Fabricated Metal Windbreaks In Campbell County
By Tim Kellogg, district conservationist for Campbell County
Traditionally many livestock producers in Campbell County have used wooded riparian areas for winter feeding grounds due to the lack of other suitable shelter. This has caused some of the riparian areas to be heavily impacted with eroding trails on the banks and possibility of increased pollution from manure. In 2010, the Gillette Field Office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) started providing Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funding for the construction of fabricated metal windbreaks to provide alternative winter shelter for livestock away from creek bottoms. One of the main goals of these projects is to improve water quality by reducing the time that the livestock spend near the streams and ponds.
The first year, 2010, we funded two contracts in the northern part of the county that included one windbreak each. In 2011, we funded four contracts that will assist in funding five new windbreaks. We currently have five applications for 2012 with 16 windbreaks planned. These new applications are from both cattle and sheep producers and from all parts of the county.
One of the first fabricated windbreaks that was constructed was on Jason Oedekoven’s ranch on Bitter Creek in north-central Campbell County. It was planned and constructed as a part of a bigger riparian improvement project. As a new district board member in 2008, Jason invited the NRCS office staff to meet his family and visit his ranch. We spent the day looking at the conservation work that they were completing on their own. Prior to becoming involved with the district and NRCS, Jason and his wife Maureen had moved their corrals away from the banks of Bitter Creek and had done some cross fencing and water development for grazing management.
One of Jason’s main concerns was how to better protect and improve the water quality of Bitter Creek. It was suggested by a Wyoming Game & Fish Habitat extension biologist that Jason create a riparian buffer using the continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Jason liked this idea and signed up for continuous CRP the following year and fenced off approximately 4,000 feet of the creek for wildlife habitat. This project changed how and where he could winter his cattle, so we looked at several alternatives to provide additional winter shelter away from the Ponderosa Pine trees that cover most of the draws and ridges of the Oedekoven’s ranch. Jason chose to apply for EQIP to construct a fabricated metal windbreak because it offered the needed protection almost immediately after construction. After being approved for a contract and a trip to South Dakota for the materials, Jason and his family built the windbreak over the course of three weekends. The Odekoven’s are very happy with the results of the riparian buffer and windbreak. They have become one of the best proponents of both practices in the county.
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