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Guest Opinions

Stewards of the Land

Those of us with enough mettle to call Wyoming home know this amazing place can also be a challenging one for forging a livelihood – for people, as well as for wildlife. Our forefathers discovered that much of Wyoming was unsuitable for many agricultural pursuits – only the most productive land, with forage, water and shelter for livestock, could support their families. As homesteaders developed land for agricultural use, native wildlife often benefited. Their legacy persists today in those who steward the land and the natural resources it supports. But the role of private landowners in sustaining and supporting the abundance and diversity of wildlife often remains overlooked and underappreciated. 

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department prides itself on recognizing the efforts of the state’s landowners to conserve wildlife and natural resources. Whether it’s expressed in the form of a casual “thank you” and nod of the head or as formal, public recognition, the appreciation of Department personnel is heartfelt. 

This month, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission will recognize and thank this year’s slate of Landowners of the Year at a reception in their honor.

When private landowners contribute to the wellbeing of wildlife and habitat, their actions go beyond self-interest. Often, what benefits livestock also benefits wildlife. The presence and abundance of a variety of wildlife on private lands is often a key indicator of healthy land management practices by the landowner. Whether by letting their windmills pump water for the benefit of antelope and other wildlife, cooperating to safeguard native populations of cutthroat trout or leaving forage for mule deer, Wyoming’s landowners help manage the state’s wildlife for the enjoyment of residents and visitors – hunters, anglers and those who simply enjoy seeing our native species in their native habitats. 

For landowners, interactions with field personnel, game wardens or biologists represent just one point of contact with the Department. Statewide, they work in partnership with the Department on a number of issues. From developing grazing plans to work on habitat projects, they are at the forefront of preserving the wild places our wildlife needs to thrive. By providing access to hunters and anglers, whether on a case-by-case basis or through formal programs such as the Department’s private lands, public wildlife programs, including hunter management access, walk-in hunting and walk-in fishing, these landowners demonstrate a commitment to wildlife, wildlife habitat and wildlife-related recreation.

Our wildlife culture not only adds to the quality of our lives in Wyoming, it also recognizes the value of private lands in providing wildlife habitat. I am encouraged by the hard work of so many private landowners working with the Department, conservation organizations and land management agencies to preserve our wildlife culture.

As July 8 approaches, I look forward to my evening with this year’s Landowners of the Year. It will be a pleasure to recognize their accomplishments on behalf of wildlife and thank them for their part in providing habitat for Wyoming’s wildlife. These landowners represent something much bigger than their individual efforts – they represent all landowners who work to make things a little better for Wyoming’s critters. 

On behalf of the Department, thanks for your contributions to our wonderful wildlife resources.

Scott Talbott is director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. A version of this column appears in the July issue of “Wyoming Wildlife” magazine.