CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is recognizing seven families and ranches in the state as its 2022 Landowners of the Year.
The awards are given to landowners who have “demonstrated outstanding wildlife management and implemented habitat improvement and conservation techniques on their properties,” Game and Fish said in a news release Monday. The department honors landowners who have supported research and recreation on lands across Wyoming.
The 2022 awards were given to the following seven families and ranches, Game and Fish said:
G-3 Land & Cattle Partnership
The Good family has played a big role in the preservation of one of Wyoming’s native fish species — the hornyhead chub — which is a Species of Greatest Conservation Need within Wyoming’s State Wildlife Action Plan.
For more than a century the hornyhead chub was only present in two rivers in Wyoming — Laramie and North Laramie. The Arapahoe Fire of 2012 eradicated the hornyhead chub from the North Laramie River, and transplants from the Laramie River were needed to reintroduce this species. The Good family allowed Game and Fish to access land and river area for the transport of Horneyhead chub to the North Laramie River, and also the Sweetwater River.
The North Laramie River Hornyhead chub population has returned to its pre-fire abundance and the transplants to the Sweetwater River continue to be monitored.
Ox Yoke Ranch
In 1989 the Ox Yoke Ranch near Beulah entered into a lease agreement with the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission to allow unlimited public fishing access on an additional three miles of Sand Creek below the Sand Creek Wildlife Habitat Management Area in exchange for cattle grazing rights during the month of December on the Sand Creek WHMA.
Thanks to the cooperation of the Ox Yoke Ranch and the Reinecke family, the Sand Creek WHMA has developed, grown and increased public recreation use. This area has been a long-time favorite of residents and visitors who seek a quality and accessible recreation experience within minutes of the towns of Beulah, Sundance and Spearfish, South Dakota.
Hopkins Hamilton Ranch
About 5,000 acres in Fremont County
The ranch provides important wildlife habitat that supports deer, pronghorn, sage grouse, sauger and a variety of other species. The first sauger work in the Lander Region occurred in the Little Popo Agie River on the ranch in 2002. This reach of the Little Popo Agie supports one of the highest-elevation populations of sauger across its native range, and access to the ranch has allowed Game and Fish to collect critical information about sauger distribution, abundance and genetics.
Bill (deceased) and Duveene Hamilton purchased the ranch in 1962. Bill’s son, Bryan Hamilton, and his wife, Jennifer, manage the ranch. Bryan has been an active member of the Popo Agie Conservation District Board, and has participated in the Heathy River Initiative, which is a collaboration effort by agencies and landowners to improve water-use efficiencies and stream flows in the Popo Agie watershed.
Mountain Springs Ranch
The property, about nine miles northeast of Boulder, was placed under a conservation easement since the Morris family has been the owners. It sits within the designated Sublette Mule Deer Migration Corridor and provides transitional habitat for deer migrating between their winter and summer ranges. The property also provides crucial winter and year-long habitat for moose, and winter habitat for elk. And, the ranch sits within sage grouse core habitat.
During the initial start-up of the Sublette County Invasives Taskforce, the ranch was one of the first to sign-up and allow treatment of invasive cheatgrass. The family allows Game and Fish and other partners to monitor cheatgrass treatment work and follow-up applications at various locations.
The family has worked with Game and Fish and other agencies to convert fences to wildlife-friendly standards. The Ranch is home to Camp GROW — Green River Outreach for Wilderness Foundation — a non-profit organization founded in 2009 to introduce others to wild places.
The ranch borders the Scab Creek elk feedground, and the family has been active in assisting with hunter access, especially for veterans and youth during the late, antlerless elk seasons. The family also has assisted Game and Fish with brucellosis elk trapping efforts at the Scab Creek elk feedground.
2,600 acres in Sheridan County
Ron and Sue Martin own and operate the ranch that consists of irrigated hay fields, riparian areas and rolling, grass-covered hills that provide habitat for a variety of big game, bird and nongame species.
The property has been enrolled in Game and Fish’s Access Yes walk-in area program since 2005 and provides hunters access on 2,445 acres for deer, pronghorn and gamebirds in an area where it is increasingly difficult to find access.
The Martins have been active in the control and elimination of invasive plants on their property, particularly ventenata. The family has partnered with Game and Fish, Sheridan County Weed and Pest and the University of Wyoming Sheridan Research Station to combat invasive grasses in the region. The Martins also have participated in mapping, treating and educational outreach of the ventenata invasion on their property.
The family has supported the ongoing North Bighorns Mule Deer Study since 2020. The study’s goals include identifying mule deer movements in the northern Bighorn Mountains, evaluating seasonal range and habitat use, identifying habitat improvements and conservation opportunities and documenting vital rates on individual animals.
Beaver Creek Ranch
Big Horn County
Beaver Creek bisects the property and provides cover and forage to avian, big game and aquatic species.
Owner Deb McCormick and her family enrolled the ranch in a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation conservation easement. The North Bighorn Mule Deer herd spends half the year on the ranch. McCormick allowed access so research on the head could be conducted.
In 2019 McCormick granted Game and Fish Access to enhance riparian habitat through the removal of conifers from the Beaver Creek floodplain. Since 2020 about 140 acres have been treated.
Kasey A LLC
The Albins and Burg families have allowed Game and Fish to contact and interact with the public that recreate in this part of southwest Wyoming to protect against aquatic invasive species. Kasey A LLC also has worked with Game and Fish wildlife personnel to help with wildlife regulation compliance, wildlife data and disease investigation.
The families provided and constructed a permanent AIS check station in Kemmerer in 2019 that allowed Game and Fish to provide mandatory watercraft inspections and intercept high-risk watercraft. Fontenelle and Viva Naughton reservoirs benefit from this check station, along with stretches of the Green River that are popular with fly anglers using drift boats. That location also serves as a hunting check station in the fall and winter, which has greatly enhanced the ability of wildlife personnel to collect valuable data, along with monitoring hunter compliance.
The families also have provided cold storage to Game and Fish personnel for wildlife donations that are received. Anne Marie Albins, and her husband, Josh, have been hunter safety instructors since 2016, conducting multiple classes a year.