NACo’s Western Interstate Region 2016 Conference took place in Teton County, Wyoming this year from May 24-27. Presiding over this year’s conference was Gordon Cruickshank, Valley County Commissioner and WIR President. Cruickshank is currently serving on the IAC Board of Directors as the WIR Representative and is now the Immediate Past President on WIR Board of Directors. The following is a report from Commissioner Cruickshank on his experience at the conference.
This year’s WIR Conference kicked off on Tuesday, May 24th with two optional mobile tours. One mobile tour offered participants a chance to learn more about Wildlife and Park Management at Grand Teton National Park. The second, the one I attended, went to Sublette County, Wyoming to tour a Natural Gas Drilling operation and the opportunity to learn how the process works. We learned more about their process for fracking and how safe it is by mixing water and sand for the material, then recycling the water to clean it up.
On Tuesday evening, there was a special screening of the movie The Grand Rescue depicting a true story of the 1967 Teton Rangers who rescued a woman and an injured man from the North Face of the Tetons. Jenny Wilson, Salt Lake City Council Member, directed and produced the movie.
Wednesday started off with a meeting of the Public Lands Trust Committee reviewing the financial budget and making a decision to work with the Western Governors Association (WGA) on issues. The committee also chose to provide some funding to the WGA, which provides us with entrance to their meetings and WIR will have a presence at their meetings.
Following the Public Lands Trust Committee, I called the WIR Board of Directors meeting to order. We heard from Pete Obermueller, Executive Director for the Wyoming County Commissioner Association (WCCA) and Gregory Cowan, Attorney for WCCA, on how Wyoming has implemented a County/Legislative Partnership on Natural Resource issues. The WIR Board also heard presentations on rail freight, as well as how beneficial partnering with academic resources to inform county decision making can be.
The board also reviewed the current financials for the association and discussed the request from Texas to become a member of WIR. A subcommittee was formed to review and update the current bylaws. Revisions will be voted on at the next WIR Annual Conference in 2017.
After the board meeting, I moved on to the NACo policy steering committee meetings. Immediately following the committee meetings, we had the opportunity to visit Vertical Harvest’s hydroponic greenhouse, a public/private partnership with the town of Jackson. The three-story, 13,500 sq. ft. greenhouse will utilize a 1/10 of an acre to grow an annual amount of produce equivalent to 5 acres of traditional agriculture.
Wednesday evening, the WIR and NACo Boards were treated to dinner at the National Museum of Wildlife Art. One of the displays were a series of photos taken in 1871 and then again in 2014 by a photographer who worked for three years finding the exact spot the photo was taken. This was truly amazing to see the changes over the span of years.
The WIR Opening General Session started off Thursday morning with a local western band and a welcome from Wyoming Governor Matt Mead. Other presenters included David Vela, Superintendent of the Grand Teton National Park and Michael Conner, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior. After the General Session, attendees broke out into workshops. One of which I had the opportunity to moderate called “Keeping our Counties Safe and Secure: Addressing Rural Road Safety.” After lunch with special speaker Neil Kornze, Bureau of Land Management Director, I attended the NACo Board of Directors meeting and other attendees were able to choose from several different workshops. The conference-wide event was held at Couloir at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Participants rode a gondola to reach the elevation of 9,095 feet where we had a great meal, heard some great music and had a viewing of raptors from the Teton Raptor Center.
The final day of the conference began with the business meeting for WIR, where we held elections for the 2016-2017 officers. Two officials were elected as the 2nd Vice President, as the incoming President will be leaving office at the end of 2016 and this will prevent a vacancy.
Following the business meeting, the general session hosted more great presentations from Optimus Consulting and the Executive Director from the Colorado Department of Transportation. The last block of workshops followed the general session, where I was honored to moderate a workshop with Dr. Emilia Istrate, Research Director from NACo.
The closing luncheon including closing remarks from the incoming president, as well as myself as the outgoing president. I also had the great pleasure of awarding two outstanding individuals with the Dale Sowards Awards: Leslie Robinson, Phillips County, Montana and Ron Walter, Chelan County, Washington. Both are past WIR Presidents and serve their counties and WIR well.
Immediately following the adjournment of the conference, the Bureau of Land Management provided a listening session on the BLM’s Planning 2.0. Approximately 50 people stayed for this session to hear from two BLM officials about 2.0 and ask questions.
Mark your calendars for next year’s WIR Annual Conference in Sun River, Oregon! Thank you for allowing me to represent folks from Idaho with NACo’s Western Interstate Regions.