The NWTF, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Wyoming State Board of Land Commissioners, Wyoming State Forestry Division, and the Moskee Land Corporation partnered through the USDA Forest Service Legacy Program to contribute a total of $11,525,000 toward the purchase and conservation of 4,350 acres of scenic canyon lands in the NWTF’s Black Hills Focal Landscape.
The land acquisition in Crook County, Wyoming not only protects the property from residential development, which would have had dire implications for wildlife and wildlife habitat, but it also connects 7,313 acres of outlying forest lands to the main body of the Black Hills National Forest, increasing public hunting access in Crook County by approximately 4,350 acres.
The State of Wyoming’s acquisition of the property will drastically improve wildlife habitat management in the area since it “helps reduce development-related disturbances to important wildlife species, while enhancing biologists’ ability to effectively manage the land and local game populations,” said Joe Sandrini, senior wildlife biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
Sandrini pointed out, “hunting is the primary management tool we use to regulate most game populations,” and noted, “acquiring this special piece of land will benefit hunters, the game and the land.”
Wyoming’s senior resource forester John Crisp concurred. “This acquisition will enhance forest and wildlife management opportunities for State agencies and the U.S. Forest Service”.
Improved access, forest and wildlife management will also benefit hunters. An analysis conducted by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department suggested the property could host significantly more hunting opportunities annually with proper management.
Mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, mountain lions, bobcats, wild turkeys and even brook trout are all game species that inhabit the area and will benefit from this now protected land.
“The property’s diverse habitats provide roost sites, winter forage production and even meadows for bugging and foraging by hens and poults,” Sandrini said.
The property is also particularly rich in hydrologic features (relating to rivers and various bodies of water) with 16.7 miles of streams, five major springs, two reservoirs, 28 acres of riparian (where land meets river) habitat, eight acres of wetland and nine acres of montane fen (peat-accumulating wetlands).
“Conserving and managing important forest areas in the Black Hills Focal Landscape is critical to maintaining healthy populations of Merriam’s wild turkeys, and improving public hunting access in such an important and popular destination such as the Black Hills, is paramount to NWTF’s mission” said Collin Smith, district biologist for NWTF. “We are pleased to work with our partners to be a part of this important addition to public land ownership in Wyoming.”