Cottonwood Ranches. Photo by Mark Gocke, Wyoming Game & Fish Department. For more images by Mark Gocke, visit www.markgocke.com.
At A Glance
- Cottonwood Ranches contains some of the highest quality sage grouse habitat in the Green River Valley.
- The Fund helped protect 4,600 acres of the ranch, preserving a family legacy of ranching and critical habitat for wildlife like the pronghorn antelope.
- This represented the first use of Jonah Interagency Office oil and gas mitigation funds.
"As a rancher I am grateful for these efforts to balance the development of our resources with the preservation of the agricultural stewardship that is so important to our communities all across Wyoming.” — Freddie Botur, owner of Cottonwood Ranches.
Western ranchland is disappearing and with it important wildlife habitat. Partnerships between government agencies, willing ranchers and conservation groups are increasingly important to the future of this habitat.
Cottonwood Ranches, a working cattle ranch owned by the Botur family, is located southwest of Daniel, Wyoming in the upper Green River Valley. The ranch contains more than four miles of riverbank and wetland habitat along Muddy Creek and is completely surrounded by public land. It provides crucial winter and yearlong habitat for mule deer, moose, elk, pronghorn antelope and sage grouse. The Wyoming Game & Fish Department selected the site because it contains some of the highest quality sage grouse habitat in the Green River Valley—in a single visit more than 250 sage grouse were observed here.
A Mitigation Project
The project represents the first use of Jonah Interagency Office (JIO) oil and gas mitigation funds for permanent land conservation. The Fund, along with the Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust, worked with the Botur family for three years to place three conservation easements on more than 4,600 acres of their property, thereby preserving a family legacy of ranching while at the same time protecting critical wildlife habitat.
The easements protect prime habitat along rivers, lakes and streams—critical for the sage grouse—to aid in the mitigation of oil and gas impacts in Wyoming. They also improve habitat conditions on more than 25,000 acres of adjacent land owned by the Bureau of Land Management.
Other long term benefits of this project include:
- enhancement and ongoing monitoring of important sage grouse and pronghorn antelope habitat in a controlled area with the highest wildlife values in southwestern Wyoming;
- a simple, cost effective water development project to enhance forage production for sage grouse and other wildlife species in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management and Trout Unlimited;
- permanent conservation easements requiring landowner to conduct long-term habitat enhancement and maintenance beyond simple open space protection.
Funding for the easements came from JIO mitigation funds, the Wyoming Wildlife & Natural Resources Trust and The Nature Conservancy, through a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation for the support of Wyoming’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. The Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust will monitor and enforce the easements.