WGFCommission recognizes section of Pilot Hill as critical wildlife habitat

Lander Region employees recognized

(Thermopolis, Wyo.) – The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission met this week in Thermopolis to make several decisions for wildlife conservation in Wyoming.

The Commission approved a lease to manage 3,076 acres within the Pilot Hill land project. Pilot Hill is a community-driven effort that worked collaboratively with the Office of State Lands and Investments and Albany County to acquire 7,086 acres of land for recreation, habitat conservation and aquifer protection. The new Game and Fish lease will create an additional wildlife habitat management area (WHMA) in Albany County that provides critical habitat for elk, mule deer, pronghorn and numerous species of conservation need. 

“The collaborative management of this property is unique, and we’re glad to have a role in protecting this important habitat for wildlife as well as being able to offer hunters more access opportunities in southeast Wyoming,” Commission President Pete Dube.

Pilot Hill is made up of two sections and connects over 65,000 acres of National Forest and State Lands. One section is a recreation corridor consisting of approximately 4,010 acres with miles of planned recreational trails; the second is the crucial wildlife habitat portion with limited trail development. Beginning in fall 2021, the new Game and Fish Pilot Hill WHMA will allow for hunting opportunities, including pronghorn and elk. Hiking, wildlife viewing and other recreational activities will open later this fall. 

Commissioners approved three revised big game herd unit objectives. The objectives were last evaluated in 2015 and address all big game species throughout Wyoming. The Rattlesnake Pronghorn Herd Unit in the Casper Region will move to a recreational management strategy, offering more hunting opportunities while maintaining buck quality. Bighorn sheep from the Lander Region Ferris-Seminoe Herd Unit will shift the population objective to a mid-winter trend count of 300 sheep. The mid-winter count will provide better trend data for management decisions. In the Laramie region, the Shirley Elk Herd Unit objective was raised to 1,200 from 800 mid-winter population count with the goal of maintaining liberal harvest while working to improve hunting access. 

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The Commission heard an update on the new Cody Regional Office project and continued to track construction costs in efforts to keep spending reasonable. The construction bidding process is on track to begin in October. Game and Fish is committed to a transparent construction process, and the public can visit the Game and Fish website for updates, costs and proposed plans.

Amy Anderson, Game and Fish habitat biologist, was recognized by the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust as Partner of the Year for her aspen and habitat work in the Lander region. Jim Seeman, Buffalo game warden, was honored as the 2019 Shikar-Safari Club International Wildlife Officer of the Year and Scott Werbelow, game warden coordinator, was presented with his 25-year service award. 

The next Commission meeting is November 17-18 in Buffalo. A recording of the meeting will be available on the Commission website in the coming days.

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