It was a great day for working lands, wildlife habitat and conservation in Sheridan County. On Tuesday, April 14, the Wyoming Wildlife Natural Resource Trust (WWNRT) approved $235,000 that will be used by the Sheridan Community Land Trust (SCLT) to help complete two voluntary conservation easements totaling a little more than 550 acres.

SCLT Executive Director Brad Bauer said WWNRT’s authorization of funds lays the groundwork for the final phase of completion on two properties that conserve key migratory habitat and safeguard clean water while ensuring important range and hay ground remains in production.

One property, he explained, includes two miles of Clear Creek and, once complete, will become the easternmost voluntary conservation agreement in Sheridan County. The property will aid in rehabilitation efforts for the Greater Sage-grouse, as the tract of land is contained within the signature sagebrush bird’s migratory corridor. The stretch of Clear Creek serves as key seasonal habitat for a number of migratory birds like cranes and ducks while the surrounding riparian area is home to many songbirds that nest in the willowed oasis surrounded by a sagebrush and grassland sea.

Clear Creek’s free flow is essential year-round habitat for a host of warmwater prairie fishes like chubs, darters, and stonecats, while the Kendrick Dam bypass allows the stretch to be used during spring spawning runs by channel catfish, sauger, and even shovelnose sturgeon, some of which travel upstream from as far as 300 miles away in the lower Powder River.

In contrast, the second property safeguards seasonal wetlands utilized by a plethora of birds, frogs and turtles within the Tongue River watershed. Bauer added that the property can attain water quality targets identified by the Tongue River Initiative, a collaborative working group which includes the Sheridan County Conservation District, The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming and SCLT.

Both properties include important native upland habitat and are home to many mule deer.

“It was awesome to see the families who own these properties choose to ensure their lands remain working productively for their ranching operation while keeping land intact and water clean by working to create voluntary conservation easements. And we’re thankful the WWNRT recognize those families’ work by approving funds to ensure the people of Sheridan County and beyond will benefit from conservation efforts at these sites today, tomorrow and every tomorrow,” Bauer asserted.

He said SCLT will now work with the Natural Resource Conservation Service to complete the final phase of the conservation projects, a process he said typically takes between 18 and 24 months.

“Today was a win for working lands, wildlife, conservation and everyone who values how they come together to create what makes our Wyoming wonderland so wonderful,” Bauer concluded.

Sheridan Community Land Trust has worked with local landowners to create and maintain voluntary conservation agreements on 11 sites totaling 3,500 acres.