Maintaining sustainable fish and wildlife populations in the face of complex and competing demands is one of the fundamental challenges facing the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission (WGFC) and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD). Biologists, conservationists, land managers and private landowners have long recognized that habitat is one of the keys to answering the challenge. However, except for ownership and management of WGFC-held lands, the WGFC has no direct statutory authority for protecting, restoring or enhancing wildlife habitat. Since the management of wildlife is inseparable from the habitat that sustains it, we must work in concert with private landowners and public land managers, conservation organizations, elected officials, local, state and federal governmental agencies and the public. These partnerships are crucial to maintaining abundant wildlife now and into the future.
The Department addresses habitat issues by assigning habitat-related duties to personnel in multiple Divisions and regions under a Strategic Habitat Plan (SHP) first published in 2001. The SHP was subsequently updated, revised and accepted by the WGFC in 2009 (see inside cover). Our habitat mission is to “Promote and maintain the availability of high quality habitat to sustain and enhance wildlife populations in the future.” Our goals can be simply and generally summarized as: maintaining high quality existing habitats (goal 1), addressing issues on degraded habitats (goal 2), remembering the value of local enhancements for fish and wildlife populations (goal 3), communicating effectively with the public on habitat issues (goal 4) and working effectively with a myriad of partners (goal 5). An important component of this SHP and Department habitat efforts is the recognition of wildlife habitats that are “crucial” for wildlife under goal 1 and those habitats that have been degraded and have potential for “enhancement” under goal 2. Crucial priority areas for maintaining habitat values and enhancement priority areas for addressing habitat issues were identified when the SHP was revised in 2009.
This is the twelfth annual report for the WGFC, elected officials, governmental agencies, the public and our conservation partners since the first SHP report in 2002. Its purpose is to highlight 2013 Department habitat activities and SHP accomplishments. It is structured to reflect accomplishments and work activities as they relate to achieving SHP goals, which are referenced in project titles throughout the report. A survey of SHP report recipients conducted in 2013 revealed that project partners and commissioners value and use the report. Following an analysis of survey data and comments from over 50 respondents, the annual report will continue to be produced and distributed in a manner similar to the past. The report will include on-the-ground achievements, short project summaries heavy on photos, and a comprehensive treatment of efforts across the department.