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2021 WGFD Landowner of the Year Awards: Landowners recognized for outstanding wildlife management and conservation

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

                 On Oct. 11, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) recognized seven landowners from across the state with the 2021 Landowner of the Year Award. According to WGFD, this is the 26th year these awards have been given to honor outstanding work and practices in wildlife management, habitat improvement, access for hunters and anglers and conservation techniques.

                 “Today’s landowners are more than ranchers or farmers, they are key partners,” said WGFD Director Brian Nesvik. “Landowners preserve critical migration corridors, they improve habitat through costly enhancement projects and they provide importance access, which allows for our hunting and angling heritage to continue into the future. Thank you.”

                 The award recipients are nominated by WGFD employees and selected by regional leadership teams. Sponsored by the WYldlife Fund, the landowners who received recognition for 2021 include: the Lankister family, Duncan Ranch, Casper Region; John and Judy Rueb, Double JR Ranch, Sheridan Region; Belle Butte Grazing Partnership, Green River Region; James and Pam Buline, Buline Ranch, Lander Region; the Hauge, Laughlin and Resor families with Ranch Manager Kurt Klukas, Snake River Ranch, Jackson/Pinedale Region; Peter and Teresa Taylor, Cozy Canyon Ranch, Laramie Region; and the Duncan family with Ranch Managers Curt and Karen Bales, TE Ranch, Cody Region.

Cody Region

The winners of the 2021 WGFD Landowner of the Year for the Cody Region was the Duncan Family, along with Curt and Karen Bales, who manage the ranch. The TE Ranch, with history dating back to Buffalo Bill Cody, is headquartered near Cody.

Laramie Region

Peter and Teresa Taylor were honored as the 2021 WGFD Landowner of the Year Award winners for the Laramie Region. The Cozy Canyon Ranch, located near Saratoga is being recognized for their support of wildlife habitat.

Casper Region

                 The Lankister family has managed the Duncan Ranch, eight miles southeast of Glenrock, since 2008. WGFD shared, the family has been ideal land managers to partner with.

                 A prime location in Boxelder Canyon, the Duncan Ranch is home to elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, pronghorn, sage grouse, blue grouse, wild turkey and numerous non-game species.

                 “The Duncan Ranch provides the public with quality hunting for deer, elk, pronghorn and wild turkey, while also ensuring crucial winter range areas on the ranch to provide habitat to sustain these species,” WGFD shared.

                 In 2018, the Lankisters were very accommodating landowners, according to WGFD, when work began to improve aspen stands, true mountain mahogany, meadows and riparian areas. In addition, Keith and Wendy’s grazing management plan ensures healthy levels of residual cover.

                 “Keith and Wendy are passionate about wildlife, and they graciously welcome hunters and anglers access to the ranch,” said WGFD.

Sheridan Region

                 John and Judy Rueb, the 2021 Sheridan Region WGFD Landowner of the Year Award winners, ranch along the banks of Prairie Dog Creek east of Sheridan and near the head of Crazy Woman Creek in Johnson County.

                 “Under the Rueb’s stewardship, wildlife and their habitat flourish,” shared WGFD. “John and Judy operate a conservative grazing system on the ranch that is a huge benefit for wildlife. The Rueb’s are always looking into ways to improve their property.”

                 John and Judy have worked closely with Wyoming State Forestry to develop a plan to improve forest health and the WGFD to improve riparian habitat conditions to benefit beavers in the area.

                 “The Rueb’s have committed themselves to conservation and stewardship to ensure future generations can also have this experience,” WGFD said.

Green River Region

                 In managing over 250,000 acres of private and public land, the WGFD recognized multiple landowners and families associated with the Belle Butte Grazing Partnership as the 2021 winner of the WGFD Landowner of the Year Award for the Green River Region.

                 Belle Butte Grazing Partnership is home to over 200,000 acres enrolled in AccessYes, and is known as the Bear River Divide Hunter Management Area (HMA) – the largest and most-utilized HMA in the state. WGFD shares, in any given year, the property hosts upwards of 1,500 hunters.

                 “Cattle on Belle Butte are sustainably grazed private lands and on public lands in partnership with Bureau of Land Management (BLM) allotments,” said WGFD.

                 In addition to ensuring water for livestock, the Belle Butte Grazing Partnership actively works to manage and improve water sources to prevent stream bank erosion and ensure safe water access for wildlife, which is especially important as Wyoming’s premier deer herd migrates through the area.

Lander Region

                 “The Bulines take pride in their livestock husbandry and land management practices that benefit wildlife on both their home ranch property and leased public land,” shared WGFD on the 2021 Lander Region winners of the WGFD Landowner of the Year Award. “By taking care of the land, it has naturally developed into areas where both livestock and wildlife coexist.”

                 The Bulines understand how critical effective wildlife management is and support public access throughout their private lands. According to WGFD, the family allows access to hunting for white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, geese and pronghorn. In addition, the Bulines donate the money from landowner coupons to the Animal Damage Management Board.

The ranch borders the Wind River Indian Reservation, where wildlife species have hundreds of thousands of acres to utilize, but many still spend time on the Buline Ranch. Due to the large populations of wildlife in the area, the Bulines experience livestock loss from grizzly bear and wolf populations, fence and waterline damage from elk and hay loss from grazing ungulates. Though, the Bulines continue to work with WGFD to promote to resolve wildlife conflict and enhance relationships.

“The Buline Ranch is a great example of a hard-working operation dedicated to preserving wildlife and wild places,” WGFD shared. “This ranch defines what a wholesome Wyoming cattle ranch is all about.”

Jackson/Pinedale Region

                 Located on the west side of the Snake River, the Snake River Ranch has been recognized as an outstanding partner of the WGFD for almost a century. The Snake River Ranch raises natural yearling cattle on the valleys of the Snake River.

                 The majority of the Snake River Ranch is comprised of pasturelands, which provide a resource of food and cover for many species of wildlife. Strict rotational grazing efforts allow for wildlife to graze pastures following cattle.

“Monitoring the status of Snake River Cutthroat Trout on private land is often difficult, but the Snake River Ranch has always been gracious in providing access to important spawning creeks, enabling the fish population in Fish Creek to be monitored every few years,” WGFD states. “The Snake River Ranch has worked closely with WGFD, National Park Service and Trout Unlimited to better understand fish loss in irrigation ditches.”

In addition, WGFD noted the Snake River Ranch has been instrumental in assisting in the management of private land elk herds.

“Snake River Ranch has been a great partner throughout the years, and very understanding of the challenges WGFD faces in managing elk populations in the area as the Jackson area population grows.”

                 For more information on the landowners and past winners of the WGFD Landowner of the Year Award, visit the WGFD Landowner of the Year webpage.

                 Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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