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Wildlife and ag Landowners recognized for WGFD contributions

Written by Saige

Centennial – On July 10 at Black Market Farm in Centennial, seven landowners were recognized by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) – one from each region – for their work in “demonstrating outstanding practices in wildlife management, habitat improvement and conservation techniques on their properties.”

According to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, landowners cooperate with WGFD to provide access for hunters and anglers on their property, as well as utilize practices that help to improve and promote wildlife. 

Award recipients are nominated by WGFD employees and selected by regional leadership teams to provide the gold standard for conservation, ethical use and stewardship of Wyoming’s natural resources. 

This year, Jason and Maureen Oedekoven of Campbell County, Siggins Polled Herefords of Cody, the A-A and Big Creek ranches of Encampment, Fayette Ranch of Pinedale, Thoman Ranch of Kemmerer, 77 Ranch of Lance Creek and Bitterroot Ranch in Dubois and Riverton were recognized for their efforts. 

Importance of ag

WGFD Director Scott Talbott commented, “An agricultural life was the foundation for many of our beginnings. For me, agriculture opened the doors to the wonders of wildlife.” 

He recalled his early childhood years where he learned to bait a hook, catch a trout, sight in his rife and participate in many family traditions.

“I also learned the need for and  the value of residual grass cover, the need to rotate pastures, proper utilization rates and the need of fertilization and irrigation, knowing if forage prospered, so did we,” he said. “Many of these agricultural practices are the same basic tenets we use to manage wildlife.” 

Oedekoven Ranch

Jason and Maureen Oedekoven of the Jason and Maureen Oedekoven Ranch on the banks of Bitter Creek in northwest Campbell County view conservation as a staple of ranch management, which is apparent for visitors to the ranch. 

“Their stretch of Bitter Creek is full of native birds, reptiles, amphibians, pheasants and deer raising their fawns,” said WGFD. The forests on the ranch are also teeming with wildlife, including mule deer, wild turkeys and the occasional elk.”

On the ranch, the family has implemented conservation measures, including by working with the Campbell County Conservation District, and they also encourage conservation in their community. 

Siggins Polled Herefords

Alan and Deanna Siggins carry on a ranching tradition that first started on the South Fork of the Shoshone River in 1914. While the ranch is home to species including elk, deer, antelope, gray wolves and grizzly bears, the Siggins also welcome hunters, even opening their hay meadows to hunters each fall. 

“Year after year, when hunters ask the Siggins family for permission, they willingly allow hunters to access prime hunting country,” WGFD explained. “They are friendly, inviting people who have maintained the traditional ranching way of life in northwest Wyoming.” 

A-A and Big Creek

The Gates family – on both the A-A Ranch and Big Creek Ranch – have been an important partner for WGFD for many years in the Platte Valley.

A-A Ranch is managed by Justin Howe in partnership with activities coordinator Benjy Duke, and Big Creek Ranch is managed by Mark Dunning. 

“Their conservation ethic and proper land management benefit their operations and provide healthy habitats for wildlife,” said WGFD. “Their attention to detail for riparian conditions, stream habitat, stream flow, fish passage and water temperatures have allowed them to properly conserve and protect the wild fisheries on their properties.”

In addition, the ranches provide critical habitat to mule deer, Bighorn sheep and sage grouse. 

Fayette Ranch

East of Pinedale, Fayette Ranch covers over 14,000 acres of irrigated land, sagebrush uplands and open space, where mule deer, moose, elk, pronghorn, sage grouse, waterfowl, raptors and songbirds all thrive. 

In addition to use of management strategies that help maintain habitats, the ranch, managed by Roy Wolaver, has a permanent public access easement that provides hunting, fishing and outdoor recreating opportunities by visitors from across the state and region. 

Thoman Ranch

Alfred and Shirley Thoman and Thoman Ranch were recognized for the work of their ranch 20 miles from Kemmerer near Nugget Canyon. The family raises sheep, dairy cows, horses and hay, and since 2003, they have worked with WGFD to allow public access for hunting, among other things. 

The family provides forage for big game on critical winter ranges and works to reduce crop damage. 

While Alfred has since passed away, WGFD commented, “Al and Shirley have always been great partners.” 

77 Ranch

In the Casper region, 77 Ranch actively works with a variety of groups – including WGFD, the Office of State Lands and Investments, conservation groups and more – to enhance the lands they own and lease. 

“Their stewardship and love of wildlife make them an easy and most deserving selection for this award,” said WGFD. 

Founded in the late 1800s, the ranch has a rich historic background, and they have been cooperating with WGFD for years to allow hunter access. The family was an inaugural participating family in the WGFD Access Yes program, and they have instituted walk-in hunting on the vast majority of their ranch. 

“Bud and Betty Jean Reed are clearly stewards of the land and wildlife,” said WGFD. “Their range and habitat conservation practices currently benefit their livestock operation and improve habitat for wildlife.”

Bitterroot Ranch

Bayard Fox and his wife Mel, along with their son Richard and daughter-in-law Hadley, operate the Bitterroot Ranch, which is a unique blend of a working cattle ranch and dude ranch. 

“Their ranch provides excellent habitat for Yellowstone cutthroat trout, pronghorn, mule deer, elk, moose, waterfowl and other wildlife,” WGFD explained.

They further note the ranch is actively engaged in improving aquatic habitats to support important fisheries on their land, and they also provide winter forage to sustain both their own cattle and horse herds and the wildlife that frequent the area. 

“Landowners preserve critical migration corridors, they improve habitat through costly enhancement projects, and they provide important access which allows for our hunting and angling heritage to continue into the future,” Talbott explained. “Today’s landowners are more than ranchers or farmers, they are key partners with the WGFD in carrying out our mission – ‘Conserving Wildlife – Serving People.’”

Saige Albert, managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, compiled this article from the 2018 Landowner of the Year annual banquet program. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..