CASPER, Wyo. — Rancher and Wyoming House Majority Floor Leader Albert Sommers has been recognized with the 2022 National Private Lands Fish and Wildlife Stewardship Award.
On Monday, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department said it nominated Sommers for the national award.
“Albert Sommers is a remarkable leader for on-the-ground conservation along with his outstanding representation on boards, committees and the Wyoming Legislature,” Brian Nesvik, director of Wyoming Game and Fish, said. “He and his family have a fundamental understanding that an economically viable ranch and intact wildlife habitats are not mutually exclusive. His practices and voice for wildlife are truly significant to the West.
“For these reasons, Game and Fish is proud that Rep. Sommers was recognized for his contributions to Wyoming. He is a model for our state and nation for conservation practices.”
Sommers owns and operates a third-generation ranch in the Upper Green River Valley near Pinedale, Game and Fish said. The working ranch is 1,876 acres in size and is part of the largest conservation and public access easement in Wyoming, according to Game and Fish.
The Sommers-Grindstone Conservation Project that led to that conservation easement is one example of why Game and Fish nominated Sommers for the award. The Sommers Ranch and a neighboring landowner entered their entire properties to create the easement in 2010.
“Working with additional landowners, the footprint of the conservation easements now exceeds 19,000 acres and stretches nearly 30 square miles, making it the largest in Wyoming,” said John Lund, Game and Fish Pinedale Region wildlife supervisor.
The lands in the conservation easement are in two areas considered critical for wildlife in western Wyoming, including portions of the Sublette Mule Deer Migration Corridor, which is the longest designated mule deer corridor in the world, Game and Fish said. The Sommers Ranch participated in the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, which aims to remove fences and implement other wildlife-friendly measures.
Anglers and hunters are able to access the ranch through Game and Fish access management initiatives.
“Sommers, in partnership with the Grindstone Cattle Company, have granted five miles of a walk-in fishing easement,” Game and Fish said. “The public access area and boat launch is one way to enter the Green River for floating and bank fishing, which is extremely limited in the area. The ranch also provides opportunities for small and big game hunting.”
Another example of why Game and Fish nominated Sommers for the national award is his approach to livestock grazing.
“Beginning in 1996, Sommers initiated a cooperative range monitoring program with the University of Wyoming,” the department said. “The voluntary group monitors range conditions, identifies areas of concern and — if needed — alters grazing to meet objectives with species like sage grouse in mind.”
The Sommers Ranch has 26 buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Game and Fish added. The ranch welcomes community and school group tours to learn about its history, the ranching lifestyle and an appreciation for the outdoors, the release said.
Sommers has served on the Wyoming Brucellosis Coordination Team, the Colorado River Basin Working Group, the Tri-Governor Committee on the review of Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy, the Green River Basin Sage Grouse Working Group and the Rock Springs BLM District Multiple Use Advisory Group, Game and Fish added. He also helped found the Sublette County Invasive Species Task Force.
He has been a member of the Wyoming Livestock Board and has served as president of the Green River Valley Cattleman’s Association and the Upper Green River Valley Cattleman’s Association, Game and Fish said.
Sommers has received other conservation- and stewardship-related awards, including the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Landowner of the Year, Wyoming Leopold Conservation Award and the Outstanding Contribution to Sage Grouse Initiative award.
“Rep. Sommers has spent a lifetime living and working around wildlife in western Wyoming,” Lund said. “He understands and appreciates the role and importance of all wildlife on the landscape, and strongly supports common-sense conservation measures to ensure thriving wildlife populations into the future. I extend the department’s deepest congratulations — and thanks — to Rep. Sommers and his family on behalf of Wyoming’s fish and wildlife.”
The Wyoming Stockgrowers, the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts and the Muley Fanatic Foundation provided endorsement letters to support Game and Fish’s nomination of Sommers for the 2022 National Private Lands Fish and Wildlife Stewardship Award.
“I have a deep respect for this landscape that I occupy and the wildlife that coexist with it,” Sommers told Game and Fish after he learned about receiving the award. “This landscape has defined who I am and what motivates me as a rancher and legislator. We are on the cusp of change in Wyoming, and I fear that this deep respect for landscape that imbibes in those of us who have lived here for generations will disappear.”