Open Spaces & Ranching Places

Written for our partners at Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust for the publication, Cow County.

In the heart of Wyoming, as the autumn sunbathes the sagebrush landscape, a meadowlark trills, a cow lows, and in the distance, an elk bugles. This seasonal shift signifies the close of another chapter in Wyoming’s natural symphony, where livestock and majestic game animals harmoniously share the land. Ranches scattered throughout the state provide vital wildlife habitat, nurturing the health and prosperity of diverse big game populations.

Carefully managed terrains offer abundant grazing grounds, wintering pathways, and secure havens for raising offspring, benefiting not only big game herds but also livestock. Water sources developed by land stewards not only support cattle but also provide vital habitats for birds and game animals. In some cases, areas that were once devoid of wildlife due to water scarcity now have diverse game populations, thanks to range enhancements intended for more efficient livestock grazing. This deliberate or intentional support system contributes significantly to the thriving wildlife populations in specific regions. The provision of quality food, water, and habitat by dedicated Ranchers has been instrumental in the survival of numerous big game herds across the state, sustaining them throughout the year in various territories.

The diligent efforts of Ranchers in cultivating fields and harvesting crops indirectly benefit big game by ensuring essential resources for their population. Rather than viewing wildlife as intruders, many land managers welcome the opportunity to nurture these populations. Through initiatives like constructing water tanks, providing minerals, and supplementary feed, these individuals enhance the environment for deer, elk, moose, antelope, and a multitude of other crucial wildlife species.

Range enhancements represent just one facet of the relationship between Ranchers and big game populations. The protection and provision of safe havens, buffers, and unfragmented habitats by many ranches are invaluable to wildlife. While these areas may present challenges for wildlife management in some instances, they serve as sanctuaries in others. As human populations grow and outdoor recreation escalates, public lands become increasingly congested, limiting wildlife access. In such cases, private lands managed by Ranchers emerge as the last refuge for wildlife, preserving the essence of our wild spaces.

Conserved working lands play a pivotal role in sustaining both livestock and big game populations. Our supportive partners acknowledge the importance of safeguarding these lands as undisturbed wildlife corridors, grazing pastures, and ideal habitats for a myriad of species. Though the benefits of this coexistence may not always be immediately apparent, the positive outcomes are gradually gaining recognition. It is becoming evident that some of the most dedicated land stewards are those who bear the most dirt under their nails.

These individuals develop a profound reverence for the land and a sense of duty in stewarding it, recognizing that while these areas may be labeled as critical habitats, migration routes, birthing grounds, and wintering spots, they are also the homes, lifestyles, and livelihoods of Ranchers. Through conscientious stewardship and management, these individuals facilitate a harmonious coexistence between working lands and wildlife, where both thrive in unison.

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