being of particular interest: greater sage-grouse habitat, mule deer habitat, and hydrologic services. We are currently working to develop pilot transactions and ecological assessment tools for these three ecosystem services.


Project partners are also scaling the sage-grouse habitat portion of the Exchange up to the state level, to provide greater protection for sage-grouse across Wyoming. This effort is called the Wyoming Conservation Exchange. Because the greater sage-grouse is a candidate species under the Endangered Species Act, state and federal regulatory agencies are paying close attention to the market protocols and the sage-grouse habitat quantification tool, to ensure that conservation undertaken through the Exchange will result in net benefit to the species.


The Wyoming Conservation Exchange will be a 501c3 non-profit entity governed by a stakeholder Board of Directors. The Upper Green River Conservation Exchange will be a local advisory group established under the umbrella of the Wyoming Conservation Exchange. We refer to both programs collectively as the Exchange. We are currently working to operationalize the Exchange, so that it will function as an active marketplace.


Current Activities

  • We have made significant progress in developing market protocols and tools to quantify changes on the landscape that would result from conservation. Latest versions of these documents for greater sage-grouse habitat are available for download from our website: http://www.wyomingconservationexchange.org. 

  • We are developing pilot projects for greater sage-grouse habitat, mule deer habitat, and hydrologic services on the ground in the Upper Green River Basin. These projects will demonstrate proof-of-concept for the Exchange. They will also help us to refine the market protocols and quantification tools, to make them as functional for stakeholders (potential buyers and sellers, and regulators) as possible. Initial pilot transactions for sage-grouse habitat, mule deer habitat, and hydrologic services are focused in the Upper Green River Basin.  

  • We have just hired a Pilot Exchange Administrator to facilitate pilot transactions.[2] This position is a bridge to a permanent Exchange Administrator position, to be funded through market transactions once the Exchange is established.  

  • In May 2014, we submitted an application to the USFWS under the conservation banking review process for the Exchange to be approved as a mitigation option for sage-grouse. (NRCS is one of six state and federal regulatory agencies serving on this Conservation Bank Review Team.) If the application is approved, conservation undertaken through the Exchange to protect sage-grouse habitat will be recognized by USFWS, and participants could seek regulatory assurances to accompany the purchase of credits. USFWS is scheduled to make a decision on whether to list the sage-grouse in fall of 2015. The Exchange may help influence the listing decision.

    [1] Early efforts to assess the feasibility of a conservation exchange in the Upper Green River Basin were funded by a 2011 Conservation Innovation Grant from the Wyoming Office of USDA-NRCS (CIG Grant 69-8E49-1-108), with matching funds from the Wyoming Reclamation and Restoration Center.
    [2]The Pilot Exchange Administrator is funded by a 2014 Conservation Innovation Grant from the Wyoming Office of USDA-NRCS (CIG Grant 68-8E49-14-014), with matching funds from Environmental Defense Fund and University of Wyoming Extension. 
    [1] Early efforts to assess the feasibility of a conservation exchange in the Upper Green River Basin were funded by a 2011 Conservation Innovation Grant from the Wyoming Office of USDA-NRCS (CIG Grant 69-8E49-1-108), with matching funds from the Wyoming Reclamation and Restoration Center.

Civil Rights Advisory Committee Corner

WY Spotlight

  • John Lawrence, soil conservation technician, Buffalo and Kaycee field offices
  •  Doris Curyea, area administrative assistant, Douglas area/field office
  •  Willis Spear, civil engineering technician, Riverton field office/multi-county employee
  •  Robert Petrick, civil engineer, Powell field office/multi-county employee

John Lawrence

WY JohnLawrence

Customer/Employee Service:

 “Johnson County has a wide variety of conservation practices. The county requires technical assistance from its soil conservation technician that goes far beyond what most counties in the state require. John works on livestock watering systems, irrigation systems (surface and sprinkler), waste storage structures, ponds, stream restorations, and etc. John possesses an excellent record of working on each of these tasks with little or no outside help required from the area engineering staff. John has trained many of the personnel from the field office and provided excellent assistance and training to area office personnel.”


