Volunteers Dig in for Habitat Improvements

Partnership Project to improve wildlife habitat, water quality, range condition

Cody, Wyoming | June 03, 2011

On Tuesday, June 14, an estimated 200 volunteers will roll up their sleeves for the Partnership Project Volunteer Day on upper Grass Creek, south of Meeteetse, Wyoming. Volunteers will assist with work that is part of The Nature Conservancy’s multi-year, multi-partner cooperative project aimed at improving wildlife habitat, water quality and range condition in the Grass and Cottonwood Creek drainages between Meeteetse and Thermopolis, Wyoming.

Launched in 2009, the Conservancy’s five-year project includes stewardship activities such as the development of well-distributed livestock water across a vast, arid landscape. Several off-creek water sources developed in 2010 will allow participating ranchers to avoid watering their animals directly from the area’s streams, a change which should result in improved water quality. In the next few years, the Conservancy and partners will also be revegetating riparian areas stripped by grazing animals, as well as fencing stretches of vulnerable streams to exclude domestic livestock. The Conservancy will continue to work with landowners to create comprehensive range and water quality monitoring programs across this large landscape.

On June 14, volunteers will build fences around aspen stands that are adjacent to the new off-creek water sources. The new fences will exclude grazing while aspen regeneration treatments are conducted inside the fenced units. Aspen forests are highly valued because they provide important wildlife habitat and livestock forage, as well as contribute to maintaining water quality and quantity. Relatively rare in the Absaroka Range, aspen stands are a high priority for habitat improvement projects by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

“We’re excited to partner with The Nature Conservancy on this project,” says Mike Healy of the LU Ranch. “Better distributed livestock water improves the ranch’s bottom line and enhances the condition of the range. And maintaining aspen stands will improve habitat for wildlife that we value for hunting.”

The Nature Conservancy sees this partnership project as a win-win for people and nature. “It is inspiring to work with ranchers like Mike Healy and Dee Hillberry on this project because they understand that investing in off-creek water improves water quality and the efficiency of their livestock operations,” says Katherine Thompson, Northwest WY Program Director for the Conservancy. “Cattle that don’t have to trail long distances to water gain weight faster. And, as grazing pressure decreases in these riparian areas, we should see stream banks stabilize as vegetation recovers.”

This partnership project was implemented in 2009 with funding from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. Project work will expand in 2011 with additional support from the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust Fund. The project area encompasses almost 200,000 acres and 164 miles of perennial streams. The Conservancy hopes to use this project as a blueprint for similar collaborations in other priority drainages across northwest Wyoming.

Volunteers will meet at 9 a.m. at the Gooseberry Creek Rest Area 36 miles northwest of Thermopolis on Highway 120. Study clothes, work gloves, sunscreen and hat are recommended. Lunch will be provided. Please contact Katherine Thompson by June 10 to register; (307) 587-1655.

The Nature Conservancy would like to thank all of the project partners: Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, LU Ranch, Spring Gulch Cattle Company, Hot Springs Weed & Pest, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Bureau of Land Management, Wyoming Game & Fish Department, University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension, Wyoming Department of Agriculture, Cottonwood / Grass Creek Coordinated Resource Management Group, Wyoming Conservation Corps, David M. Leuschen Foundation, and Marathon Oil.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at

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Tracey Kiest
Media Relations Manager

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