Current Edition

current edition

WGFD

Cheyenne – On March 1, Brian Nesvik was appointed by Gov. Mark Gordon as Director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), replacing Scott Talbott, who retired in early 2019. 

“Brian Nesvik brings tremendous experience in dealing with wildlife management, endangered species and law enforcement throughout the state,” Gov. Gordon said.

Nesvik, who stepped into the position after serving as WGFD Chief Game Warden, looks forward to continuing his career with the agency to enhance wildlife and address wildlife issues across the state. 

Wildlife career

Nesvik is a native Wyomingite. He was raised in Casper and graduated from high school in Cheyenne.

“I went to work for WGFD in 1995, where I served as a game warden all over the state,” he explained. “I served as game warden in Glendo, Laramie, Casper, Elk Mountain and Pinedale. Then, I went to Cody as a regional supervisor.” 

During that time, Nesvik oversaw a large staff of game wardens, biologists and administrative staffers, and he also spent time working with biologists and wardens in some of the most remote country in the lower 48 states.

After only 10 months in Cody, Nesvik was promoted to Chief Game Warden eight years ago. 

In addition to his WGFD career, Nesvik has served 32 years in the Army National Guard, and he currently serves as the Commanding General of the Wyoming National Guard.

“Serving as director was never in my long-term plans, but as I advanced in the department, I began to work on higher-level policy work in my previous job. I saw opportunities to really influence and work on important wildlife issues,” Nesvik commented. “This is a great opportunity, and I’m looking forward to serving the state.”

WGFD priorities

As Nesvik looks over the next several years, he sees WGFD will continue to focus on its top issues of endangered species, migration corridors and chronic wasting disease, while also highlighting cheatgrass impacts on habitats and relationships with landowners. 

“Certainly, endangered species issues – including grizzly bears and wolves, continue to be at the top of our priority list,” Nesvik emphasized. “We have management authority over wolves now, so that is less of an issue, but grizzly bears continue to be a real challenge.” 

At the same time, aquatic invasives species (AIS) pose a continual threat to Wyoming’s waterways and fish. 

“It’s important that we continue to put up a very good defense against AIS, and we need to keep our eye on monitoring,” he said. “There is an opportunity be a leader on another invasive species – cheatgrass. We must do a better job as a state in dealing with cheatgrass.” 

Nesvik called cheatgrass the “cancer of Wyoming,” which must be addressed to maintain habitats for both wildlife and livestock. 

“Migration corridors are certainly a big issue today, as well,” he continued. “We have some of the best science in the world on how to define where big game animals, specifically mule deer, move and what habitats they need to move from summer to winter.” 

“There are opportunities to make sure Wyoming is a leader in establishing migration corridors and does it right,” Nesvik said. 

Chronic wasting disease also poses a continued issue for wildlife populations. 

“We have some tremendous research needs and potentially opportunities to explore significant management actions to deal with the spread of disease and the prevalence of disease in herds,” he explained.

Partnerships

As he looks toward his next several years, Nesvik comments partnerships between WGFD, landowners and livestock producers will continue to be vital to the work of WGFD. 

“We have what I would consider an exemplary relationship between our department and present landowners and livestock producers in our state,” he said. “That is a pretty cool opportunity, especially because 50 percent of our state is private land.”

Nesvik continued, “Frankly, we wouldn’t have the abundance and diversity of wildlife that we do without private landowners providing habitat.” 

Expanding leadership

Currently, WGFD has posted Nesvik’s former position, Wildlife Division chief, as well as WGFD deputy director, and the agency is seeking qualified candidates for both positions. 

“Right now, both positions are open, and we’ll go through the selection process for each position in the near future to fill those jobs,” Nesvik said, adding, however, that the structure of WGFD will be maintained. 

“We’re certainly interested in looking at ways we can be more efficient and effective,” Nesvik commented, “and I see the potential for development of initiatives that fit into our strategic plan.”