NRCS Mission Activities:

“John is consistent in the exemplary quality of his work. He is calm, and pleasant to work with. John is one of those unheralded individuals who keeps the agency operational and causes landowner to want to come to us for our assistance on a repeated basis.”

- Nominated by Steve Cohoon, engineer for the High Plains Area


About John:

  • Years with the Agency: Too darn many…..  (34 years)
  • Hometown: Buffalo, Wyo.
  • Hobbies: Making and selling pot (pottery that is) and supporting the barley industry.
  • Most Memorable Experience on the Job: Working to help satisfy the producers and attending snow survey school in Park City, Utah.  Also, the face to face area and state meetings and the after-hours get together.
  • Something Your Co-Workers May Not Know About You: After 34 years, they probably know it all.  They all certainly know that if we were to get stranded in the field my lunch box will hold everyone over for a couple days.

Doris Curyea

WY Doris

Customer/Employee Service:

“Doris has been assigned many extra duties since administrative convergence, in addition to her regular duties. She completes all the purchases for the High Plains Area in addition to the state office, fills out all the personnel paperwork Human Resources used to do, and helps all the employees in the High Plains Area with travel authorization paperwork.”


NRCS Mission Activities:

“Doris works many hours to complete all her tasks. Doris goes above and beyond and is always willing to take on a challenge. If she doesn’t have the answer she will do everything in her power to find the answer.”

- Nominated by Steve Cohoon, engineer for the High Plains Area


About Doris:

  • Years with the Agency: 7
  • Hometown: Grover, Colo.
  • Hobbies: Gardening and fishing.
  • Most Memorable Experience on the Job: Being locked in the basement of the state office
  • Something Your Co-Workers May Not Know About You: Three of my kids were married within seven months of each other this last year.

Willis Spear

WY WillisSpear

Customer/Employee Service:

“Willis constantly goes above expectations in his engineering field work and his timely delivery of final designs.  He has a great reputation among producers in Fremont County, as well as on the (Wind River Indian) reservation.”


NRCS Mission Activities:

“Willis will always make time to do all jobs presented to him including program and conservation technical assistance projects that at times the district conservationist does not have the time to address.  He provides the majority of designs and engineering field work for Fremont County and the reservation.  It is hard to envision how we would get contracts implemented without the extra efforts from Willis.”

- Nominated by Steve Poitras, resource conservationist/tribal liaison for the Wind River Indian Reservation

About Willis:

  • Years with the Agency: 20+
  • Hometown: Dayton, Wyo.
  • Hobbies: Camping, woodworking, and casting with concrete.
  • Most Memorable Experience on the Job: All the jobs I designed and have seen installed.
  • Something Your Co-Workers May Not Know About You: Just met my brother whom I did not know I had, pretty cool experience.  

Robert Petrick

WY Petrick

Customer/Employee Service:

“Robert came to the Powell field office via the Casper state office, so he had worked with customers in a much different role.  He jumped in with both feet and has developed an admirable reputation with producers and contractors.  The quality, detail and timeliness of his engineering designs has been top notch and his witty humor has been a welcome addition to the social dynamics in the field office.”

NRCS Mission Activities:

“Robert puts forth extra effort to meet the engineering needs of the field office. He provides high quality engineering assistance for both conservation technical assistance and program participants. He is always willing to meet with producers and contractors to discuss and explain the reasoning behind his designs. The end result has been satisfied participants and a quality installed product that meets the intended resource need.”

- Nominated by Rory Karhu, district conservationist, Powell field office


About Robert: 

  • Years with the Agency: Almost 5
  • Hometown: Jacksonville Beach, Fla.
  • Hobbies: Yes, sometimes.
  • Most Memorable Experience on the Job: Learning to tow a trailer has been a useful endeavor.
  • Something Your Co-Workers May Not Know About You: I have jumped out of moving airplanes 57 times and kissed Miss South Carolina once.

United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

100 E. B St. Ste 33124, Casper, WY 82601


Brenda Ling, public affairs specialist •  (307) 233-6759 • brenda.ling@wy.usda.gov

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.