Rancher Swaps Jobs with Federal Official
WASHINGTON - Wyoming cattle producer and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) member Jack Turnell was in Washington, D.C., this week to “walk in the boots” of Jay Slack, deputy regional director for the Mountain-Prairie Region (Region 6) of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).
“So many ranchers do their jobs and take care of the environment, but just don’t like to talk about it,” says Turnell. “Volunteering for the Walk a Mile in My Boots program is about getting folks to talk about what we do on the ranch and why we do it. After swapping jobs with Jay, we both learned that we can come to a mutual understanding about things since we are working toward a common goal - preserving our environment for future generations.”
Slack spent several days working with Turnell on his cattle ranch in Wyoming. The Walk a Mile in My Boots (WAMB) exchange culminated in Washington, D.C., with a four-day educational program, visits to various offices of the Department of the Interior and a day at the FWS National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, W.V.
“Actually leaving the office and working on the ranch was an exceptional experience,” says Slack. “While I was visiting, wildfires were racing through the Pitchfork Ranch property, and we had to work fast to move cattle to safety. This was the chance of a lifetime to see first-hand the challenges that cattle producers face on a daily basis.”
The award-winning WAMB program was originally launched by NCBA and FWS in the summer of 2003, and for more than three years has given government employees and cattle producers the opportunity to swap on-the-ground work experiences. The program now includes partnerships with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD).
“Turnell is an exceptional steward of the land,” says Slack. “He’s won national awards for his stewardship and has brought hundreds of folks to the ranch to show them how cooperative conservation can be incredibly successful.”
“Let’s take things to the next level,” says Turnell. “I’m always ready to take on those leaders of activist environmental groups who allege ranchers are not good for the land. I’d like to invite the president of every single activist group out to our ranch so they can see first-hand how we work tirelessly to preserve our natural resources, cultivate species and conserve our ecosystems.”
“This program is aimed at resolving differences, and we strongly encourage cattle producers from across the country to join Jack in this fight,” explains Stacey Katseanes, NCBA’s program representative. “Cattle producers are doing some amazing things that need to be showcased, and WAMB does just that.”
Any cattle producer, NACD member, FWS employee, or NRCS employee can apply for the exchange program. The length of an actual exchange can range from two to ten days. During the exchange, cattle ranchers can visit local or national government offices, work on refuges or in labs, or travel to national headquarters in Washington, D.C. Government employees have the opportunity to visit cattle operations and get hands-on experience working the ranch.
For more information on how to sign up for the program, go to: www.nrcs.usda.gov/feature/volunteers/walkamile.html.