Elk NetworkInnovative Public-Private Partnership Conserves, Improves Elk Management on 6,660 Acres in Southeast Wyoming

News Releases | June 3, 2024

MISSOULA, Mont. — A land conservation and access project between Casper and Laramie that dates back over a decade is now closed thanks to a collaborative effort by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) and a vested ranching family.

As a result, a combined 6,660 acres of public and private wildlife habitat near the southern Laramie Range Mountains are now conserved and provide managed public hunting access to elk in Hunt Area 7, an area with an expanding elk population and limited hunter access opportunities.

“Though not our preference to hold land, RMEF owned Mule Creek Ranch for nearly two years, but that allowed us the time needed to assess the best conservation and management outcome to conserve its wildlife values,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “Now, we’re happy to announce a solution incorporating conservation-oriented grazing management and hunting access in coordination with elk movements and nearby ranches.”

WGFD will own 2,660 acres on the western part of the property and oversee it as a wildlife habitat management area. It includes public access parking, corrals, water and power sources, and Greater Sage-grouse priority habitat.

Approximately 4,000 eastern acres are now owned and managed by 88 Ranch, a family with a proven history in the area that values wildlife conservation and public access to hunting. WGFD holds a voluntary conservation agreement (conservation easement) on this acreage that also includes public hunting access.

In 2015, RMEF and WGFD created a 15-year hunting access agreement with the previous ranch owners while seeking a permanent conservation solution. This latest transaction supersedes that agreement, thus creating permanent hunting access going forward. Our partners at Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust (WWNRT) and Knobloch Family Foundation provided funding for the voluntary conservation agreement on the 88 Ranch-owned parcel to help bring this project over the finish line.

What They’re Saying about the Mule Creek Ranch Project:

“The Mule Creek Purchase is an extraordinary example of how an ordinary ranching family can achieve the goal of expanding ranching operations by working with such entities as WGFD and RMEF. We have been able to achieve the goals of protecting crucial habitat into perpetuity, gaining public hunting access and allowing our family to continue ranching on the land we so love. I believe if this kind of thought process could gain traction, we could help promote our agricultural families, permanently conserve our rangeland habitat and allow our hunters across this great nation a place to hunt. It is a win for so many and a dream come true for the 88 Ranch,” said Garrett Henry, 88 Ranch owner.

“RMEF has been an amazing partner for conservation and public access and has worked collaboratively with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department on a multitude of projects. The Mule Creek Ranch project is a shining example of a successful effort from a public and private partnership to provide perpetual habitat conservation and public access opportunities in an area where elk populations have been difficult to manage.   This project would not have been possible without the generous contributions from RMEF, The Knobloch Family Foundation, and WWNRT,” said Roy Weber, WGFD land branch chief.

“We’re grateful for WGFD and Garrett Henry and family of the 88 Ranch who, together, achieved a scenario that brings about long-term conservation and wildlife-focused management through a public/private management approach for the benefit of all,” added Weaver.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:   

Founded in 1984 and fueled by hunters, RMEF has conserved more than 8.9 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation” ® at rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.