Grasslands Conservation Fund Projects Complete

How ranchers worked with the Conservancy to make a big difference in the Shirley Basin.

“The power within short-grass prairies is fascinating. They are fantastic and fragile. Out here, they haven’t been turned upside down.” 
Todd Heward, Medicine Bow Conservation District Manager

Todd Heward’s ancestors navigated Wyoming’s Shirley Basin in horse-drawn wagons.Today, a journey that once took his family four days takes Heward 20 minutes in his pickup truck.

Next year marks the Heward family’s 100th year on the 7 E Ranch, a remote outpost on Wyoming’s vast and rolling eastern prairie. The nearest town is Medicine Bow, a quiet town made famous by Owen Wister’s western The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains.

Heward traverses his home range a lot these days as the Medicine Bow Conservation District Manager.

“Out here,” says Heward, “neighbors are important.”

Two years ago, the Conservancy introduced the Grasslands Conservation Fund, a quarter-of-a-million-dollar match to Wyoming’s Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust for grasslands conservation projects.

Heward worked with a few ranchers to start projects using the Conservancy’s matching funds, and then some other neighbors looked over their fences and got interested, too.

“A lot of ranchers out here wanted to do these projects but couldn’t see them through because of costs,” says Heward.

That first year, four landowners had projects, from wildlife escape ramps installed in water storage tanks, to wildlife-friendly fencing and sagebrush treatments. Today, the project spans more than 800,000 acres and involves 21 landowners who are all doing projects.