State hopes easements protect deer from sprawl

Oct 25, 2016 By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer

Wyoming Game and Fish hopes to acquire a conservation easement in November on a 1,882-acre parcel of private land on Table Mountain south of Lander.

Homeownership has sprawled into the picturesque rural areas near Lander over the last decade, threatening a crucial habitat for mule deer.

"One of the biggest threats to wildlife conservation is human development," said Brian Rognon, appraisal reviewer for Game and Fish.

The new acquisition is just one of several made in the past few years in hopes of preserving rangeland, now more crucial than previously thought after research this summer indicated this herd is migrating away from Lander less than previously thought.

The land in question would remain in private hands, but the landowner would be restricted to using the area for agriculture.

Game and Fish will retain subdivision rights -- no strips mines, wind turbines or solar panels will ever be allowed. Though almost none of the land will be able to be split up, 25 acres will be allowed to be sold as separate building envelopes.

With state funds so hard to come by at the moment, Game and Fish doesn't exactly have the resources to be paying for the "growing mosaic" of acquisitions. Instead, the agency is often relying on land swaps.

In the case of the most recent acquisition, the current landowner will receive surface rights to 240 acres in the Ocean Lake Wildlife Habitat Management Area near Pavillion. Game and Fish will retain the ability to release pheasants on that land and allow hunting for birds and small game.

Rognon said mule deer will benefit from these conservation efforts, but hunters hopefully will too, since the move will open up new land for hunting.

"If you do a good job with conservation, indirectly it could lead to more tags if the population numbers increase," he said.

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