September 20, 2020

The Conservation Fund, RMEF Team Up to Protect Wyoming Working Lands and Wildlife Habitat

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Conservation Fund and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) worked together with a conservation-minded family and key partners to permanently protect 3,239 acres of working ranch lands and crucial wildlife habitat in the Upper Green River Valley in Wyoming. The resulting conservation easement is a strategic tool that the landowner utilized to help boost his operations, while also safeguarding habitat for sage grouse, elk and the largest concentration of Shiras Moose in the country as well as other wildlife species.

“The habitat values of this land are vital,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. “We appreciate Tim Delaney and his family for recognizing the importance of maintaining and protecting their ranch for a vast array of wildlife. We also appreciate the good folks at The Conservation Fund for their diligent efforts in making this happen.”

“The Rolling Thunder Ranch represents a critical piece in The Conservation Fund’s longstanding work in Wyoming’s Upper Green River Valley,” said Luke Lynch, The Conservation Fund’s Wyoming state director. “We’re thankful for the family’s dedication and commitment to conserving their land, and also for our partners, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), who help us preserve the natural landscapes and the family ranches that are at the heart of our heritage. We appreciate Congress funding this important NRCS conservation program, particularly the leadership of Senator Enzi, Senator Barrasso, and Representative Lummis.

The property is located south of Jackson Hole along the Hoback Rim between the Gros Ventre and Wyoming ranges. It strengthens the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem by linking thousands of acres of the Bridger-Teton National Forest with other previously conserved private ranches.

“This project strikes at the heart of our mission. Not only does it protect summer and winter range and calving areas for elk but it also includes migration routes for antelope and mule deer, important habitat for Canada lynx and yearlong range for sage grouse,” added Henning.

“Our ‘good for the bird, good for the herd’ philosophy translates to conservation practices that promote healthy grazing lands that benefit the sage grouse and other wildlife,” said Astrid Martinez, state conservationist for Wyoming NRCS. “Conservation easements help prevent land fragmentation and protect working ranches.”

Key funding for the easement came from the USDA’s NRCS’s Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (now a part of the NRCS Agricultural Conservation Easement Program), in coordination with the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI). SGI is a partnership that aims to coordinate with ranchers to improve habitat for the at-risk bird while maintaining working landscapes. The project also received funding from the Wyss Foundation and vital support from Wyoming’s Congressional delegation.

Since 1989, RMEF and its partners have completed 588 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Wyoming with a combined value of more than $118.3 million. These projects have protected or enhanced more than 1,050,387 acres of habitat and have opened or secured public access to 73,200 acres.

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