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Conservation in the Middle of Energy Growth

The landscape in mineral-producing Campbell County has changed dramatically in recent years. Strong employment and fast population growth allowed the county to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure. For the first time in a decade, from 2008 to 2009, Campbell County overtook Sublette County as the county with the fastest population growth.

In the middle of all the growth, local ranchers continue to work their land.

For Chuck Rourke and Don Spellman, conservation is not about installing one practice for a year or so. For them, practices they have implemented with the help from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) have to fit into their larger plans.

Wyoming State Conservationist Astrid Martinez and High Plains Area Conservationist Rusty Schwartz visited two ranches in May to see how some NRCS projects were progressing.

In addition to livestock pipelines and tanks, Rourke and his family have implemented wildlife friendly grazing and wildlife escape ramps. He shared his goals with Campbell County District Conservationist Tim Kellogg and both worked on a comprehensive conservation plan that spanned over many years and involved multiple practices.

“I really don’t think he sleeps,” Kellogg said about Rourke’s energy and hard work.

“It’s been good working with Tim,” Rourke said. Recently, he finished work on no-till seeded wheat and integrated pest management with GPS controlled sprayer. He also uses the free software Nutritional Balance Analyzer (NUTBAL) for fecal sampling under the Conservation Stewardship Program.

Spellman was one of the first landowners in Wyoming to participate in the Sage-grouse Initiative. With a grazing plan, fence markers, and wildlife escape ramps, he was able to keep his bird population stable.

With help from Lindsey Wood, ranch manager, Spellman has tackled invasive species such as Canadian thistle and cheatgrass. NRCS helped Spellman with livestock pipelines and tanks, cross fencing and Kellogg provided grazing strategies.

Though Spellman and Wood have both done much conservation-wise, they said there is more work that needs to get done, such as cutting energy costs and improving riparian buffers.

“This is impressive,” Martinez said about how Kellogg was able to get good conservation projects on the ground in Campbell County.

Kellogg said, “Ranching and conservation work well together with the right plans – even in the midst of mineral-based economic growth.”

A visit with landowner Don Spellman.









From left, Rusty Schwartz; Don Spellman; Lindsey Wood; Astrid Martinez; and Tim Kellogg.