Interagency Initiative Captures Award
SHERIDAN, WY, April 16, 2009 - The Bighorn Mountains Cooperative Initiative accepted a U.S. Forest Service (USFS)-Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Conservation Project award at the 2009 North American Wildlife and Natural Resource Conference in late March.
Bighorn sheep and cattle graze in areas cleared through prescribed burning in Devil’s Canyon.
For more than ten years, this initiative has accomplished habitat and ecological improvement projects on public lands along the western slope of the Bighorn Mountains in Bighorn and Washakie counties, affecting more than 150,000 acres of Bighorn National Forest and BLM-managed public lands along more than 100 miles from the Montana border to south of Ten Sleep, Wyoming.
Projects have included vegetation treatments through prescribed fire, timber harvest, and thinning; watershed stabilization and rangeland improvement accomplished by better grazing management; water development and riparian protection; noxious and invasive plant eradication and control efforts; and suppression, rehabilitation, and stabilization efforts after significant wildfires.
In many cases projects overlapped jurisdictional boundaries and were accomplished by cooperative efforts by personnel from the Bighorn National Forest, Worland and Cody BLM Field Offices, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Others involved in the projects were the Mule Deer Foundation, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust Foundation.
Private landowners and grazing permittees have also been involved, and many acres of private lands have also been included in ecological and habitat improvement efforts.
The western slope of the Bighorn Mountains is important for many wildlife species, providing key winter and year-round habitat for several priority wildlife and fish species. Overlapping administrative boundaries means it is critical that agencies work collaboratively to insure that mutual management goals and objectives can be accomplished in an efficient, effective, and coordinated manner.
Key current project participants recognized for their efforts include the following: Range Management Specialist Beth Bischoff, District Assistant Fire Management Officer Tom Gonnoud, Wildlife Biologist Matt Moran, and Fire Management officer Jon Warder, all of the Bighorn National Forest; Wildlife Biologist Destin Harrell, Range Management Specialist Tricia Hatle, and Range and Fire Management Specialist Jack Mononi of the Cody BLM; Zone Forester Jim Gates, Fire Management Officer Chuck Russell, Wildlife Biologist Tim Stephens, Fire Management Specialist Jim Wolf, all of the Worland BLM; and Terrestrial Habitat Biologist Jerry Altermatt and Wildlife Biologist Tom Easterly of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
“Although not every project was implemented without some delays and problem issues, all agency personnel were able to work through any problems and continued to improve and increase the cooperation and collaboration over time. An important factor to identify is that these efforts are continuing and significant future achievements will occur,” said BLM Wildlife Program Lead Dennis Saville.