A boy releases a bird after it has been banded.
Bioblitz, Wyoming A young volunteer releases a spotted towhee (Pipilo maculatus) at TNC’s Red Canyon Ranch. © Timothy Rockhold

Stories in Wyoming

Wyoming Annual Report 2020

Even with this year’s challenges, we continue on course to keep Wyoming wild and working.

Photo of Wyoming State Director Hayley Mortimer.
State Director Hayley Mortimer Wyoming State Director © Nick Lund

A Note from State Director Hayley Mortimer

It’s hard to believe that we’re on the doorstep of winter already! For many of you, this is the time to head for the hills with your skis. It’s also a great time to watch wildlife, showing up against the snow – an activity we enjoydue to theabundance of intact habitat that makes our state so special.

It's important not to be complacent about our wide-open spaces and the habitats they provide for Wyoming wildlife. Climate change and development are threats to nature that we don’t want to ignore. For example, the great migrations that maintain our wildlife bounty can be pinched off with a poorly constructed fence or busy highway. As the clima...

It’s hard to believe that we’re on the doorstep of winter already! For many of you, this is the time to head for the hills with your skis. It’s also a great time to watch wildlife, showing up against the snow – an activity we enjoydue to theabundance of intact habitat that makes our state so special.

It's important not to be complacent about our wide-open spaces and the habitats they provide for Wyoming wildlife. Climate change and development are threats to nature that we don’t want to ignore. For example, the great migrations that maintain our wildlife bounty can be pinched off with a poorly constructed fence or busy highway. As the climate changes, we also need to ensure that animals have room to roam, despite the impacts that alter their current ranges. With your support, The Nature Conservancy is preserving vital habitat, finding ways to remove obstacles to our grand migrations and keeping Wyoming waters healthy and abundant.

Although we haven’t been able to meet in person, I hope you’ve been able to join one of our Conservation Chats. On December 3, we’ll showcase our innovative efforts to restore sagebrush – habitat that supports a lot of the wildlife we cherish. Watch an invitation or check nature.org/wyoming for details.

As we approach the holiday season, I wish you and your family health and happiness. Thank you for your unwavering support for our vision of keeping Wyoming wild and working.

- Hayley Mortimer

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Conservation numbers from annual report.

Wildlife on the Move

Wyoming is home to some of the country’s most impressive wildlife migrations. For many animals, migration is a matter of life or death—they must successfully reach the places where they feed, breed and rear their young to maintain a healthy population.

Consider mule deer. Although they are common in Wyoming, researchers really don’t know enough about their seasonal migrations. What routes do they follow? Where do they stop to feed and rest? What are the biggest risks they face along the way? To help answer some of these questions, we are tracking GPS-collared animals.

An elk herd grazing on a brown slope.
A doe is separated from her fawns by a fence.

We do know that crossing busy roads can be a hazard for wildlife, but did you realize that a fence can also be deadly to them? Imagine if every time you tried to go to the grocery store, you encountered roadblocks that made you travel miles out of your way. For some wildlife, that’s what fences are like.

If the top wire of a fence is too high, it’s impossible for some animals to jump over. If a wire is loose, animals can become entangled and suffer a slow, agonizing death. If a bottom wire is too low, young animals and pronghorn, which are not good jumpers, can’t crawl under. That can leave a fawn stranded and separated from its mother or force a pronghorn to burn precious calories searching for a crossing spot. Barbed wire fences also pose a special hazard for greater sage-grouse, whose poor eyesight can lead them to fly into a fence—a collision that can be fatal. And in the relatively treeless sagebrush prairie, fenceposts make great perches for flying predators such as hawks. 

The Nature Conservancy and our partners are removing and modifying fences to make them more wildlife friendly and ensure that these vital pathways remain connected in the future. Those efforts are among others that TNC is taking to maintain the wildlife heritage so cherished by Wyomingites.

Need a guide?

Download our brand new Wyoming preserve guide to help you decide which preserves to visit next year! 

Wyoming Preserves

It’s not too early to start thinking about your spring adventures—even if it’s just from your armchair. To pique your interest, check out our beautiful WY Preserve Guide

Building like Beavers

For centuries, beavers were valued almost only for their pelts—so they were trapped nearly to extinction. But their disappearance from landscapes has shown us how essential they are to the health of rivers and streams, which in turn supply our food and water, provide recreation and maintain healthy habitat.

