Green River Working Lands, Part 2

By Joy Ufford,
Posted 11/16/23

About 60 participants, mainly livestock owners, attended the two-hour event sponsored by the Sublette County Conservation District (SCCD) facilitated by manager Mike Henn and the Western Landowners Alliance’s (WLA) Wyoming coordinator Shaleas Harrison.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Green River Working Lands, Part 2


SUBLETTE COUNTY – Highlights of the Nov. 2 “Happy Hour” to discuss conservation programs available for Upper Green River working lands’ owners were two panels – one with local ranchers and the other with state leaders from the Farm Service Agency and Natural Resource Conservation Service, to answer questions about federal programs.

About 60 participants, mainly livestock owners, attended the two-hour event sponsored by the Sublette County Conservation District (SCCD) facilitated by manager Mike Henn and the Western Landowners Alliance’s (WLA) Wyoming coordinator Shaleas Harrison.

Harrison’s mission is to bring more knowledge and awareness of well-funded U.S. Department of Agriculture grants and programs that often reward working landowners to keep doing what they do as stewards – or perhaps just a little bit more. Some projects are cost-shared; others include payments for resting grasslands; still others will pay ranchers for allowing big game to use their land..

Along with accessible NRCS and Farm Service Agency (FSA) program funding, an emphasis was on nonlethal predator conflict management techniques.

Conflict prevention

Harrison asked rancher panelists Cat Urbigkit, manager Coke Landers, Andi James and Cotton Bousman about living with big game, techniques to reduce carnivore predation and what added compensation producers might need.

Bousman emphasized the importance to him of Wyoming Game and Fish’s winter elk feedgrounds to keep elk away from cattle feedlines and ranch haystacks, as well as to keep elk and cattle from commingling while both species are calving with elk possibly transmitting brucellosis to livestock.

Predators such as wolves, which in southern Sublette County are literally classified as predators, and protected grizzlies are watched for their taking of sheep, horses and cattle, the ranchers agreed.

In Wyoming’s predator zone, Bousman and Urbigkit recounted their losses to wolves that are somewhat managed by USDA Wildlife Services. Compensation is available for confirmed grizzly and wolf kills for example in the Upper Green “Drift,” where conflicts are not uncommon.

Urbigkit has developed an affinity for livestock guard dogs and how different breeds interact with predators or protect a herd. Much of her time is spent on working with “husbandry and herders” to deter predators – including where they set out mineral tubs and trying to be present.

“We are not compensated for that,” she said. “It would be nice to have someone pay for range riders, for conflict prevention.”

Lander related a high calf crop goes out with cows to the Upper Green for summer grazing and comes back 10-percent short. Owner Madeleine Murdock nursed a calf back to health “only to have it go out and get eaten by a bear.”

Bousman said lack of compensation in the wolf predator zone hurts ranchers’ bottom lines. “Wildlife Services killed 10 wolves a winter ago and it didn’t take long for more to migrate over.”

Two winters ago, WS had to use its helicopter to take out eight wolves because their terrain is so steep; Bousman also said cows harassed by predators don’t breed as well and yearling cattle seem to be taken at a high rate with previously low compensation.

“My favorite subject,” Urbigkit said. “What I want the public to be aware of – we love these wild working landscapes. Our hearts and soul are out there on that landscape.”

On the Upper Green in the trophy-game wolf area, Landers said Game and Fish compensates confirmed livestock kills.

Nonlethal defense

Guard dogs are her first line of defense, Urbigkit said. There are no traps or snares. “We started a list of all our predator nonlethal actions; we reached two dozen before we resorted to lethal control.”

Other techniques are flashing eartags and Urbigkit said scarecrows work for about two days and need to be moved. “I wish that people understood that losing your livestock makes you feel like a failure.”

Harrison asked about Urbigkit’s livestock guard dogs for sheep and cattle, which cultures have used for thousands of years. They leave guard dogs who bond with sheep as pups, during lambing. “They understand what animals are most vulnerable at any given time.”

Problems? Some dogs routinely travel 7 miles between ranches. “People want to rescue them and that’s really a problem.”

Urbigkit learned the hard way that black-coated dogs “freak people out and they want to shoot them. We cannot have dogs that are the same color as wolves.”

Harrison asked Urbigkit if having more range riders would help.

“That would be a game changer for us,” she said. “That would be huge.”

Bousman suggested a long-term solution might be having WS manage predator wolves for “an acceptable level.” Allotment riders are another mitigation; sometimes a grizzly or wolf comes through and scatters a herd. “Harassment is as much of a problem as anything.”

Having WS trap and collar wolves, then let them go would also warn ranchers “so we know what’s going on out there,” Urbigkit said.


SCCD’s Mike Henn introduced agency panelists NRCS State Conservationist Jackie Byam, FSA Executive Director Bill Bunce, WLA’s coordinator Matt Collins and Game and Fish habitat specialist Jill Randall, on behalf of Sublette County Weed & Pest.

He asked each what tools they have to offer ranchers and landowners.

Byam discussed conservation easements that NRCS will facilitate by working with land trusts. Also, the federal government is rolling out more tax dollars for EQIP, CRP and “CSP” – the Conservation Stewardship Program – which is a “great option” after a lot of paperwork.

NRCS especially wants to work with landowners near sage-grouse core habitat and big-game migration corridors.

Randall said invasive species like cheatgrass are targeted across all local landowners. Asked about pre-emergent seed herbicides, she said people can contact Sublette Weed & Pest for “the right prescription.”

Bunce said FSA goals are to save what can be saved before it’s too late. The FSA did not have enough staff and that is being changed, he said. The second goal “is to not let happen what we know can happen.”

FSA has the administrative role; NRCS is “the science and boots on the ground,” he said.

Bunce explained the G-CRP is a “habitat-rental program so the ground can still be used for production. So (you) are enticed to do something with it other than keep it fallow.”

Henn asked if Bunce had any other “hidden gems for Sublette County.”

The USDA has $87 million in its loan portfolio and doesn’t try to compete with banks, Bunce said. “These different loans are administered to try and put money into the ag economy to keep people on the land.”


The NRCS accepts applications continuously. FSA will announce Grassland CRP sign-ups in the spring of 2024. Call your local USDA service center. 

Shaleas Harrison is the Wyoming resource coordinator for the Working Lands Alliance. Visit or email

Opportunities for landowners to treat invasive weeds. For more information contact Julie Kraft at or call the office at 307-367-4728.