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Game and Fish, partners invest over $13M for habitat projects in 2023

(Wyoming Game and Fish Department)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — Aquatic and terrestrial habitat project investments topped $13 million in 2023, funding efforts crucial for conserving and growing populations of more than 800 Wyoming species, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. 

In 2023, Game and Fish allocated more than $4.6 million for habitat projects and was able to leverage that for more than $8.6 million from the Wyoming Wildlife Natural Resources Trust Fund, government funds, state funds, private landowners and local conservation partners, the department said in a July 8 release.

Funds raised in 2023 are the equivalent of $2.86 coming from external partners for every Game and Fish dollar allocated, per the release, which says the department used the funds to execute 237 projects last year. 

“Quality habitat is essential for effective wildlife management,” Game and Fish Director Brian Nesvik said in a statement. “The department is deeply committed to sustaining healthy populations of aquatic and terrestrial wildlife.”

According to Nesvik, investing in Wyoming habitat creates resilient landscapes, enabling wildlife to endure fluctuations in water availability and severe winters. 

In 2023, the Statewide Habitat Plan, or SHP, guided numerous aquatic habitat efforts that improved over 155 stream miles, per Game and Fish. 

“Improving and restoring stream miles is crucial for aquatic habitat. It enhances water quality, increases biodiversity, and ensures the viability of fish and other aquatic species,” Statewide Aquatic Habitat Manager Paul Dey said in a statement. “Healthy streams provide essential resources such as clean water, food, and shelter for aquatic species and also supports a balanced and thriving ecosystem.”

Outside aquatic habitat work, the department collaborated on projects leading to the management of more than 935,000 acres of terrestrial habitat and implemented herbicide treatments to control invasive grasses across 80,704 acres, the release states. 

“Reducing the spread of cheatgrass and other invasive grasses to benefit wildlife is a priority for the department,” Statewide Terrestrial Habitat Manager Ian Tator said in a statement. “We will continue to focus energy on this important task, so species like mule deer and sage grouse have access to the resources they need.”

Per the release, the SHP annual report is available on the Game and Fish website, highlighting accomplishments achieved through collaboration. This year, the report profiles the Muley Fanatic Foundation for its partnership and contributions to habitat restoration, wildlife crossings and conservation education. 

“We couldn’t accomplish our goals or achieve the same level of impact without our partners, and in 2023, the Muley Fanatic Foundation has exemplified what is possible when we have strong partnerships in place,” Nesvik said in a statement.