Natural Resources Conservation Service

Photo courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration

It could be a good year for moisture in Wyoming, according to this week’s snow report from the Natural Resource Conservation Service.  

The NRCS has data stations scattered across the state that measure the amount of water in snowpack, and use that to predict how much water will be available in the spring and summer. These measurements are important in a region where most of the water supply comes from snowfall.

Wyoming has half the snowpack it did at this time that year. That’s according to a report from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The state had an average 135% snowpack level in March of 2014, but this March had only a 70% average. The Sweetwater and Belle Fourche saw its lowest levels of snowpack since record-keeping began.  

Daryl Lee Hackleman  is the Water Supply Specialist with the Service’s Wyoming office. He says while the year started out strong, snow just didn’t come.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is trying to reduce energy consumption on farms in Laramie County.

Jim Pike is the district conservationist for the NRCS. He says many farms in the area have old, inefficient irrigation equipment that uses so much power it can overload the electrical grid.

“In 2012, the rural electric company had to bring portable, truck-mounted generators that were powered by diesel motors to generate additional electricity because they couldn’t keep up with it in their normal infrastructure,” Pike said.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Wyoming office has mismanaged at least $14 million in easement payments, and employs supervisors who lack the knowledge to properly administer easement programs in the state. That’s according to a report from the Office of Inspector General. Easements are used to permanently retire a piece of land for conservation purposes.

Last year, we reported on a new project to restore sage grouse habitat that’s been disturbed by energy development in the Powder River Basin. The Bureau of Land Management, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and other agencies are participating in the effort.

Willow Belden

A small corner of southeast Wyoming sits over the Ogallala Aquifer. The Ogallala is a huge aquifer that stretches from Wyoming and Nebraska all the way to Texas. It’s a key source of water for agriculture, but it’s being depleted faster than it can recharge. So the Natural Resources Conservation Service is trying to help save it. Here in Wyoming, they’re doing that by encouraging farmers to give up their water rights. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

NRCS in final stages of soil mapping project

Feb 15, 2013
Courtesy the NRCS

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is finishing up surveying the soil in Wyoming. They’ve been working on the project for decades, and they’ve completed surveys in most of the counties in the state. We’re joined now by James Bauchert, the acting state soil scientist. He says the survey is part of a national effort to inventory, or map out, all the soils in the U.S.

Lee Hackleman is a water supply specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. He speaks with Willow Belden about what the warm, dry spring means for Wyoming. He says the snowpack has gotten extremely low, which will make for a tough year.

Early predictions by federal hydrologists foresee below average mountain runoff in Wyoming this year because of a dearth of snow so far this winter.

Based on current snowfall in the mountains, hydrologists estimate that Wyoming's runoff this year will be about 81 percent of average.

The U.S. Agriculture Department's Natural Resources Conservation Service in Casper released its first spring runoff estimate on Tuesday. The agency will issue additional estimates into June.