Over the last several years, WGFD developed a strategic plan informed by constituents from around the state, and Nesvik said it provides a solid framework for the next five to 10 years.

“I am incredibly honored by this opportunity to lead a team of the best and brightest in managing world-class natural resources for the citizens of our great state,” Nesvik said.  “I am grateful for the Governor’s appointment and will discharge my duties commensurate with the tremendous value Wyoming places in our outdoors, our fish and our wildlife.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Casper – The Bolton Creek Restoration Project is made up of a series of research and development endeavors, which will help reduce the amount of sediment transported from Bolton Creek to the North Platte River. 

This series of projects will help keep the river clear and healthy, as well as  maintain a healthy fish population in the river. 

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) hosted a tour of the restoration project on June 5 to show landowners, contributors to the project and members of the public the project’s success of reduced sediment deposition and erosion to the area. 

“If we can keep one pickup truck load of dirt out of the river, we are making progress,” stated Keith Schoup, WGFD habitat biologist. “This is going to be a long-term project and all nature provided.”

He added, “We are hoping that, within the next three to five years, we’ll be able to maintain this two and a half mile stretch we are working and focusing on now and then move to the next section upstream.” 

Water monitoring

To help monitor the water level of Bolton Creek, four water-monitoring pumps were placed along the creek. These pumps are equipped with an electric pressure system and will continuously record the water level of the creek. 

“The idea is, the more water we can store on the floodplain terraces of the creek, the longer the water will last throughout the year,” explained Joe Meyer, field manager with the Bureau of Land Management. 

He continued, “With the snowmelt and rainfall gone, the water will be higher along the creek bank than it is in creek. The water will then flow back towards the creek and be available for longer periods of time for plants, wildlife and livestock to use.”

Beaver

The beaver’s capabilities of building dams are being highlighted by the project to help disperse and slow the flow of water of Bolton Creek. With the creek running slower and shallower, the theory is the occurrence of erosion will be reduced. 

“It’s amazing what beaver can do, given the opportunity,” stated Schoup. “They can turn a dry area into a wetland in a matter of days and have more grass grow by the creek beds.”

The project also relocated problem beaver to the creek area in hopes of augmenting the already established beaver population along Bolton Creek. 

“We don’t know for sure how many beaver we have in Bolton Creek,” commented Schoup, “but we have released six nuisance beaver into the area to help augment the population, and two of them have transmitters.” 

Schoup explained beavers prefer to eat the bark of young fresh Aspen trees. One mature beaver can consume between six to eight pounds of woody material per day, but once the wood becomes too old, the beaver are not interested in using it. 

Sedimentation

Since the new introduction of beaver to Bolton Creek, landowner Pete Garrett of Garrett Ranch Company commented that he has seen an improvement in the western wild rye grass and willows growing along the creek. 

Garrett also mentioned the beaver dams have helped deposit sediment along the sides of the creek, which help narrow and shallow the creek. 

“We used to not be able to cross a horse across the creek. The sides of the creek used to be straight up and down,” described Garrett. “Today, we can see the siltation building up along the sides of the creek, and we can now cross a horse through with no problem.”

He added, “Before we had to follow a cow around to get out of there.”

Aspen

“We may have lost a lot of older cottonwoods to the beaver,” mentioned Garrett, “but once the beaver have a dam built, it keeps the siltation back, and in the next two to four years, we’ll have a whole new crop of young cottonwoods growing in the backwaters created by the dams.”

To help reduce the beaver from cutting down all of the cottonwoods along the creek, the City of Casper and the Wyoming State Forestry Division (WSFD) provided thousands of pounds of trees from the Muddy Mountain area and leftover tree branch material from storms for the beaver to use as a food source and to build dams with. 

Regeneration

Bryan Anderson, district forester with the WSFD, mentioned thus far they’ve had 2,000 to 3,000 new seedlings of trees per acre of regeneration in the Muddy Mountain area from removing the old aspen for the beaver. 

