The Wyoming Game and Fish report details how $10.5 million in habitat projects benefit more than 800 wildlife species.

In the Casper region, a wildlife-friendly fence has been added in the Chalk Mountain region to help improve the movement of the pods. (Wyoming and fish game)

Casper, Yu. With the help of some conservation partners, the Wyoming Department of Fish and Game invested $10.5 million in aquatic and terrestrial habitat projects in 2021.

On Monday, Game and Fish released a file 2021 Annual Report of the Statewide Habitat Plan She details the projects and how they help more than 800 wildlife species in Wyoming.

Game and Fish has committed more than $2.5 million to habitat projects to benefit more than $8 million from the Wyoming Wildlife Natural Resources Trust, federal and state trusts, private landowners, and local conservation partners.

“This equates to $3.16 that comes from external partners for every dollar that goes to game and fish,” Game and Fish said. Through these funds, Game and Fish implemented 226 projects in 2021.

Game and Fish highlighted projects that have reconnected more than 94 miles of stream to benefit indigenous thugs and other species.

“Reconnecting waterways so that fish can navigate past road crossings and diversion dams is one of the most important ways we can ensure that fish populations continue to thrive,” said Paul Day, aquatic habitat manager for Game and Fish statewide. “When we combine fish corridor work with improving stream habitat conditions, we begin to make a real and lasting difference.”

Onshore projects involved working on 725,896 acres of land. Examples include treatments with herbicides to prevent the spread of invasive weeds. Game and Fish said 100,278 acres were processed in 2021, up about 18% from 2020.

In the Casper region, the report by Game and Fish details the following habitat projects:

  • Improving Thunder Basin Habitats:
    • 12 miles of fencing has been updated with a wildlife friendly fence.
    • The 3.5 miles of fence is marked for a sage grouse in the central grasslands.
    • 4,675 acres were sprayed to prevent cheat weed growth after the cellars fire, and about 10,000 sagebrushes were planted in fall 2021.
    • Funding partners included: the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, local action groups Sage-Grouse, the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust, and the Annual Grass Gases and Fisheries Trust.
  • Beaver Creek Conifer Stocked Removal
    • Stockade Beaver Creek in Weston County is a major mule deer migration route, according to Game and Fish.
    • Transitional and winter habitats are threatened by coniferous trees encroaching on flat lawns and mountain shrub communities.
    • Much of the real mountain mahogany in the area is mature and decadent.
    • Game and Fish worked with Wyoming State Forestry and private landowners in thin areas dominated by coniferous plants.
    • Rows of real, decadent and ripe mountain mahogany have been cut.
    • Phase one was completed in 2018 and included removal of conifers, loosening and chewing of mahogany on 492 acres.
    • The second phase began in the spring of 2019 and during the time of the report, 765 acres of coniferous acres had been cleared and loosened.
    • Work will continue until winter 2022.
    • Funding Source: Wyoming Governor’s Big Game Licensing Alliance, Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust
  • Sanchez Creek Riparian Restoration
    • 4,870 feet of steel crane fencing was built along the creek in 2021, the second batch of fencing in the area.
    • More fencing is expected to be added in 2022 along with removal of conifers from deeper soil areas. The construction of the Zeedyk structure to help treat erosion and restore the head is also part of the project.
  • North Platte Recovery Observation
    • The City of Casper has begun efforts to restore parts of the river at seven restoration sites with the help of various partners.
    • Restoration work was completed along the river at Morad Park in 2015 and at Wyoming Boulevard and water treatment sites in 2016.
    • The monitoring plan was developed in 2017 to monitor:
      • Improving and stabilizing the characteristics of the flow channel
      • fisheries improvement
      • Restoration of local vegetation
    • Monitoring takes place over five years.
    • Steam channel dimensions, BANCS assessment, structural assessment, and imaging points were collected around Morad Park and the Wyoming Boulevard/Water Treatment Station in 2021.
    • The data will be compiled and analyzed in a final monitoring report in 2022.
  • Phase II of the North Platt River erosion assessment
    • The 12-mile span from Government Bridge to Sechrist’s boat ramp has been assessed for riverbank erosion and excessive sediment that can lead to unfavorable conditions for fish breeding.
    • Twenty-three eroded banks have been evaluated and an estimated 50,700 tons of sediment enter the river annually.
    • A total of 113,700 tons, equivalent to 8,100 dump truck loads, were identified from the annual sediment source between Gray Reef Dam and the Seacrest boat ramp.
    • Game and Fish said the next step is to focus recovery efforts on the major banks that are eroding.
  • Improving Duncan Ranch’s Land Habitat
    • The final phase of a real mountain mahogany cutting project has been completed to stimulate new growth in 2021.
    • In previous years, juniper removal, processing of conifers in aspen stands, forbe sowing, and cutting of large sagebrush were carried out.
    • Funding Source: Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Fund
  • Converse County Park Mahogany Rejuvenation
    • The project goal is to treat a real mountain mahogany stand with mosaic cutting to reduce the overall cover from more than 50% of the canopy to less than 30%.
    • True mountain mahogany will arise, but a disturbance is needed for this to happen.
    • The lack of turbulence from things like fire leads to decay between the stands.
    • The stands are important for large game groups.
    • Mechanical mowings/hand saws were used to tackle about 100 acres in 2021 at Converse County Park. This brings the total treated area to about 1000 acres.
    • 50 acres of large mountain sagebrush processing in snow accumulation areas was also conducted in 2021 to help benefit forbs.
    • Work will continue until 2022.
    • Funding sources: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Wyoming Game, Fish Trust Fund.
  • Chalk Mountain Phase II
    • Continuation of the Chalk Mountain Fork Fence Project.
    • Phase one converted 12 miles of pasture fences into wildlife-friendly standards.
    • Two sections of the three-mile fence along Wyoming Highway 487 were converted in August and September 2021.
    • An additional two miles of adjoining pasture fencing has also been diverted.
    • Transformed fences were selected based on crevice movement data.
    • Construction was completed in 2021.
    • GPS collar data is collected to track the movement of the incision.
    • If the desired movement is documented, future projects in neighboring pastures can be proposed.
    • Funding sources: WYDOT, Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, Wyoming Governor’s Big Game License Coalition, Wyoming Game and Fish Trust Fund
  • Analog stabilization and monitoring of the Bolton Creek Beaver Dam
    • The creek is a severely degraded watershed that contributes much of the sediment to the North Platte River.
    • Restoration efforts over the past decade have included beaver transplants, channel plugs, new beaver dam counterparts, riverbank farming, and removal of invasive species.
    • In 2021, 10 beaver dam isotopes were installed before the Fetterman DBA Historic Site.
      • Untreated fence posts were pushed into the creek channel to allow for willow weaving throughout.
      • The structures would collect sediment, reconnect the channel to the floodplain, help reduce fine sediment deposited in the North Platte River, and raise the groundwater table to help riverbank plants grow and encourage beavers to recolonize.
      • Documents related to the shift in the dimensions of the creek channel and the riverside habitat were collected.
    • Six historic BDAs were repaired in 2021 and the Green Line and Side Line lines were conducted on the banks of the river.
    • Funding Source: Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Fund
  • Riverside Bates Hole Restoration
    • The 250-acre juniper clearing along Bates and Chalk Creek was completed in 2021.
    • 10 isotopes of the beaver dam have been built at Chalk Creek.
    • 24 miles of salt cedar has been stripped and treated at Bolton Creek with the help of weeds and pests.
    • The projects are located in a habitat that is a critical one-year winter range for mule deer and the primary habitat for sage.
    • The treatments were built in 2021 based on a decade of work in the Bates Hall area.
    • Funding Sources: Local Working Group Sage Grouse, Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, Game and Fish Mule Deer Initiative.
  • Bates Hole / Hat Six Mule Deer Rapid Habitat Assessment Initiative
    • Three aspen assessments, nine rangelands, and two rapid riverside habitat assessments were completed at the Bates Hole Mule Deer Herd Unit in 2021.
    • Drought conditions reduced the production of herbaceous plants in 2021.
    • Data collected over five years will benefit future substantive reviews.
  • Highway 487 Mule Deer Collision Reduction
    • Game and Fish worked with WYDOT and landowners to identify crossing points used by mule deer.
    • Areas to tackle bushes to the right of the road have been targeted to reduce deer hidden cover to help reduce collisions with vehicles.
    • About 180 acres of shrubs were sprayed chemically along 10 miles of the highway in the summer of 2021. The sprayed areas were mowed in the fall.
    • The areas are set for reprocessing in the spring of 2022.
    • It included a 4-D herbicide mixed with Escort XP to affect sagebrush and greasewood.
    • Mowing is planned for 2022 as the bushes have again grown large enough to hide deer.
    • WYDOT data on deer mortality are collected to assess the effectiveness of the intervention.
    • Funding sources: Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, Wyoming Governor’s Big Game License Alliance, Wyoming Game Initiative, Fish Mule Deer Initiative

More details about Casper District projects and work across the state are available in Game and Fish’s full 2021 Annual Report of the Statewide Habitat Plan.

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