Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 2


Bright futures
By Brian Nesvik


alking out the door of a wall tent to a new, fresh blanket of
snow is better than Folgers in your cup. It's undisturbed on
the surface, bright with promise and wet with opportunity.
It's a refresh, a reset and a chance to see clearly the different places you
might head. It's a chance to make new tracks. A new snow - that's
how I feel about 2021.
It doesn't suffice to say 2020 was challenging. The year changed us
in innumerable, individual ways. The pandemic certainly impacted how
the Wyoming Game and Fish Department carried out business, but it
didn't stop us. Game and Fish took our charge to conserve wildlife and
serve people more heartily than ever. Because when seemingly nothing
was certain, one thing was: the Wyoming outdoors. Coronavirus didn't
take the wild away from that. Here's what we're most proud of this year.
We remained focused on our priorities. Game and Fish launched
the Wildlife Crossing initiative to improve roadway safety for wildlife
and drivers, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission invested
$2.75 million in high-priority wildlife crossing projects. The initiative
came alongside Gov. Mark Gordon's challenge to put 2,020 Wyoming
Conservation license plates on the road, a goal that united many working in wildlife conservation and showed the public's commitment to
reducing collisions with animals like mule deer, pronghorn and elk.
One of our top priorities has been to protect Wyoming from potentially devastating effects if zebra or quagga mussels found their way
inside our borders. I am happy to report Wyoming remains invasive
mussel-free. Our aquatic invasive species inspectors worked at our
borders and reservoirs to educate boaters and inspect watercraft entering our state. They kept check stations open during the summer and
served the public professionally and safely. Game and Fish inspected
a record-breaking 75,492 boats and other watercraft, nearly a 50
percent increase from prior years. We also spent significant time on
contingency planning to ensure we can be responsive if new AIS are
discovered in our waters.
The Commission also invested in mule deer, putting $560,000 on
the ground for habitat projects and acquired a new wildlife habitat
management area outside Laramie, Pilot Hill, to manage crucial habitat
for elk, mule deer, pronghorn and numerous species of conservation
need. Further, the Commission approved Wyoming's chronic wasting
disease management plan after a months-long public process to form the
recommendations. The plan was immediately put to use this hunting
season, driving the CWD sample collection focus areas for deer and
elk, adding to the growing body of knowledge on the disease.
Wyoming citizens highly value wildlife and taking a role in management. They support key tenants of the North American model as
well as fair chase when hunting is used as a management tool. When
Grand Teton National Park began implementation of their plan to
manage mountain goats to protect bighorn sheep, Wyoming spoke
loud to advocate for these values. The Commission and Game and Fish,
2 | January 2021	

alongside Gov. Gordon, worked together with Grand Teton National
Park to craft a culling operation that involved the first-ever volunteer
program where members of the public were used to achieve the park's
management goals. At one time, this type of an approach inside our
national parks appeared very unlikely. The outcome was a monumental
achievement and showcased that great things can be achieved when
local and state managers work together with federal partners.
Our priorities drove us to innovate, to do better for wildlife and
meet you where you were, which was a balance of online and outside.
Early in the year, we had to cancel our Wyoming Outdoor Expo but
held the event online with Expo@Home, and it reached nearly 1
million people. We also worked hard to bring the outdoors to you
with WildLIVE, so you could get an up-close and exclusive look at
wildlife from your home.
In 2020 Game and Fish stocked more than 6.9 million warm and
cold-water fish, amounting to 516,557 pounds. We also did a test
project of raising our own warm-water species. Currently, popular
species like walleye and channel catfish are imported from other states.
We sought to " test the waters " to see if a future warm-water hatchery
in Wyoming could be successful. Game and Fish worked on native
fish projects, too, in drainages where local managers and the public
have prioritized species like the hornyhead chub and cutthroat trout.
When the weather warmed, more people felt inspired to head outside. Access to places to explore remained important, and many hunters
and anglers utilized Access Yes walk-in areas and hunter management
areas as well as Game and Fish-owned lands and access areas. Game and
Fish encouraged families to get outside and explore these wild places
with the Inspire a Kid WYO 100 checklist. That list is a lot of fun,
and I enjoyed checking off many items with my family, like teaching
my grandkids how to bait a hook.
While I was on my boat, I saw a lot of new folks on the water.
The fishing was good across the state and Wyoming anglers set some
amazing records. Our trophy fishing recognition program awarded
1,016 Master Anglers, 43 Trophy Anglers and six Ultimate Anglers,
and we had 200 anglers complete the iconic Cutt-Slam. I was able
to log two new Master Angler entries and have a goal to achieve the
Trophy Angler level in 2021.
Game and Fish took a little time to celebrate successes, too. The
Commission was honored to receive the 2019 Western Association of
Fish and Wildlife Agencies Commission of the Year award. Also, we're
happy to see the success of the WYldlife Fund, a new organization the
Commission supported to help advance wildlife conservation.
That's just a handful of what the Commission and all at Game and
Fish accomplished over the last year, and we're not shy about saying
it's because we value wildlife and people so much. That's what keeps
us going, even through a difficult year. I'm looking forward to making
new tracks in 2021; not because 2020 is behind us, but because of the
opportunities for Wyoming to be a better place. Happy new year from
all of us at Game and Fish.


Wyoming Wildlife magazine

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Wyoming Wildlife magazine

Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 1
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