A beaver is released from a cage into a wetland.
Beaver Release Releasing a beaver back into the wild in Wyoming. © Johnn Coffman / TNC
Workers build a structure that mimics a beaver dam.
BDA Construction Workers building a structure to mimic a beaver dam. © John Coffman

For the last four years, TNC has built dozens of structures that mimic those made by beavers. Known as Beaver Dam Analogues (BDAs), they are placed in streams to slow the water flow so that it doesn’t run off as quickly, leaving them dry by late summer. Heavy flows are a problem because they come with such force that they cut deep into the stream channels, perpetuating the problem of runoff, and they leave streams dry in the late summer months. Beaver dams (and BDAs), spread out the water from rain and spring snowmelt, which helps replenish the groundwater that feeds streams later in the season. The structures also hold sediment, which maintains good channel depth.

At TNC’s Red Canyon Ranch Preserve, our efforts are showing some positive results. In only two years, BDAs in Barrett and Red Canyon Creeks have slowed flow enough to allow a build-up of sediment. Although it is still very early in the process, we are encouraged by what we’re seeing. In addition to installing these artificial structures, we’ve also introduced beavers to the preserve so that they can do more of the work we’re trying to imitate.

Equally important, we are engaging the community and starting to change the image of beavers as a nuisance. We’re promoting them as a low-cost way to slow the flow of water so that everyone can benefit. As people begin to see the animals’ positive benefits at Red Canyon, we hope that landowners will be more accepting of beavers on their streams.

A stream post BDA construction showing higher sediment.
A stream running quick with high water.
Beaver Dam Analogue Construction Before and After In only two years, BDAs are slowing the water flow enough to build up sediment and spread water out. This allows for more water retention.

A black bear moves through a forest.
Black Bear A trail cam captures a black bear. © TNC
A cougar is caught in black and white on a trail camera
A moose moving through a tree lined meadow.
Moose Trail Camera A moose is caught in a trail camera photo. © TNC
A black bear moves through a forest.
Black Bear A trail cam captures a black bear. © TNC

Wildlife and Recreation

Here’s a chance to forward conservation science from the comfort of your home. TNC has joined with partners on the “Neighbors to Nature: Cache Creek Study.” The goal is to use citizen science to improve management decisions in the most heavily used portion of the Greater Cache Creek/Snow King area near Jackson.

A cougar is caught in black and white on a trail camera

This is where you come in! In addition to having on-the-ground observers, we need volunteers to help comb through the thousands of images captured on more than 25 remote cameras placed across a variety of trails, ranging from low to high recreational use. You don’t need to live in the Jackson area to participate, and you can devote as little or as much of your time as you like.

A moose moving through a tree lined meadow.
Moose Trail Camera A moose is caught in a trail camera photo. © TNC

When you review the images, you may see moose, mule deer, elk and rare species such as bears and foxes, so keep your eyes peeled! The information you record will then be analyzed by scientists at TNC, who are leading the research component of the project. You’ll be providing critical data to ensure that both people and wildlife can enjoy the Bridger-Teton National Forest without conflict or negative impacts. The project is supported by a partnership between TNC, the U.S. Forest Service, Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation and Friends of Pathways.

Our Future in Forests

A dense forest is not the first picture that comes to mind when you imagine the Wyoming landscape. Nor have forests—which cover less than 20 percent of the state—historically been a big focus of the chapter’s work. But now, we are taking a closer look at them. Recently, we’ve been working on aspen groves on the Bighorn and Black Hills National Forests.

Golden-leaved Aspen trees in autumn.
Aspen Grove in Autumn The largest and oldest known aspen grove is the "Pando" clone in southern Utah. The grove is a colony of cloned trees stemming from a single male aspen. © John Zapell / USFS
Red-leaved trees reflected in a lake glow in the Teton Mountain range.

One of the loveliest sounds in nature is the soft whisper of quivering aspen leaves rustled by the wind, and their golden leaves illuminated by the sun against a blue sky can bring joy during the melancholy days of fall. Aspen groves also support good habitat and forage for a variety of wildlife and provide a natural buffer against wildfire. But aspen can be a fragile species, easily subject to insect invasions and rot. According to Carli Kierstead, who is leading TNC’s forest work in Wyoming, “Aspen look for ways to die.” She adds that the absence of natural wildfire is also causing aspen problems—allowing them to be muscled out by lodgepole pine and other conifers.

The solution may seem odd for a conservation organization, but to save the aspen and bring the system back into balance, we have to take out other trees. Working with forest management agencies, we’re helping thin some of those conifers to create more diverse forests that will better withstand the impacts of climate change, continue to clean our air and water and protect nature and people from the threats of severe wildfire.

