Sommers-Grindstone Conservation Easement
Project Status: Ongoing
This project involved acquiring a conservation easement of about 19,000 acres along the Green River and tributaries in Sublette County in 2010. The easement protects the area from surface development and protects over 47,000 acres that support numerous species (including sage-grouse, moose, mule deer, pronghorn, and non-game species), and big game migration corridors. This easement also protects designated class 1water resources from degradation related to further development. The Sommers-Grindstone Wildlife Values report (Stroud, 2010) provides a summary of important habitat values for this easement. The specific objectives of the Sommers-Grindstone Conservation Project are to:
- Maintain economically viable agriculture operation units as working ranches for the future;
- Maintain and enhance the natural resources located on the operating units to sustain or improve wildlife habitat using the livestock and agricultural operations as a tool;
- Balance wildlife habitat needs with the need for economic sustainability of the distinct ranching units;
- Preserve open space and prevent conversion of upland rangeland to croplands;
- Work closely with WGFD and NRCS on future sagebrush treatments and manipulations to achieve designs that reflect the most current research/science beneficial to sage-grouse habitat;
- Conserve wildlife migration corridors with minimal impediments. Convert restrictive existing fencing to wildlife friendly fencing based upon recommendations by NRCS and WGFD; and,
- Improve the woody component of riparian areas through livestock grazing practices.
This project addresses the geographic priority area’s issues of habitat fragmentation, sensitive wildlife species, water quality, woody riparian species degradation, migration corridor maintenance and big game passage. The project includes a conservation agreement to protect existing sagebrush communities and modification of fences, conveyance of mineral rights to WGFD, and relinquishment of 150 AUMs on the Mesa Common Allotment until after Anticline development is completed. Implementation of alternatives and practices will be phased in over many years.
Tyler Place Ranch Conservation Easement
Project Status: Completed 2016
This project involves the purchase of a conservation easement on 1,600 acres by the Wyoming Land Trust (WLT). It seeks to conserve valuable wildlife habitat, key migration routes, working ranchland, and important open spaces. This property functions as a working ranch and provides important habitat for wildlife including pronghorn (spring-summer-fall habitat), mule deer (migration routes and spring-summer-fall habitat), elk (winter range), waterfowl, and a variety of Wyoming’s Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The project includes approximately 2 miles of Duck Creek and associated riparian areas. It also encompasses a swan pond that the landowner constructed in coordination with WGFD using funds from WWNRT. The project neighbors the WGFD Duck Creek Public Access Area, lies within WGFD's Wind River Front crucial terrestrial priority area, and lies within a sage-grouse core area. According to WGFD’s Strategic Habitat Plan (Wyoming Game and Fish Department, 2009), the Wind River Front crucial terrestrial priority area provides habitats and migration routes crucial to pronghorn, mule deer, elk, moose, sage-grouse, and waterfowl species. WGFD specifically identifies conservation easements as a “solution” to address the threats to wildlife in this area.
This conservation easement addresses the Upper Green River Valley/New Fork River Geographic Priority Area’s issues of habitat fragmentation, sensitive species, migration corridor maintenance, and big game passage. The project may also conserve other unique habitat types or imperiled vegetative species/communities located in Sublette County, such as certain Plant Species of Concern included on the University of Wyoming’s Wyoming Species of Concern List.
The goal of the project is to obtain a conservation easement across approximately 2,393 acres of private lands on the Rocking Chair Ranch. The conservation easement will retain the property’s agricultural character while conserving a high-value wildlife habitat by prohibiting future surface development. The easement will be held by Wyoming Game and Fish Department who already holds two other easements related to this landscape. The primary benefit to the landscape will be realized through the permanent conservation of an area comprised principally of wetland and riparian areas associated with LaBarge Creek, xeric forest, desert shrubland, and sagebrush shrubland habitat types. The riparian zones provide important connective areas for surrounding upland sagebrush and forest habitat types. The Rocking Chair Ranch is considered sagegrouse habitat. The property also provides important habitat for a variety waterfowl, songbirds, and raptors including bald and golden eagles. Fontenelle Creek, which bisects the property, provides habitat for numerous fish and amphibian species including tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum), Colorado River cutthroat trout, brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalus), brown trout (Salmo trutta), mountain whitefish (Prosopium williamsoni), speckled dace (Rhinichthys osculus) and others. The area supports crucial winter ranges, crucial summer year-long range, and parturition areas in various respects for moose, elk, mule deer, and pronghorn. A secondary benefit will occur from the protection of mule deer migration corridors from future development. The conservation easement itself is still in the process of being obtained. The contracting process in ongoing while awaiting completion of the easement appraisal. This project is a partnership between the North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant program, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Wyoming Governor’s Big Game License Coalition, and Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust.