BOULDER – The Sublette County Board of County Commissioners opened its meeting on Tuesday by discussing the unofficial plowing policy the county has in place for elk feedgrounds that are managed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (G&F) – particularly the Muddy Creek Feedground south of Boulder.
According to Road and Bridge supervisor Butch Penton, the county has been plowing it off and on since “back in the ’70s.”
“They either get too much elk or they don’t have enough hay,” Penton said. “And the end result is, we gotta plow them to get more hay. … It’s not an uncommon thing to go plow. They call us up and ask us to plow and we do it. Now whether we’re supposed to or not, this is the first time I know of anything coming up that way.”
Commissioner Tom Noble raised questions about the issue, wondering if it’s an appropriate practice for the county or if the private sector should be doing the work.
“I guess my concern is – we’re doing it for free and should it be a private contractor doing that?” he said Tuesday. “I guess, as a board, we need to decide that.”
According to an estimate from the Road and Bridge Department, the plowing done at the Muddy Creek Feedground alone equates to about $4,595.84, in terms of the employee time and county equipment required.
“When Game and Fish calls you guys, they need it done now, am I correct?” Noble asked Penton. “So if you let a local contractor do it, would they be able to do that?”
“I would imagine they could find somebody,” Penton replied.
According to Noble, he spoke with G&F Pinedale District Supervisor John Lund about the issue, and “he was fine with any way we went,” whether the county continues the practice or a private contractor.
For Penton, “there’s always plenty to do” for his department and he, too, is OK with either option.
“I don’t really care one way or another,” he said. “We’ve always done it. I never questioned it.”
According to commissioner Joel Bousman, the plowing done at the Muddy Creek Feedground is “a win-win for the ag industry,” citing the elk that are able to be hauled out and taken to Colorado as part of a brucellosis research project.
“The win-win for us, in the county – we reduce the risk of brucellosis and having the whole county come under quarantine,” Bousman said.
Commissioner Mack Rawhouser also pointed to the “interagency goodwill” that’s present by plowing for G&F.
“And we’ve done other projects with agencies also,” commissioner Andy Nelson echoed.
The commissioners agreed to address the concerns and make a decision at the next meeting.
“I think I need a little more time to think on this one – a couple weeks to chat, think and ponder,” Nelson said.
And if the commissioners choose to let the work go to the private sector, they agreed not to implement it until the next budget cycle so that WG&F has time to plan accordingly.
• For more from the commissioner meeting, including the decision to move forward with the engineering assessment for the proposed critical access hospital, see Tuesday’s Examiner. n