Habitat Funding: Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust
This fund finds the balance between wildlife conservation and working landscapes
In 2005 the Wyoming State Legislature created the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust (WWNRT). The trust was formed to help fund the upkeep, enhancement and rehabilitation of habitats, landscapes, and wildlife throughout Wyoming. WWNRT is funded by interest earned on a permanent account, donations, and legislative appropriation. It is governed by a nine-member citizen board appointed by the Governor that functions as an independent state agency with a few legislative members that help with oversight (three from the House and three from the Senate).
Created under Governor Freudenthal, the WWNRT was fully funded for many years, though in recent leaner budget years the full funding has lapsed. WWNRT funds projects on an application basis to be approved by the Board. They have evaluated nearly 680 proposals since 2006, 538 of those proposals were funded, equaling over $59 million in on-the-ground projects. Every dollar spent is matched on average with $6.00 from other sources. WWNRT has resulted in excess of $343 million in total public-private project value, leveraging the state’s resources to result in progress on the ground.
Focusing on improving wildlife habitat and enhancing natural resource values, WWNRT has done the lion’s share of funding for projects in relation to the mule deer migrations. Wyoming is host to the longest known mule deer migration in the world called the Red Desert to Hoback. Nearly 4,000 mule deer travel 150 miles in the Spring from winter range to summer range, and back again in the fall. The discovery of this migration presents a unique conservation dilemma, requiring conservation on a landscape connectivity scale and not just on a place-by-place basis. Conserving and enhancing the corridor these deer travel through is a win for wildlife, sportsmen and agriculture. WWNRT has funded projects such as under passes, over passes, private land fencing work, habitat enhancement and rehabilitation.
Fisheries and upland rangeland habitat are also a big part of WWNRT’s project base, funding private, public and state land projects all based around habitat and natural resource health. Fisheries work often improves irrigation efficiencies for agricultural production and helps with flooding issues, all while reconnecting habitat and putting water instream. Upland habitat improves grasses and forbs for wildlife and livestock.
In excess of 80 separate entities have received funding from the Trust and the greatest number of projects funded have been sponsored by Conservation Districts, meaning the majority of the programs it funds are guided by local interest.
The WWNRT is arguably the best conservation program for Wyoming landowners and sportsmen. The Governor should continue to advocate for full funding and continue to appoint a conservation minded board. This fund finds the balance between wildlife conservation and working landscapes by supporting on the ground projects to benefit wildlife and fisheries, while improving agriculture infrastructure to sustain our wildlife and working landscapes.
Take action: tell the candidates for Wyoming governor you support continued funding of the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust.
A herd of Pronghorn running across the open prairie outside of Cody, Wyoming.
Photo: Colten Wead