Conservation is a Wyoming value. That is the moral of the story from Stakeholders, a short film by the Wyoming Wildlife Federation showing how ranchers, oil and gas workers, and conservationists come together to protect wildlife and wildlife migrations in Wyoming.
WWF’s habitat coordinator, Sam Lockwood was raised on the southern end of the Wyoming Range. Born into a Wyoming Game and Fish biologist family and a biologist himself, Sam understands the importance of keeping these migration routes intact. “Without these winter ranges, we cannot have sustainable herds…” Sam says.
The stakeholders who live in these areas play an incredibly important role in maintaining crucial habitats for wildlife. The town of La Barge is largely a blended community of ranchers and oil and gas workers. Corby McGinnis of the Diamond H is a multigenerational rancher in this part of the state, loves the wildlife, and acknowledges the role her land has in keeping these populations healthy. “I enjoy the game! They have a right to here.”
That “right to here” is largely why the Diamond H has installed miles of let-down fencing to help wildlife movements across the lands they graze. When the cattle are brought down to Fontenelle Creek for the winter, those fences are laid on the ground so elk, deer, and pronghorn can more easily get to the winter range.
In the summer of 2020, the Wyoming Wildlife Federation and Diamond H teamed up with volunteers from SOS Well services in La Barge to install more of the let-down fencing on the La Barge Creek Commons.
Zach Key, manager at SOS Well Services says, “the main misconception people have about oil and gas is they feel like the workers and developers don’t care about the habitat and the wildlife and that could not be further from the truth.”
SOS Well Services has a long history of involvement in land reclamation projects, creating wildlife crossings on roadways, and even brought out 12 of their employees to help on the La Barge Creek Commons Fence Project. A dedicated hunter and active member of the local Muley Fanatics Foundation chapter, Zach is passionate about ensuring wildlife populations are healthy while also ensuring there is an economy to support living in Southwest Wyoming.
Identifying and protecting migration corridors is a crucial start for conserving Wyoming’s landscapes and wildlife populations. As Corby puts it, “everyone has the right to own land in Wyoming, but you also have the responsibility to take care of that land.”
If there is anything to take from working together with all of these stakeholders, it is that people in Wyoming care – they care about wildlife. “It’s a cool time to be in conservation,” says Lockwood, “people actually care – they care about little ‘ol Wyoming.”
If you would like to get involved with conserving Wyoming’s wildlife and wild places, sign up to be an advocate for free here >>