By Wyoming State Statute, conservation Districts in Wyoming are tasked with assisting landowners in the conservation of Wyoming’s natural resources, providing education on natural resource topics and preserving the tax base.
Check out the video below to learn more about what Conservation Districts do for you!
Past, Present and future of conservation districts
History of Conservation Districts
During the 1930’s, the Dust Bowl made the need to conserve natural resources, particularly soil, very clear. Agencies ranging from land Grant Universities to the Federal Emergency Relief Administration researched and implemented conservation practices throughout the nation, Eventually, the Soil Conservation Service, now named Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) was created under the Soil Conservation Act of 1935, to develop and implement soil erosion control programs.
Sometimes agencies working with conservation ended up competing with each other. Local leadership was needed to coordinate conservation efforts and tie them into local conditions and priorities. Because of the need, then President Roosevelt developed a model Conservation District Law, for consideration by the State Legislatures across America.
Conservation in Wyoming
In March 1941, the Wyoming Legislature passed the Conservation District Law, which allowed for the creation of Conservation Districts in Wyoming. Conservation Districts were to direct programs and provide services conserving local natural resources served by locally elected representatives. Wyoming has 34 conservation districts in 23 counties.
The Weston County Natural Resource District was organized in 1960 and received certification from the Secretary of State on January 16, 1961, under the name Beaver Skull Conservation District. A name change to Weston County Natural Resource District was designated on April 15, 1994, by the Secretary of State of Wyoming. The name change was a recommendation at a local long-range public planning meeting.
The original District boundary only encompassed a portion of Weston County in the northern and eastern parts of the county. Landowners inside this area at the time of creation had the option to opt-out of the district. Additionally, landowners outside this area were given the option to opt-in. All land additions to the district since that time, have been done voluntarily at the landowner’s request.
The District has grown to encompass a majority of Weston County. Property that is still outside the District boundaries can be added voluntarily by landowners to the District at any time.
Click here to learn more about being “in” vs “out of” the district.
History of Weston County
In 1885, the land northwest of Nebraska in Wyoming Territory was wild and uninhabited except for a few scattered ranches. Large cattle companies brought cattle to the area to graze on the open range.
The Weston County area was opened for settlement with the search and subsequent confirmed coal seam finds at Cambria around 1887. Cambria was a thriving coal town located north of present day Newcastle. The coal was needed to feed the train engines coming into southern Wyoming. The railroad was brought into Weston County in 1889.
The county was named for J. B. Weston of Beatrice, Nebraska, who organized a small pack outfit in the year 1887 and visited the region of the reported coal out cropping. By September 1887, prospecting and development of the Cambria mines was well under way.
Weston County was originally a part of Laramie County when the latter was established in 1875. On March 12, 1890, Governor Warren approved an act passed by the last Territorial Legislature of Wyoming creating the County of Weston.
Under the Homestead Law, the miners of Cambria Coal Mine settled the prairie country in the hills, farming there in the summer and working the mines during the winter. It is estimated that 90 percent of the Black Hills area of Weston County was settled by mine workers.
The current and traditional principal economic activities include ranching and dry land agriculture, oil and gas production, services and retail trade, as well as forest products. The economy of the county is dependent on the activities related to the abundant natural resources occurring within the county.
Agriculture has been an important component of Wyoming’s economic identity and an essential part of Wyoming’s culture and lifestyle.
There are numerous outdoor recreation opportunities that include camping, hiking, fishing, boating, rock climbing, and hunting. In the winter months, the Black Hills provide snowmobile and cross county skiing opportunities.