Legislature helps fund aspen restoration on South Pass

An ongoing aspen habitat enhancement project on South Pass received an additional $300,000 from the Wyoming Legislature this year.

The money will help cover the next phase of the project, which involves removing encroaching conifers to enhance aspen generation, Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust executive director Bob Budd said told the Senate Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee in February.

The aspen stands on South Pass have diminished in recent years, Budd explained, with the change especially noticeable in the fall.

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“It used to be in the fall (South Pass) was yellow and gold and orange and red,” Budd said. “Then it was just evergreen.”

Now that several phases of the habitat enhancement project have been completed, Budd said the vista was “back to yellow and gold and orange and red” in the fall.

“It’s a great project,” Wyoming Sen. Ed Cooper, R-Ten Sleep, said. “It’s designed for fire control, for habitat improvements, and what we’ve done so far has been a massive success.”

Funding for the project was included in Senate File 48, which was signed into law March 15.

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The project covers about 17,500 acres in Fremont County that have been targeted for conifer removal by mechanical, chemical and prescribed fire treatment, according to the bill.

The work will help maintain habitats and seasonal movement opportunities for mule deer, elk, antelope and other species; reduce or eliminate the potential for catastrophic wildfire; and increase the productivity of rangelands for wildlife and livestock, the legislation states.

The project budget totals $2.56 million, with the state authorized to contribute up to $995,000.

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