The trees and branches were brought to the area by dump truck and aerially with a helicopter. 

“We know that we have 17 dams built out of the aspen since last fall, and we’ll monitor the dams again this coming fall,” noted Schoup. “The most active period for the beaver is during the fall, starting in September through November.” 

Madeline Robinson is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 


SIDEBAR 1: 
Projects

Practices that have been implemented for the Bolton Creek Restoration Project consist of installing a bottomless culvert and water-monitoring wells, as well as placing old Christmas trees in a Chevron pattern in the tributaries of Bolton Creek to trap sediment.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department Regional Fisheries Supervisor Al Conder estimates the amount of sediment traveling from Bolton Creek to the North Platte River, at a flow of six cubic feet per second (CFS), is between 30 to 35 tons daily. This is equivalent to three large dump trucks. 

One CFS is equivalent to 7.48 gallons of water per second.

“When the creek is running at 10 CFS, not even doubling the amount of flow, the amount of sediment moving into the river is the same as putting 10 dump truck loads into the river per day,” he added. 

Conder went on to further note, “With each ton of sediment, we are able to hold upstream, it will help the water quality of the river and maybe help water treatment plants on downstream.”


SIDEBAR 2:
Partners

Major partners in the Bolton Creek Restoration Project are landowners Pete and Ethel Garrett  and family of Garrett Ranch Company, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust Fund. 

Other conservation organizations and foundations contributing to the project are the Wyoming Fly Casters, Mule Deer Foundation, Wyoming Governor’s Big Game License Coalition and the Great Plains Fish Habitat Partnership. 

“We all know that none of us would have been able to accomplish any of these projects that reduce sediment and erosion in the area by ourselves,” commented Keith Schoup, Wyoming Game and Fish habitat biologist. “I certainly would like to thank all of our partners and cooperators in this project.”

The project costs for the Bolton Creek Restoration Project have amounted to $165,182 for in-kind contributions and $122,465 in monetary donations.

 

 

 

Jeffrey City – The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) has had requests and questions over the past two years about reintroducing Bighorn sheep into the Sweetwater Rocks, Ferris Mountain and Bennett Mountain areas. 

Over the last four months, they have been in contact with several landowners and other interested individuals and groups, such as the Bighorn Sheep Working Group and the Statewide Bighorn Domestic Sheep Interaction Working Group, regarding the Bighorn sheep reintroduction. 

Proposal

“There’s absolutely no proposal at this time. We just want to gather information,” stated Jason Hunter, Lander regional wildlife supervisor during an information-gathering meeting on May 7. “We’ll only develop a proposal with the help of all affected landowners, livestock producers, land use agencies and any other stakeholders.” 

“We are going out to visit with people to see how much interest there is to reintroduce Bighorn sheep,” continued Hunter. “If there’s an interest, we will move forward. If there is not any interest, we will not.” 

“If a formal proposal is developed, it’s going to be the people’s. We’ll put pen to paper,” explained Daryl Lutz, Lander region wildlife management coordinator. 

He added, “However, the proposal will have to go through public review, wildlife division review in Cheyenne, WGFD review at the commission level, the Governor’s level and the Statewide Bighorn/Domestic Sheep Interaction Working Group for the Bighorn sheep before we ever see anything happen on the ground.”

Moving forward 

“We haven’t even really discussed if we will be going forward with the proposal, even though the majority of the folks at our meetings have supported it,” stated Hunter. 

He continued, “Several things need to be addressed before we can go down that road. One of those things is working with the BLM and the landowners to try and look at what we can talk about for grazing and water development – maybe even prior to a proposal.”

He noted that they want to document any opportunities folks may have, as well as concerns that the WGFD will need to address, before moving forward with making a proposal. 

“We just didn’t feel it was right to develop a proposal without any input,” commented Hunter. “We want input from the public to help us develop a proposal, if a proposal is to be made.”

He added, “If we can’t come up with a proposal that everyone can agree with, then we’ll just walk away and forget about it.”

Concerns

At the meeting in Jeffrey City, one of the attendee’s concerns about the Bighorn sheep reintroduction included the concern that a special land management designation would be made for the occupied areas of Bighorn sheep. 

The concerns continued with the impacts that would be felt by ranchers with domestic herds and farm flocks in those same areas and how it would affect their grazing permits on federal lands. The potential for restriction of land use during the lambing season of the Bighorn sheep was also a voiced concern 

Another concern addressed at the meeting was Bighorn sheep movement to irrigated fields and private lands, instead of remaining in the rocks. 

The risk of disease transmission impacts to and from Bighorn sheep to domestic sheep was also addressed at the meeting, as well as poaching concerns of the Bighorn sheep. 

Continual input

Attendees also wanted to know if continual input from ranchers and producers would be solicited during the whole process of managing the Bighorn sheep and their reintroduction process. 

Other big concerns of attendees at the meeting were if the Bighorn sheep take precedence over livestock in the future and how would the Bighorn sheep numbers be monitored when several animals are already competing for the limited forage resources.

Attendees also noted the concern of increased traffic to private lands to monitor, observe and hunt the Bighorn sheep, as well as the impacts to producers trailing their domestic sheep through the rocks. 

Opportunity

Opportunities mentioned at the meeting for the reintroduction of the Bighorn sheep were the hunting and viewing opportunities of the animals, along with increased predator management for the Bighorn sheep. 

Also, if a water development project was to be developed in the area of the Bighorn sheep, it could benefit multiple animals in the area.

Another potential benefit mentioned of reintroducing the Bighorn sheep was the reduction of non-native invasive plants growing in the rocks that they may eat. 

Reintroduction

The Bighorn sheep WGFD mentioned that would be used for the reintroductions to the Sweetwater Rocks, Ferris Mountain and Bennett Mountain areas are of the same species as the native Wyoming’s Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep. 

“These sheep prefer low elevations and are more of a non-migratory sheep,” said Hunter. “They were released into the Devil’s Canyon area in 2004 and in the Seminoe Mountains in 2010. Both of these herds seem to be doing quite well.” 

The reintroduced sheep could come from Oregon or the Devil’s Canyon area in Wyoming, similar to past efforts in the Seminoe area, but other states may have sheep available, as well. This would be looked at further if a proposal is developed.

Because these Bighorn sheep are the same species of Bighorns currently in Wyoming, there is no risk of these reintroduced Bighorn sheep being listed under the Endangered Species Act, said Hunter.

Additionally, there have been two hunting licenses granted for the reintroduced Bighorn sheep in the Seminoe Mountains. 

Madeline Robinson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Laramie – “I have learned a few things in my almost 30 years with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD),” commented WGFD Director Scott Talbott at Laramie’s Today’s Ag dinner, “and one of those things is that, in Wyoming, if it’s good for ag, it’s good for wildlife.”

Talbott addressed over 300 attendees of the dinner, sponsored by the Albany County Cowbelles, Albany County Farm Bureau, Albany County Stock Growers, Laramie Area Chamber of Commerce, University of Wyoming College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, WyoTech, Wyoming Beef Council and the Wyoming Business Council.

“I have also learned that there are a whole bunch of places in the state that, if it weren’t for agriculture, we wouldn’t enjoy the abundance and diversity of wildlife that we enjoy today,” he continued. 

At the dinner, Talbott discussed a number of issues affecting Wyoming’s wildlife and updated attendees on some of Wyoming’s wildlife issues.

“WGFD, by Wyoming Statute, is mandated to provide an adequate, flexible system for the control, propagation, management, protection and regulation of all Wyoming’s wildlife,” he explained, noting that the WGFD works to ensure the management of all wild animals – ranging from deer and elk to smaller wildlife and trophy game.

