AccessYes awards: Four Wyoming landowners receive recognition from WGFD
During the Access Recognition Program at the Wyoming Stock Growers Association’s Winter Roundup Convention and Trade Show on Dec. 9 in Casper, four landowners from across the state were recognized by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) for allowing public access on their lands.
“I truly believe farmers and ranchers to be the first environmentalists by using sound, innovative husbandry practices, which benefit both agriculture and wildlife. Generally, what is good for one is good for the other,” stated Pete Dube, president of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, during the event. “I would like to thank all landowners across the state who provide access, not only for hunting and fishing, but for habitat improvement overall.”
“We are very grateful to the landowners who are receiving these awards today for the access they provide,” added Jordan Winter, WGFD regional access coordinator in the Cody region. “It is through private land ownership many of Wyoming’s sportsmen and women are able to have the experience of a lifetime.”
The Burnt Ranch, owned and operated by Rob and Martha Hellyer and Jim and Timmery Hellyer, is the award recipient from the northwest quadrant.
The Hellyer’s run a cattle operation along Willow Creek, south of Lander, which is made up of nearly 7,100 acres of deeded land and thousands more acres of state and federal leases. The ranch supports numerous wildlife species, including mule deer, white-tailed deer, pronghorn, elk, moose, sage grouse, pheasants, chukar, Hungarian partridge and every form of water fowl that flies through the region.
“The Hellyers consistently make improvements throughout their holdings and public land pastures to benefit wildlife, including fence modifications, water storage improvements and riparian protection,” Winter stated. “It is clear when working with them that they hold a high regard for wildlife and Wyoming.”
Winter noted the Hellyer family has maintained a working relationship with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and WGFD to build the necessary infrastructure to improve grazing management and ensure the landscape is wildlife friendly.
“The Hellyers also understand how critical hunting is to effectively manage wildlife, therefore allowing access throughout their private lands,” Winter said, noting the family has allowed unlimited access to nearly 1,700 acres of private land through WGFD’s AccessYes Program since the program became permanent in 2002.
Additionally, Winter pointed out the family allows access for fishing on Willow Creek, donates hunts to benefit the youth of St. Margaret’s Catholic School in Riverton and allows access to disabled veteran hunters through Hunting with Heroes.
“The Hellyer family’s cooperation with WGFD and others, as well as their overall love for wildlife and open spaces, is a testament they are well deserving of this award,” Winter concluded.
Miles Land and Livestock
The recipient from the northeast quadrant of the state is Miles Land and Livestock, located south of Casper and owned and operated by the Jim, Peg and Casey Price family.
The family operation encompasses lowland landscapes along the North Platte River to the mountainous coniferous forest on Muddy Mountain and is home to big game animals including pronghorn, deer and elk.
“The Prices represent a paragon of conservation in the ag industry,” stated John Pokallus, Casper regional access coordinator. “For the past 20 plus years, the family has taken an active role in improving habitat and managing wildlife in cooperation with WGFD and other conservation agencies.”
Pokallus noted the Price family has been instrumental in implementing the Bates Creek Water Restoration Project, which helped reduce silt loading and restore riparian habitat along the North Platte River Drainage.
“Additionally, they have implemented conifer encroachment treatments and aspen thinning projects, helped contribute to water table restoration, invested their own time and money to adjust grazing practices ensuring habitat restoration areas are successful and promoted conservation projects within their community,” said Pokallus.
Not only has the family improved habitat quality throughout their deeded and leased ground, Pokallus said the Prices have also provided access to hunters and anglers in WGFD’s AccessYes Program since 1999.
“The Muddy Mountain Hunter Management Area (HMA) is imperative for the effective management of big game, and their participation in the program has substantially improved WGFD’s ability to manage wildlife and has helped perpetuate the deep tradition of sportspersons in the West,” Pokallus said. “Miles Land and Livestock is most deserving of this recognition.”
Heward 7E Ranch
Heward 7E Ranch, owned and operated by the Todd and Malia Heward family, is the award recipient for the southeast quadrant.
Located 40 miles north of Medicine Bow, Heward 7E Ranch consists of 16,000 acres of deeded and public property in Shirley Basin and has been hunters’ go-to landowners for antelope hunting in Hunt Area 47.
“The Heward family loves talking to and interacting with antelope hunters in the area,” explained Kelly Todd, Laramie regional access coordinator. “In fact, they keep a cooler full of maps and permission slips on their porch for any hunters who happen to miss them.”
Todd noted Ron Heward enrolled 5.5 miles of the Heward 7E Ranch into WGFD’s walk-in fishing program shortly after the program became permanent, and the family has continued working with the department to improve fishing opportunities for anglers ever since.
“The Heward family was a founding partner in the AccessYes Program, in which they have been enrolled in since Jan. 1, 2001,” Todd said. “They are ideal recipients of this award.”
Chimney Butte HMA
“In the southwest quadrant, we are recognizing all seven of the families who came together in 2002 to establish what is now called the Chimney Butte HMA,” stated Winter.
The HMA, located near Boulder and situated at the base of the Wind River Mountains between the Scab Creek and Muddy Creek elk feedgrounds, is comprised of East Fork Cattle Company, Richie Ranches, the Opler family, the Hittle family, the Jones family, the Jensen family and the Baker family.
“These landowners’ enrollment in our programs has been critical in providing late season cow elk access, which has discouraged elk from wintering in high conflict areas with brucellosis concerns, distributing them to more desirable winter range on nearby, conflict-free feedgrounds,” Winter explained.
“Since the AccessYes Program’s implementation in 2002, these landowners have allowed public access on almost 10,000 deeded acres to hunt late season elk and pronghorn,” he continued.
Additionally, Winter noted the Chimney Butte HMA landowners allow multiple other opportunities throughout the rest of the year, including hunting and fishing on private lands along the East Fork River and allowing sportsmen to cross private land to access countless acres of public land in the Bridger Teton National Forest, Bridger Wilderness, landlocked state lands and nearby BLM lands.
Winter concluded, “As Wyoming becomes more difficult to hunt due to private land closures, the Chimney Butte HMA participants stand out as individuals who continue to have a positive effect on wildlife and the environment. Their generosity and good stewardship makes them more than worthy of this recognition.”
Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.