Partners Leverage Strengths for Wyoming Wetlands

By Laurel Anders, Intermountain West Joint Venture, and Noelle Smith, Ducks Unlimited

Soda Lake Wildlife Habitat Management Area in Wyoming

Soda Lake Wildlife Habitat Management Area in Wyoming

Water is scarce in Wyoming. The state has lost more than a third of its wetlands. The loss has brought a decrease in water storage, streamflow and quality that has reduced habitat for most of Wyoming’s birds and other wildlife.

Looking to increase wetland conservation, wildlife agencies and organizations saw a need for more capacity and technical expertise. That’s where creative collaborations like the Wyoming Bird Habitat Conservation Partnership (WBHCP) come in to advance voluntary wetland conservation projects. This partnership consists of a diverse group of private citizens, natural resource agencies and conservation organizations, like Ducks Unlimited, Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) and the Intermountain West Joint Venture.

With support from a federal grant and the WBHCP, the WGFD and DU developed a Wetland Program Plan for the state. The conservation partnership is leveraging DU’s scientific expertise, planning, project management and engineering skills to help lead this endeavor.

DU is also sponsoring a full-time employee. Noelle Smith, DU wetlands specialist, helps implement the project out of a shared office with WGFD regional staff.

"The collaborative nature of this effort gives it additional reach and support," Smith said. "We’re able to bring multiple perspectives to the table from the beginning, which helps guide the program in a way that is responsive to new science, concerns and ideas."

The program’s current focus is on multiple-benefit wetland projects that provide valuable wildlife habitat while addressing other concerns on the landscape, such as drought or water quality. An Environmental Protection Agency Wetland Program Development grant funding is being used to make technical expertise more accessible to other agencies, as well as expanding and diversifying the partnership.

"The key to this endeavor is to recognize and leverage the strengths of each organization to address a major gap in capacity in Wyoming," said Martin Grenier, DU manager of conservation programs in Colorado and Wyoming. "This grant program is an important catalyst to accelerate the statewide goals and objectives of our individual organizations and integrating other groups in the Wyoming Bird Habitat Conservation Partnership."