Federal, state, and local agencies cooperate in the conservation of Wyoming’s natural resources. Land in the Yellowstone area was set aside in 1872 as the nation’s first national park. The first federal timberland reserve, Yellowstone Park Timber Stands Reserve (now Shoshone National Forest), was created in 1891. In 1927 all fish and game were declared state property.
Wyoming’s Game and Fish Department has a long history of success in wildlife conservation. The pronghorn was threatened with extinction in the early 1900s, but habitat improvement and better management has restored the population. Pronghorns roam freely across the state at lower elevations and are commonly seen along major highways. The black-footed ferret was thought to be extinct for many years, but a small population of this weasel-like mammal was found near Meeteetse in 1981. When some of the animals began to die because of the disease known as canine distemper, all of the remaining 18 individuals were caught and transported to the Game and Fish Department’s intensive care unit for wildlife.
Ferrets bred in captivity have been released and have established new wild populations. The mountain lion (or puma), grizzly bear, and gray wolf were the largest mammalian predators throughout the plains and mountains of Wyoming during the early 1800s. The mountain lion is still common, but the grizzly bear was listed as a threatened species in 1967. The population of grizzlies, mostly in and around Yellowstone National Park, had increased to about 500 animals by 2005, when the U.S. government removed them from the list of threatened species. The gray wolf had been absent from Wyoming for many years, but amid much controversy, was reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 and 1996. The success of the reintroduction program has meant that gray wolves in the northern Rockies are no longer classified as an endangered species.
In addition to rare animals, Wyoming has a number of endangered plants, as well as plants found nowhere else on earth. These plants include Barneby’s clover, desert yellowhead, and Laramie columbine. Recognizing the potential importance of rare plants and animals, various government agencies are working in collaboration with land owners and private organizations to protect the few remaining populations of these species.
For its water supply Wyoming depends on runoff from melting snow in the mountains. The state is vulnerable to variations in precipitation and drought, and water conservation is essential to Wyoming’s towns, industry, and agriculture. The state has benefited from major federal irrigation projects including the Missouri Basin, North Platte, Riverton, and Shoshone projects. The Wyoming Water Development Commission oversees water-supply planning and provides grants to towns and cities for exploring groundwater resources. "Wyoming" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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