Wyoming partners with USDA to support big game conservation
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the state of Wyoming formalized a partnership on Oct. 17 to support the voluntary conservation of private working lands and migratory big game populations in Wyoming. As part of the agreement signed by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Gov. Mark Gordon, USDA will provide a new package of investments in key conservation programs for Fiscal Year 2023.
This includes funding to support increased staffing capacity and the deployment of streamlined program application processes for agricultural producers and landowners. Producers in the Wyoming pilot area will be able to apply for conservation programs starting this fall.
“Wyoming leads the nation in our approaches to conserving wildlife, particularly big game migration. We do that with strong landowner partnerships and recognition that habitat conservation can be done on multiuse lands,” said Gordon. “Private landowners have long provided key habitat for wildlife across Wyoming. Offering voluntary funding opportunities to landowners to maintain this valuable space for wildlife is a recognition of their role in conservation.”
USDA will offer producers a package of opportunities to choose from including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and Grassland Conservation Reserve Program which will be available across a wide range of lands including grasslands, shrublands and forested habitats located on Tribal and privately owned working lands. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service plans to invest $6 million in additional EQIP assistance and $10 million through ACEP in 2023.
During an interview with RFD-TV, Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna discussed the benefits the partnership will offer Wyoming.
“It recognizes two things which are currently important,” he said. “First, the principle role of the states in managing wildlife, and second, the role private lands along with intermingled public lands play in providing the habitat these migratory wildlife need as they move across during their annual cycles.”
Magagna said the partnership will have a positive impact on Wyoming ranchers and farmers.
“Certainly, the way our farmers and ranchers in Wyoming manage their land is important to the health of our wildlife populations, and they do this very well,” he said. “The really important part of the program, from our perspective, is it’s not just paying a landowner to do something additional, it’s recognizing what our good resource managers already are doing across the state and providing an opportunity to reward them for their efforts in providing the habitats keeping our wildlife populations strong and healthy.”
This partnership between the USDA and Wyoming sets the stage for broader conservation efforts across the U.S., noted Magagna.
“Within Wyoming, it fits in well with things we have already provided leadership in,” he said. “Wyoming developed the first plan approved for the protection of sage grouse habitat several years ago. With this partnership, we are talking about migratory wildlife populations, so all of those come together to create both an atmosphere that is ideal for our wildlife in the state of Wyoming, but equally as important, a recognition of the critical role of our farmers and ranchers in providing habitat and providing some reward for them for the efforts they not only will do in the future, but for what they have done in the past, as well.”
“This is a first,” Magagna said in reference to the partnership, “and it sets the stage for programs to hopefully be implemented in other parts of the country.”
Kaitlyn Root is an editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.