The Nature Conservancy and our partners have just completed the first ever study of the condition of wetlands for some major river basins in Wyoming. The information generated will help identify important wildlife habitat and serve as essential baseline information for achieving conservation goals.
Many people don’t readily think about wetlands and their value to wildlife in an arid state like Wyoming. However, wetlands are a scarce but vital resource that provide valuable benefits and services that contribute to the overall health of freshwater systems. Wetlands support a high biodiversity of plants and wildlife and often overlap with areas important for agricultural production. For example, 90% of the wildlife species in Wyoming use wetland and streamside habitats daily or seasonally, as do 70% of Wyoming bird species. Wetlands also serve as areas of water storage, functioning to protect downstream areas from flooding, and they filter out pollutants.
Wyoming Wetland Condition Assessments
Three priority wetland complexes*--Upper Green River, Laramie Plains and Goshen Hole—were identified as the most biologically diverse in the state and important breeding, staging and stopover habitats a variety of bird species. With funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), The Conservancy partnered with Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Wyoming Natural Diversity Database at the University of Wyoming, and Ducks Unlimited to produce the first basin-wide condition assessments of these priority wetland complexes. This research aims to measure the condition of wetland ecosystems and identify important habitat for wildlife in each basin. The data gathered from this project will fill critical gaps in information on wetlands in Wyoming, supporting efforts to develop targeted conservation goals and objectives for high priority wetland focal areas. TNC is continuing partnerships with the University of Wyoming to complete additional wetland condition assessments in the Red Desert and the Little Snake River basins in 2015-2017.
*How We Chose the Study Areas
In 2010, TNC helped produce a large-scale assessment of wetlands in Wyoming by identifying and mapping ‘wetland complexes’ and quantifying the relative importance of these complexes in terms of biodiversity, integrity and vulnerability. Using data and expert site knowledge, members of the Wyoming Bird Habitat Conservation Partnership team identified nine priority wetland complexes in Wyoming.