Ag and wildlife

Talbott began by recognizing the working relationship with agriculture that he has emphasized in his time as director of the WGFD.

“Wyoming is a relationship state,” he said. “If you want to accomplish anything in Wyoming, you need to build positive working relationships.”

Talbott emphasized, “The people in Wyoming matter, and the wildlife matter.”

One of the ways that Talbott has noted the WGFD continues to work with agriculture is in their damage control.

“We have had a damage management program in Wyoming since 1939,” said Talbott, “and we have one of the most comprehensive damage programs in North America.”

“We work with landowners to evaluate, mitigate and prevent damage to private property, not only from big game animals, but trophy game animals as well,” he added.
He noted that in his time at the WGFD, he has sought the input of farmers and ranchers to gain their perspective and to accomplish goals.

“Working together, we can accomplish a great deal, and we can leave this place in better shape that we found it,” he added. 

Elk numbers

Of particular concern to many of Wyoming’s ranchers are the elk populations in Wyoming. 

“In Wyoming, we manage elk in herd units,” said Talbott, “and currently we have a dichotomy on how elk are managed.”

In the northwest portion of the state, Talbott noted that the WGFD has seen elk populations declining noticeably in the last seven years.

“We have taken a lot of hunting management options there, moving to limited quota hunting in both the Cody and Sunlight elk herds. For the first time in a number of year, we are approaching objective in the Jackson elk herd,” said Talbott.

However, in the eastern parts of Wyoming, Talbott said that elk numbers are over objective and growing.

“We are seeing record cow/calf ratios,” he said of some eastern Wyoming herds. “There are some areas that we are seeing 60 calves per 100 cows survive – that helps populations grow fairly rapidly.”

In contrast, as few as nine calves per 100 cows survive on the Gros Ventre feed ground.

Management tools

In order to manage elk populations, Talbott listed a number of tools that the WGFD has available and mentioned that they continue to work with the Wyoming legislature to allow more options.

“We use hunters to manage elk to the best of our ability,” said Talbott, “and we regulate that through season dates, season length, general versus limited quote licenses and cow/calf licenses, for example.”

Using hunter management, he also noted that record harvest and hunter success has been seen recently.

“In 2012, we had a record elk harvest in Wyoming,” he commented. “There are more elk in Wyoming right now and more harvested than at any time since the turn of the 19th century. This past year, we harvested almost 15,000 elk in the state, and hunter success was at an all-time high of 46 percent.”

However, particularly in eastern Wyoming where over-objective herds present a problem, access is an issue.

“Access is a huge key in some areas,” Talbott mentioned.

Management programs

To ease access issues and continue to increase access for hunters, particularly in problem areas, the WGFD has implemented several programs to work with both hunters and landowners.

“In 2010, we implemented a program called the hunt management coordinator program,” said Talbott. “In that program, we hired people to go out and work with landowners. Those individuals contact hunter and work with hunters and landowners to facilitate harvest.”

The program has been successful in Meeteetse, where it was started due to brucellosis concerns. Recently, the program has also been implemented on Iron Mountain in the Laramie area.

They also started an access program in the mid-1990s to allow hunters onto private lands.

“Our hunter management areas are a very popular program with landowners, and in a lot of areas, we have been able to provide a lot of public access,” Talbott explained.

Continuing to move forward

While they have several programs that are working, Talbott noted that they continue to work to change regulations and statutes to accommodate their needs.

For example, an emergency regulation is currently in place to allow hunters to obtain up to three elk licenses.

Working with the public also continues to be a priority for Talbott.

“When I became the director, I asked our folks to put a face on the agency,” he commented. “I want to make sure that when someone talks about the WGFD, they know who their local game warden is.”

“In addition, I want our people to listen to the public,” he said, noting that their efforts have been very successful.

“We establish our objectives with landowners and public input,” said Talbott. “We talk about habitat concerns, and we continue to look at opportunities for ways that we can work with landowners.”

