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A New Approach to Conservation

Blackline for the Red Canyon prescribed burn.
The BLM creates a blackline for
the Red Canyon prescribed burn
near Kemmerer. The burn was
one of six projects funded by the
 Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative in 2007.

Map showing area of southwest Wyoming.
This map shows the area of
southwest Wyoming that is
the focus of the Wyoming
Landscape Conservation Initiative.

    by Angelina Pryich

ROCK SPRINGS, Wyo. - A new large-scale effort in southwest Wyoming to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife habitats while facilitating responsible development is well underway.

The Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative (WLCI) began in fall 2006 as a long-term, science-based effort sponsored by a broad coalition of government groups that includes the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), U.S. Forest Service, Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA), Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), local county governments, and conservation districts.

In 2007, the WLCI facilitated the completion of several conservation projects in southwestern Wyoming, including weed treatments, aspen treatments, swan habitat improvements, a prescribed burn, and water distribution improvements. Agencies and their partners prepared the projects and WLCI funded them. The essence of these and future projects is to ensure healthy fish and wildlife populations across the entire WLCI landscape area, which includes both public and private lands in the Green River Basin in the southwest corner of the state. A landscape is an area composed of diverse habitat types, which may include year-round fish and wildlife needs, such as winter range, migration corridors, or areas for raising young.

Ongoing WLCI efforts include scientific assessment of wildlife and development, implementation of actions to conserve fish and wildlife, and monitoring of those actions to guide future work. Upcoming conservation projects may involve private landowners with conservation easements or projects to protect habitat while maintaining viable operations. Additionally, the WLCI encourages use of best management practices during energy development to limit the impacts to habitat.

The WLCI is part of the Secretary of the Interior’s Healthy Lands Initiative, which was announced in February 2007, to support cooperative conservation work in western states. Federal funding for fiscal year 2008 includes $1.25 million for the BLM to do on-the-ground project work, $1.5 million for the USGS to provide scientific research and support, and $1.5 million for the FWS to protect at-risk species and fund work on private land. The WLCI plans to receive federal funds annually but will also seek other sources of funding. Additionally, the WLCI is developing partnerships with various organizations and is promoting public involvement and ownership at the local level.

A series of open houses in February, attended by about 135 people, introduced the initiative to the public. A science workshop held in May involved partners and other groups in developing the science approach for the initiative. More than 120 individuals representing 30 organizations attended this workshop. As a result of these events, a strategy for scientific work in southwestern Wyoming has been developed.  

Also in 2007, the WLCI established an interagency coordination team to organize and manage projects at the field level. This team is based in the BLM Rock Springs Field Office and includes staff from the BLM, USGS, USFWS and WGFD; the WDA will add a representative to the team in 2008. This coordination team works directly with the public, government agencies and anyone interested in the initiative. In August, the team facilitated workshops in Rawlins, Rock Springs and Kemmerer to discuss potential projects and involve interested groups in the WLCI.

Several other organizations have been involved with the WLCI and plan to provide support in a regular advisory capacity, including the National Park Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Wyoming State Land Board and Jonah Interagency Mitigation and Reclamation Office.

More information about this initiative can be found at www.wlci.gov.

Last updated: 06-05-2008