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Millions of federal dollars to go to ranchers willing to support wildlife migration

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Zachary Wheeler

A new partnership between Wyoming and the federal government will support ranchers and their conservation efforts.

The state of Wyoming and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are officially working together to conserve big game migration, and a key factor to the health of wildlife is private land, which in Wyoming is often big ranches.

“Private lands tend to have pretty good access to water and pretty high nutrients,” said Marissa Taylor, a rancher in southwest Wyoming and served on Governor Mark Gordon’s migrations corridors task force. “Those private lands not only help connect the corridor between the public lands, but they also offer key resource bases to help the animals survive that trek.”

In order to help preserve the land and avoid things like subdivisions, which can prevent wildlife migration, the partnership will provide $16 million in funding for ranchers starting in fiscal year 2023. The money can go toward building wildlife friendly fences or even dedicating pastures to wildlife at certain times of the year.

Jim Magagna, vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, said this can include things like wildlife friendly fencing or even “habitat leasing.”

“If you can make some adjustments in your grazing season, so that you're not necessarily fully utilizing pasture at the exact same time that the wildlife are migrating, that can be a helpful practice,” he said. “If you're putting in water developments or other types of improvements on the land, being able to develop those in a way that not only serves the needs for your cattle or sheep, but that they also will be available and serve the needs of wildlife that are moving through the region.”

Similar efforts already exist in Wyoming, with hundreds of thousands of acres under conservation easements.

Landowners can apply for funding through their local USDA service center.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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