One of the greatest challenges facing the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) in the 21st century will be our ability to maintain sustainable fish and wildlife populations and meet the expectations and desire of our citizens. We approach habitat conservation and management on a landscape/watershed scale based on the needs of all fish and wildlife and citizens who either enjoy and/or depend on wildlife, and the land and water resources of the State. This requires a great deal of teamwork and a broader view of our responsibilities. Addressing habitat needs and issues that seek to maintain open spaces, non-fragmented, quality habitats and the ability of fish and wildlife to utilize these areas provides an opportunity to meet many of these challenges. Potential impacts to fish and wildlife continue to expand, with some of the most noticeable being energy development, increasing demands for water, other land uses, and urban sprawl. The long-term drought, fi re suppression and conflicts in public expectations have caused impacts as well. At the same time, we are being asked to take a far more active role in the conservation of all wildlife species, including many considered to be at-risk. Conserving one species at a time is expensive and maybe impractical over the long-term To effectively answer these challenges, the Department is actively pursuing habitat-related management actions on a landscape level partnering with public land managers and private landowners throughout Wyoming. In recognition of this need, The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission (WGFC) adopted a Strategic Habitat Plan (SHP) in 2001. The plan’s three primary goals are: 1) Manage, preserve and restore habitat for longterm sustainable management of wildlife populations; 2) Increase wildlife based recreation through habitat enhancements that increase productivity of wildlife and; 3) Increase or maintain wildlife habitat and associated recreation on WGFC owned and managed lands The SHP and priorities habitat areas identified can be viewed on the WGFD website at http://gf.state.wy.us/habitat/StrategicPlan/index.asp. Lastly, we have initiated process to revise and up-date the SHP with completion scheduled in 2008.
This report highlights the on-the-ground activities and strategies accomplished by personnel from Terrestrial Habitat, Aquatic Habitat, and the Habitat and Access Maintenance programs of the WGFD as well as associated portions of the Lands Administration program and Water Management Section toward implementation of the SHP goals during the year. Many other fi eld personnel, including wildlife biologists, fisheries managers, game wardens, information coordinators, non-game biologists, trophy game biologists, brucellosis-feedground-habitat biologists, private land/public wildlife personnel, and waterfowl biologists among others contributed time and effort to many of these activities. The information was compiled from WGFD expenditures from the WGFD Trust Fund Account, Walk-In Area Habitat Enhancement Program, maintenance and operation budgets used for habitat development and maintenance ( less personnel and equipment costs), Farm Bill Program funds that include incentive payments and 10 to 15 year annual rental/lease payments from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Security Agency (FSA), funds from other federal, state or local governmental agencies, Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust (WWNRT), Wyoming Governor’s Big Game License Coalition (WGBGLC), Wyoming Wildlife Heritage Foundation (WWHF), funds from non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) and finally funds from private donors, and private landowners or managers, including in-kind services.
In addition to the programs cited above, statewide programs related to the SHP are included in this years compilation of information relative to on-the-ground habitat management activities. These programs involved technical assistance and education regarding fish and wildlife habitat condition and health relative to livestock and/or big game grazing via workshops for private landowners and managers. Also included are programs for sagebrush management including land cover information derived from remote sensing satellite imagery, riparian, aspen and tall forb community management, development and refinement of a geographic information system (GIS) decision support system, a GIS cumulative impact analysis system for the WGFD, in-stream fl ow habitat protection, and a statewide aquatic GIS database development. Using funds received from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Landowner Incentive Program, the Department is also working with private landowners to implement on-the-ground projects on prairie stream systems, cutthroat trout streams, and grass2 land and sagebrush habitat for sensitive fish and wildlife species on private lands. These efforts are designed to enhance sensitive wildlife species populations and distribution and to negate the need for potential listing under the Endangered Species Act administered by the USFWS. The Water Management Section is actively involved in water management efforts and evaluation of in-stream flows to protect and enhance aquatic wildlife resources.