WGFD honors landowners
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) recognized the 2022 Landowners of the Year Sept. 13 in Saddlestring. The Landowner of the Year award is presented to Wyoming landowners who have demonstrated outstanding practices in wildlife management, habitat improvement and conservation techniques on their properties.
These landowners also cooperate with the WGFD to provide access to hunters and anglers on their properties. Award recipients are nominated by WGFD employees and selected by regional leadership teams.
This year’s awardees include: Sue and Ron Martin; the Reinecke family; J.R. Good; Bill and Duveene Hamilton (deceased); DeWitt and Kay Morris; Anne Marie Albins and Brian Burg; and Deb McCormick.
The Sheridan Region nominated Sue and Ron Martin. The Martins own the Fryberger Ranch in central Sheridan County. The ranch consists of irrigated hay fields, riparian areas and rolling grass-covered hills, providing habitat for a variety of big game, bird and other nongame species.
The property has been enrolled in the Access Yes Walk-In Area program since 2005 and provides access for sportspersons to hunt deer and antelope along with gamebirds. Their participation in the program provides public hunting opportunities in an area where it is increasingly difficult to find access.
The Martins have been active in the control and elimination of invasive plants on their property, particularly ventenata since its discovery in the county several years ago. The Martins have also supported the ongoing North Big Horns Mule Deer Study since 2020.
The Reinecke family was nominated by the Casper Region. They own the Ox Yoke Ranch.
In 1939, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission (WGFC) acquired land south of Beulah in an area known as Sand Creek, with assistance from the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. The primary purpose of the acquisition was, and still is, to provide a public fishing and hunting area.
From 1942 through 1978, a series of land sales were performed to consolidate the area to those lands directly surrounding Sand Creek; the result was 1.75 miles of stream with 284 acres of creek bottomlands for public fishing and hunting.
In 1989, the Ox Yoke Ranch entered into a lease agreement with the WGFC to allow unlimited public fishing access on an additional three miles of Sand Creek below the Sand Creek Wildlife Habitat Management Areas (WHMA) on their ranch in exchange for cattle grazing rights during the month of December each year on the Sand Creek WHMA.
Throughout the previous 76 years, the Sand Creek WHMA, and for 33 years, the Ox Yoke Ranch easement, has developed and grown with continually increasing public recreation use. The area has long been a favorite of local and visiting outdoor enthusiasts seeking a quality, accessible recreation experience within minutes of the towns of Beulah, Sundance and Spearfish, S.D.
J.R. Good was recognized as the Laramie Region 2022 Landowner of the Year. The Good family owns G-3 Land and Cattle Partnership and have been partners in the conservation of one of Wyoming’s most important native fish, the hornyhead chub.
The Laramie River flows through a good portion of the G-3 Land and Cattle property. The habitat within the river is perfect for hornyhead chub and other native species, thanks in part to the quality management of the land by the Good family.
The Good family allowed WGFD to conduct multiple hornyhead chub transplants to the North Laramie River as well as the Sweetwater River. The hornyhead chub has not been documented in the Sweetwater River since the late 1850s.
The North Laramie River population of hornyhead chub has returned to its abundance, and the transplants to the Sweetwater River will be monitored for their success.
Bill and Duveene Hamilton (deceased) of the Hopkins Hamilton Ranch were the Lander Region’s awardees. The ranch runs cattle in the Government Draw and East Beaver common allotments, utilizing Bureau of Land Management, state and private lands.
The ranch, managed by Bill’s son Bryan Hamilton and his wife Jennifer, provides important wildlife habitat supporting deer, antelope, sage grouse, sauger and a variety of other species. Over the years, the Hamiltons have been important wildlife conservation partners. They are supportive of the WGFD and often allow hunting and fishing on their property.
Bryan has also been an active member of the Popo Agie Conservation District Board of Supervisors. In addition, Bryan has participated in the Healthy River Initiative which is a collaborative effort by agencies and landowners to improve water use efficiencies and stream flows in the Popo Agie watershed.
The Pinedale Region awardees were DeWitt and Kay Morris, owners of the Mountain Springs Ranch.
Mountain Springs Ranch, which has been placed under a conservation easement during their ownership, sits within the designated Sublette Mule Deer Migration Corridor, providing important transitional habitat for deer migrating between their winter and summer ranges.
During the initial start-up of the Sublette County Invasive Species Task Force, Mountain Springs Ranch was one of the first landowners to sign up and allow for the treatment of the invasive annual cheatgrass. Additionally, DeWitt approached the department several years ago about converting fences on the property to wildlife-friendly standards.
The ranch is also home to the organization Camp Green River Outreach for Wilderness Foundation, a nonprofit organization introducing others to wild places.
Mountain Springs Ranch borders the Scab Creek Elk Feedground, and the family has been active in assisting with hunting access, especially for veterans and youth during the late antlerless elk seasons.
Green River Region
Anne Marie Albins and Brian Burg were the Green River Region awardees. They own Kasey A LLC. For the last three years, Kasey A LLC has been instrumental in allowing WGFD personnel to contact and interact with the sporting public recreating in southwest Wyoming.
The Burg family has been heavily involved in WGFD initiatives within the Kemmerer area for many years. Andy Burg, since retired, provided a strategic location for the protection of Wyoming waters. These efforts have continued with direct family members.
The Burg and Albins families provided and constructed a location for a permanent AIS check station in 2019. The Albins and Burg families also allowed for the wildlife division to operate and conduct hunting check stations in the fall and winter.
They have provided large cold storage for wildlife donations received, and Anne Marie Albins and her husband Josh Albins have been hunter safety instructors since 2016.
Beaver Creek Ranch owner Deb McCormick was this year’s Cody Region awardee.
The Beaver Creek Ranch sits in one of two primary watersheds including Beaver Creek and Bear Creek which flow westerly from the Big Horn Mountains into the Big Horn River. This stream serves as one of only a few perennial water sources in roughly 150 square miles of low elevation sage brush steppe and saltbush habitats restricted by an 11-inch precipitation zone.
The function of these streams are integral to the conservation of wildlife in this area including pronghorn antelope, migratory and resident mule deer, elk and an isolated sage grouse population.
As a former board member for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), the McCormick family took it upon themselves to enroll the ranch in a RMEF conservation easement. This dedication to wildlife was felt most from 2020-21 when the Big Horn Basin experienced extreme drought conditions, exacerbating stress on wildlife.
In 2019, Deb was approached by department biologists with the interest in enhancing riparian habitat through the removal of conifers. Deb gave the WGFD and its staff the opportunity to exercise their best management practices to enrich valuable wildlife habitat.
Since 2020, roughly 140 acres have been treated and signs of improvement have already been detected. Beavers have returned to the Beaver Creek Ranch and are assisting in the improvement of habitat.
Information for this article was provided by the WGFD. For more information on the landowners and past winners of the WGFD Landowner of the Year Award, visit wgfd.wyo.gov/Get-Involved/Landowner-of-the-Year.
Kaitlyn Root is an editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.