Wyoming ranchers could be forced to make costly changes to comply with proposed regulations that would hold their operations to the same water quality standards as large feedlots.

The proposed rules by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were outlined at a recent briefing. Under the plan, animal unit numbers would change to count each head equally. Right now, cattle/calf pairs are counted as one unit. The number of head, which differs by species, determines whether an operation must be regulated by the EPA. The proximity to open water also factors. If a pasture or working corral holds cattle for more than 45 days a year and is at least 100 feet from a water source, it would be regulated.

"There's hardly anybody who won't be regulated," Bobbie Frank, executive director of the Wyoming Conversation District, says. Frank estimates that the average rancher would have to spend at least $50,000 in order to comply with the proposed regulations. She said many would pay between $150,000 to $200,000. Violations of the proposed regulations could cost up to $25,000 a day in fines. Frank said her office is working to keep the regulations from passing.