With the launching of a new market, he’s a vanguard of grouse conservation in Wyoming

Eric Peterson

Eric Peterson has been hired to fill a new position as pilot administrator of the Wyoming Conservation Exchange.

A landowner-led conservation effort in Wyoming has sparked a new market and has now created a new job.

The University of Wyoming recently announced the hiring of a new pilot administrator of the Wyoming Conservation Exchange, a voluntary, market-based program that seeks to enroll local landowners in landscape-scale conservation of greater sage-grouse, mule deer and hydrologic services.

Eric was formerly manager of the Sublette County Conservation District, where he played a critical role in developing the Wyoming Conservation Exchange with partners from the University of Wyoming, Environmental Defense Fund, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and the Wyoming chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

In his new role, Eric will work with potential buyers and sellers of conservation credits to facilitate pilot transactions and market growth.

I asked Eric to share some thoughts on what drew him to this role and what he hopes to achieve over the next few months.

Can you tell us about your experience building the Wyoming Conservation Exchange?

I come to this position from my previous work as manager of the Sublette County Conservation District. Sublette County is at the confluence of grouse and gas. Hosting superior grouse habitat and populations in the same county as two of the top 10 natural gas fields in the nation, the conservation district's Board of Supervisors was very interested in working to help private landowners participate in the mitigation for the impact of the energy industry.

The conservation district partnered with the University of Wyoming, The Nature Conservancy, and others to begin the trail of exploration which has culminated in the development of the Conservation Exchange. As manager of the conservation district, I was involved in implementing the guidance of the board, directing district staff activities in support of the effort and working with the other members of the team in developing the concepts that have led to this point.

"My goal is for the Exchange to be recognized and employed as a win-win solution" – Eric Peterson, Administrator of the Wyoming Conservation Exchange

How will your previous work at the Conservation District and the university help you in your new role?

Prior to my tenure with the conservation district, I had worked in Southwest Wyoming for University Extension as a Rangeland Education Specialist. My 35 years of experience working with landowners in Sublette County and Southwest Wyoming, as well as my professional contacts from across the state, provide me with insight into the ranch and landowner community, as well as the ability to reach out to others as we discuss the win-win opportunity that the Conservation Exchange offers to landowners, land managers and industries who seek to mitigate their impacts.

What is your goal for the Wyoming Conservation Exchange?

My goal is for the Exchange to be recognized and employed as a win-win solution – a solution providing opportunity for industries to mitigate unavoidable impact and for landowners to enhance their conservation efforts as an additional enterprise in their business.

Why do you expect Wyoming landowners to be interested in participating in the Exchange?

Ranching is a business. While it is true that landowners in general have the highest conservation and stewardship ethic, the extra step is likely to require additional investment or opportunity cost. If we can show that participation in the Wyoming Conservation Exchange can become an enterprise that improves the sustainability of the business, then we will have their attention!

Greater sage-grouse and natural gas drilling rigs at dawn on the Pinedale Mesa in Sublette County, Wyoming. Photo credit: Gerrit Vyn Photography

Greater sage-grouse and natural gas drilling rigs at dawn on the Pinedale Mesa in Sublette County, Wyoming. Photo credit: Gerrit Vyn Photography

What are you most looking forward to in your new role?

Those first trades which offset impacts with demonstrated increase in the quality and volume of habitat.

How will the Exchange help Wyoming and greater sage-grouse?

Wyoming, like Sublette County, is at the confluence of sage-grouse and energy production. Wyoming is second in the nation in energy production, and number one in grouse populations. The Wyoming sage grouse executive order provides enhanced protection for 80% of our grouse on about 20% of the state’s surface area. To accomplish that level of protection it is important that impacts be appropriately offset.

The Exchange credit is an avenue to accomplish the offset in a way that provides regulatory certainty and increased conservation outcomes. In the long run, it's just the sensible thing to do.

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One Comment

  1. siyabonga
    Posted June 27, 2015 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    I wish something like this shuold contineu happenin