To learn more about the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and their efforts, visit wgfd.wyo.gov.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Casper – “Our goal isn’t to limit the number of lease parcels but rather to limit infrastructure within the migration corridor itself,” said Angela Bruce, Wyoming Department (WGFD) Habitat Protection Program supervisor.

Bruce was a featured speaker for the Feb. 11 WGFD public meeting regarding the importance of migration corridors. She specifically covered the process in which WGFD and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) handle leasing recommendations for oil and gas. 

Bruce, along with other industry professionals, addressed citizens of Casper and surrounding areas and answered any of their questions and concerns.

She explained the process of reviewing oil and gas lease processes is collaborative between WGFD and BLM.

“We have created a memorandum of understanding between WGFD and BLM to ensure the correct processes are taking place as we review lease parcels,” Bruce said. 

She noted the strategy for these recommendations is to review each parcel on a case-by-case basis and utilize the best available science to support recommendations. 

Best science available

To be as effective as possible, WGFD and BLM use the best science available to make decisions on lease parcels.  

“Coalbed methane wells are generally much smaller in size,” according to Bruce. “These types of wells average around 10-by-10 in size.”

When reviewing these types of wells, WGFD looked to a study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology that found increased disturbances may modify the timing of migrations and constrict the size of the migration area. Animals will also move through areas of increased development much faster than normal, according to the study. 

“Deep gas wells tend to be much larger,” Bruce pointed out. “These wells can take up multiple acres of space.”

Unpublished research conducted in the Pinedale Anticline reported the expected level of use for mule deer declined significantly with the construction of pads. The negative trend continued over the five-year period of the study, with pads of varying densities. 

Bruce reported WGFD is currently working with the University of Wyoming and WEST Inc. to review 17 years of data in the Pinedale Anticline and determine if a migration corridor disturbance threshold could be developed. 

“If a scientific based disturbance threshold can be developed, we will use this in our future recommendations to land management agencies,” according to Bruce. 

Parcel review process

“The first step in the lease parcel review process is review of preliminary lease parcels by field personnel of both WGFD and BLM,” said Bruce. “Once the preliminary field analysis is complete, the state office reviews the lease.”

“At the state level, we base recommendations on a couple of different analyses,” Bruce said. “If the parcel or part of the parcel is 90 percent or greater in the corridor, it is automatically recommended for deferral. We also look to see if the parcel contains vital stop-over habitat. If so, it will also be recommended for deferral.”

She explained the parcel space outside the corridor is then reviewed to determine other limiting land restrictions. If these additional restrictions limit the space available for infrastructure, the parcel will be recommended for deferral.

“After this process is complete, all remaining parcels that intersect a designated migration corridor are recommended to be given a special lease notice for designated migration corridors,” according to Bruce.

Bruce provided examples of parcel recommendations used in the first quarter of 2019. The first was 96 percent within the corridor and 34 percent in a stop-over habitat. This parcel was recommended for deferral.

Another example she provided was a six-part parcel, three pieces of which were within the corridor at 100, 64 and 24 percent, respectively. The first was recommended for deferral, and the remaining two were recommended for a special lease notice. 

“We like to call this the ‘90 percent rule’,” according to Bruce. “We want to determine whether there is enough space outside the corridor but still within the parcel to develop infrastructure. We find if the parcel is more than 90 percent within the corridor, this simply isn’t possible.” 

Next steps

“We plan on collaborating more with BLM,” Bruce said. “We are looking to complete a Resource Management Plan to address the department’s designated migration corridors.”

“Our goal is to provide guidance to BLM and WGFD staff and proponents on the application for special lease notice language and the permit to drill stage of the process,” Bruce commented. “We understand this process can get very confusing, especially with parcels containing multiple sections. We want to make the process as simple as possible.”

“We believe, with emerging technologies, we will be able to build well pads outside the corridor to extract from within the corridor, all while leaving the migration of animals undisturbed,” said Bruce. 

Callie Hanson is the assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..