Elk NetworkWyoming Honors Stewards of the Land

General | September 29, 2023

Below is a news release from the Wyoming Game & Fish Department.

For nearly 30 years the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has recognized landowners throughout the state who have demonstrated outstanding wildlife management and implemented habitat improvement and conservation techniques on their properties with the landowner of the year awards. These stewards of the land open access to research and recreation on thousands of acres across Wyoming and, more importantly, maintain habitat for wildlife. Seven landowners were recognized as the 2023 landowners of the year by Game and Fish.

Ogalalla Ranch | Converse County

Josh and Kayla Moore, and their family, own the 40,000-acre ranch 55 miles north of Glenrock. The family actively works with Game and Fish, other state and federal agencies and others to enhance the lands they own and lease.

The desire to allow hunting access on the deeded property adjacent to Bureau of Land Management and state land parcels resulted in a 25-year hunting access easement with Game and Fish. The Ogalalla Ranch Public Access Area was a cooperative effort between the Moore family, Converse County Commissioners, Game and Fish and the Office of State Lands and Investments. Game and Fish announced the opening of the new PAA in 2022, which provides deer and pronghorn hunting opportunities.

Mexican Creek Ranch | Fremont County

Richard (posthumous) and Perry Cook donated a conservation easement to the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in 2007 along their 689-acre property. This restricts any future development, including relinquishing all future residential development rights. The property, along with surrounding BLM and State Trust land, provides crucial winter habitat for mule deer, elk and pronghorn. The property also supports good populations of upland bird species, including chukar and Hungarian partridge.

The Cooks have worked with terrestrial and aquatic habitat programs to maintain beaver colonies to benefit the fishery, stream health and maintain riparian areas on their portion of Mexican Creek. Perry has educated fellow landowners about these benefits, and she has a deep appreciation for nongame wildlife including passerine birds, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

Sage Creek and True North ranches | Park County

Anne Young and her late husband, Jim Nielson, have proven their commitment to conserving fertile agricultural lands, viewscapes and critical habitat for wildlife in the Cody Region for more than 30 years. The couple were the founding members of The Nature Conservancy’s Wyoming chapter. Their efforts have resulted in the Heart Mountain Ranch Preserve to attract scientists, ranchers, outdoor enthusiasts and youth groups from across the world. Anne and Jim worked with Game and Fish, the University of Wyoming and other landowners to initiate a moose population study that included collars and trail cameras. The information gathered in this study was valuable in the management of moose in the Greybull River drainage system.

Rock Springs Grazing Association | Sweetwater County

This group, led by John W. Hay III and Don Schramm, partnered with Game and Fish and developed an Access Yes Walk-in Hunting and Fishing access area on nearly 17,000 acres of the association’s private, deeded lands located on the Green River. This area is now legally accessible public land for hunting and more than 12 miles of river access for anglers. The management plan is to allow public access and promote long-term public use and conservation of the wildlife resources. The RSGA also helps wildlife through its winter grazing strategy. It utilizes BLM and private land checkerboard in the area 80 miles east and west of Rock Springs, and 20 miles north and south of the railroad for livestock grazing. Most of these lands are grazed between Dec. 15 and May 1 by cattle or sheep. This strategy sustains productive livestock forage, and has benefited habitat for pronghorn, sage grouse, mule deer and numerous other wildlife species.

Bateman Ranch | Lincoln County

Richard and Brenda Bateman run the ranch in northern Lincoln County east of Etna. The ranch provides high-quality habitat for mule deer, elk, moose, game birds and a variety of nongame species. The Batemans have worked to eliminate elk damage on his property and allowed Game and Fish access to facilitate elk movement in the winter. The Batemans allow many hunters to harvest elk on their property. They also allow people access to U.S. Forest Service land on the other side of their elk fence.

Leo Land and Livestock and RF Ranch | Sheridan County

Owner Kathleen Hollcroft and her son, Sam Reinke, have allowed a variety of aquatic wildlife surveys and projects on their property over the years. Their property lies within elk Hunt Area 2 with limited public access, but Hollcroft has been open to conversations about improving access, and she and Reinke have been instrumental in helping manage this herd closer to population objectives. In 2021-22 Hollcroft and Reinke partnered with Game and Fish in the Clear Creek/Powder River fish telemetry study. They allowed biologists to construct and operate a telemetry receiver station on their property. They also have allowed access and temporary placement of equipment for acoustic surveying of amphibians. Plains spadefoot and Great Plains toads were found on or near the ranch, which was important because both are listed as Wyoming Species of Greatest Conservation Need.

Bookout Ranch LLC | Albany County

Four families are part of the ranch: Pat Bookout and family, Jed Gerig and family, Robert and Christina Burke and Steve and Megan Nott. The ranch has been instrumental to Game and Fish with a variety of wildlife and habitat projects for many years, and allowed access for projects involving black bears, mule deer, bighorn sheep, bats and cheatgrass treatments.

The Laramie Mountains mule deer herd was selected as a focal herd for the Game and Fish’s Mule Deer Monitoring Project, and the Bookouts allowed access for mule deer captures to collar deer, as well as to retrieve collars. The Laramie Peak bighorn sheep herd is part of a statewide disease monitoring effort, and thanks to the Bookouts Game and Fish has 25 GPS collars on bighorn sheep throughout the herd.

(Photo credit: Wyoming Game & Fish Department)