So far, this is a small step in forest restoration, but as TNC seeks solutions to reduce the impacts of climate change, forest restoration and management may begin to play a bigger role.

Headshot of Dr. Boyd in a corduroy blazer and tie.

Donor Profile: Dr. Donald W. Boyd, PhD

Dr. Donald W. Boyd, Ph.D., loved rocks. Some of the best stromatolite outcrops in the world can be found in the Snowy Range, tucked high in the Medicine Bow Mountains of Wyoming. The magic of these two-billion-year-old, finely layered rock formations was something Dr. Boyd wanted to share with everyone. A highly respected geologist and a belove...

Dr. Donald W. Boyd, Ph.D., loved rocks. Some of the best stromatolite outcrops in the world can be found in the Snowy Range, tucked high in the Medicine Bow Mountains of Wyoming. The magic of these two-billion-year-old, finely layered rock formations was something Dr. Boyd wanted to share with everyone. A highly respected geologist and a beloved former professor at the University of Wyoming, Dr. Boyd helped to write a walking tour of Wyoming’s spectacular stromatolites in 2014, and over the years, he led many students on field trips to study them. 

TNC Wyoming Trustee David Work was invited on one of those trips back when he was a young geologist working in the area. “I remember Dr. Don led us at a fierce pace, and it was hard to keep up,” says Work. “As we moved along, he told us all about the landscape and the wildlife—it was a wonderful experience.”

Dr. Boyd passed away in April, at the age of 92. He left a generous legacy gift to TNC Wyoming that will help us sustain special places such as the working rangelands of Red Canyon Ranch, the geologic wonders and rare plants of Heart Mountain Ranch and the habitat of majestic whooping and sandhill cranes along the North Platte River. “I absolutely know he loved southeast Wyoming and all of its wild inhabitants and geologic history,” notes Work.

Perhaps most inspiring for all those who knew Dr. Boyd was his humble spirit of generosity.  In his obituary, it was noted that Dr. Boyd “lived by the principle that there is no greater gift than to give of oneself.”  Like the splendid stromatolites, Dr. Boyd’s gift to conservation will stand the test of time—benefitting nature and communities for generations to come. 

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Board of Trustees

Lenox Baker             Mayo Lykes                        David Work
Indy Burke                Chris Madson                    Frank Bonsal*
Steve Buskirk          Reid Murchison               Barron Collier*
Mark Doelger          Peter Nicolaysen             Richard M. Davis*
Frank Goodyear    Anne Pendergast             Dennis Knight*
Doug Gouge              Adair Stifel                         Gilman Ordway*
Mary Hayes              Margie Taylor                   Fred C. Whiting*
Ken Lay                       Paul Ulrich                          Anne Young*
Kathy Lichtendahl        Page Williams                  *Emeritus

Financial Results
July 1, 2019 - June 30, 2020

We carry out our work with a deep commitment to accountability and transparency. Our conservation accomplishments this year have been empowered by sustainable financial resources. We have built a strong and effective organization in keeping with our strategic plan. 

Programmatic Efficiency

FY2020 Operating Expenses $4,096,968

Conservation 73

Gen & Administration 14

Fundraising 13

Revenue

FY2020 Operating Revenue $5,241,484

Contributions 78

Other Income 3

Investment Income 14

Gov Grants Contracts 5

The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming statement of Financial Position

                                                             As of June 30, 2019              As of June 30, 2020


Assets


Cash and Investments                 $2,417,152                              $3,621,596 

Endowment Funds                        $17,670,878                           $17,740,508 

Land Assets                                         $178,055,884                       $179,431,959 

Other Assets                                       $3,239,527                            $3,324,336


Total Assets                                 $201,383,442                 $204,118,399


Liabilities                                          $2,016                                      $2,016 

Net Assets                                         $201,381,425                        $204,116,382


Total                                                 $201,383,442                $204,118,399

Wyoming Donors

We couldn't achieve our conservation success without you! The following donors made gifts/pledges to the Wyoming program or live in Wyoming and made gifts / pledges to other TNC programs between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020. 

$100,000 - $999,999

Dr. Frances W. & Dr. Lenox D. Baker* • Mary Anne & William Dingus • Anne & Charles W. Duncan, Jr. • Mary Ann & Thomas Jones • Linda & Reid Murchison III* • Nancy-Carroll Draper Charitable Foundation • Lollie Benz Plank • Margaret J. Taylor* • James E. Nielson & Anne N. Young

$10,000 - $99,999

Anonymous (5) • The Alexander Bodini Charitable Foundation • Patricia & Daniel Baker • Robert & Carol Berry • Peter R. Boerma • Barron G. Collier II* • Community Foundation of Jackson Hole • EarthShare • Forrest E. Mars, Jr., Sheridan Charitable Foundation • Foundation for Community Vitality • Elizabeth & Frank Goodyear, Jr.* • Ralph & Louise Haberfield • Alessandra lorio & Kenneth Lay* • Michelle & Robert Keith, Jr. • Dr. Elizabeth M. Keithley • Knobloch Family Foundation • Virginia & Jonathan Madsen II • National Geographic Society • Opatrny Family Foundation • Gil & Marge Ordway • M. Anne Pendergast* • Martha E. Pheneger • Christine & James Scott • Jeanette Schubert & Doug Gouge* • Adair* & Arnold Stifel • Whiteley & Nicholas Wheeler • David* & Susan Work

$1,000 - $9,999

Anonymous (4) • The A.C. & Penney Hubbard Foundation, Inc. • Janet Anderson-Ray • Paul Asper & Nancy Weidman • Gail & Dana Atkins • William & Terri Baas • Dorothy Baker • The Benevity Community Impact Fund • Nancy & Joseph Bohne • Dr. Donald W. Boyd* • Thomas Brantley • Pamala Brondos & Peter Nicolaysen* • Stephen Brumbatch EOM • Thomas Brundage • Glenn Burnett II • Elizabeth & Dr. Steven Buskirk* • Cecilia Butler • Carol & Bruce Campbell • James Campbell • Mardi & Brown Cannon • Lisa Carlin • Lynne & Jeff Carlton • Nancy & Andrew Carson • Ann & Charles Catlett • Susan Chesteen & Dr. William Barry • Ann & F.J. Cornwell, Jr. • Colleen Colby & Andy Norman • Verena & Roderick Cushman • Deborah de la Reguera* & Willard Mayo • Sally Dieterich • Sarah & Dr. David Doll • Nancy & David E. Donovan • Jim & Jamie Dutcher • Andrea Erickson & Joseph Quiroz • Holly Ernest & Bruce Hoar • Michelle Escudero & Scott Kane • Shawn Ferrin • John Freeman • Foster & Lynn Friess • Ashley & Roderick Gagne • Bob Giurgevich • Kristine Groh • Merrily & Glenn Gumpel • Hall and Hall • Molly & Bruce Hampton • John & Carol Harkness • Mary* & William Hayes • Sarah & Michael Healy • Eric K. Huber • Paula & George Hunker • Scott & Candice Johnson • Kathryn Jenkins & Michael Shonsey • Alison & Richard Jones Pass-Through Fund • Peggy Keigher & Paul Lonac • Cathy & Dr. Francis Middleton • Judith Mingst & L. Patrick Lupo • Bradley & Susan J. Mohrmann • National Wild Turkey Federation - SD/WY Chapter • Rita Neill* & Michael Kotrick • Network for Good • Deborah* & Mark Nunnink • Barbara & Bob Oakleaf • Reverend Kristin E. Orr • Willinda Oudin • Mary Paulette & Dr. Ronald Orbin • Leigh & Annie Perkins • Jared Pobre • Bart & Liz Rea • Patricia & Joshua Reed • William Resor & Story Clark • Kathleen & Keith Rittle • Stephen & Lisa Robertson • Drs. Georgiana M. Sanders & W. Joseph McCure • Nancy L. Schiffer • Dr. Eddie T. Seo • Barbara & Charles Smith • Daniel M. Smith • Linda & Ronn Smith • Margaret & Douglas Sobey • Jeanie & Fred Staehr • Linda & James Starmer, Jr. • Michelle Sullivan & Brian Kuehl • Catherine Symchych • Naoma Tate • Priscilla & Thomas Terry • Deborah & William Ward, Jr. • Katherine & Ted Williams • Chris & Kurt Wimberg • Caroline & John Winsor • Wyoming Mining Natural Resource Foundation • Yonder Star • Dr. Karin Zachow & Jim Kirwan

Trade Lands

Colonel Gibson S. Peterson

In-Kind Donations

Davis & Cannon, LLP • Dennis and Christy Davis

New Legacy Club Members

Calvin & Wendy Brown • Barbara L. Kissack • Rita K. Neill* & Michael J. Kotrick • Robert Weiglein & Catherine Bell

*Wyoming board member, emeritus board member, staff member or volunter
+Deceased