Congratulations to Chris Cohagen, winner of the 2017 Conservation Fund Raffle
Conservation Fund established by Butler Family
By Steve Kilpatrick
The passion of you folks in the bighorn sheep world never ceases to amaze us at the WY-WSF. Gary Butler, life member #280, recipient of the Ron Ball Award, and former Wyoming Game and Fish Department habitat guru/bighorn fanatic, approached us with a proposal to establish a permanent bighorn sheep conservation fund. Interest from the fund would be used to finance bighorn sheep conservation in perpetuity. We are elated!!
Gary knows the long-term integrity of bighorn herds depends on the integrity of their habitat and the public’s long-term interest in bighorns. Therefore, he emphasized long-term habitat projects like conservation easements, grazing allotment adjustments, and prescribed burns in his proposal. Realizing the importance of humans maintaining a long-term interest in bighorns and the need for more science, he also proposed funding for WY-WSF youth life-time memberships and graduate students studying bighorns.
To kick start the Wyoming Wild Sheep Foundation Conservation Fund, the Butler Family Foundation contributed $25,000 to the fund’s corpus. Amazing! We set a goal of building the fund’s corpus to $250K or more within the next ten years or less. We have already had major contributions. The Ron Lockwood family recently decided to donate Ron’s Memorial Fund, approximately $17K, to the corpus. To top it off, the WY-WSF Board voted to contribute $5k to the Ron Lockwood Memorial Fund, which will now be funneled into the new Conservation Fund. We know Ron (life member #75) is smiling down on them! Moreover, Jim Collins (LM #10 and Ron Ball Award recipient) made a personal contribution of $12,500 to the fund.
As you can tell we are quite excited about the Wyoming Wild Sheep Conservation Fund and sincerely hope the Butler, Lockwood and Collins families inspire others in the bighorn world to consider contributing. As the Lockwoods have illustrated, it’s a great way to memorialize a passion for wild places and wild sheep. Please tip your hat to the Butler family for initiating the fund as well as the Lockwood and Collins families for being the first major contributors.
Call Executive Director Steve Kilpatrick to discuss donations or endowments to the fund at (307) 413-7249 or use the link below to make your donation to our forever Conservation Fund.
Why Bighorns Matter
By Gary Butler
My interest in hunting was molded over a long period of time spent in and loving the high country. Like so many of us during our youth, Dad and several of his buddies took the time to include me in their hunting escapades for turkey, waterfowl, deer, antelope and elk. These were precious times of companionship and a completely new outdoor world was opened up to me that was unbelievably fascinating and exhilarating!
After high school I figured out what kind of jobs I didn’t want to do for a living: carpenter, service station attendant, oil field, trimming trees, hauling freight, ranch hand, just to name a few. I was drafted and spent an extended tour of duty in Vietnam. I promised God that if he ever got me out of there I would go to college.
Being on the ranch affected me the most. However, I knew I probably would never be able to buy my own ranch, but my love of the out-of-doors led me into the natural resources field. While in college working on a B.S. degree in Wildlife Management and a M.S. in Range Management, I developed a passion for wildlife, plants and habitat, the complexities of the web of life that God had created.
During my 40-year career with the Wyoming Game and Fish, I had the pleasure of working 12 of those years as a habitat coordinator in northwestern Wyoming, living at the Whiskey Basin Bighorn Sheep Winter Range near Dubois. It was there that I gained a complete fascination for bighorn sheep and their habitat. In addition, it was there that I started an annual tradition of making it a point to go sheep hunting with anyone that would allow me to tag along. This year I tallied my 29th sheep hunt and I have discovered that there is probably no other way that one can see so much incredible high country as you will subject yourself to other than by sheep hunting!
Our bighorns are truly the canary in the mineshaft when it comes to Wyoming’s big game animals. They are extremely sensitive to habitat loss, alteration, and competition from other wildlife and livestock. Bighorns are truly an iconic big game animal. Only through the help of organizations such as the Wyoming and the National Wild Sheep Foundations, professional wildlife management and land management agencies, and other wildlife-interested people can the importance of these majestic animals and their habitat be sustained.
My career working in the wildlife habitat arena has only intensified my interest in bighorns and the importance of their habitat and management. I have been involved where cooperation between other land management agencies and land users has benefitted the habitat resource and the species. Bighorns are creatures of habit. They are not adaptable, like some other wildlife, and are just not able to move over when their traditional home incurs a change. We must advocate for the needs of bighorn sheep and preserve their unique niche in Wyoming’s rich, wild high country.
Through the years my wife, Jo, and I have fostered a tradition of camping, fishing, hunting, and enjoying wildlife and the wild country, so that our children, Scott and Toni, and our grandchildren will enjoy it as much as we do. As a family, it is important to us that we invite others to join with us to fund positive habitat projects to improve conditions for and increase our knowledge and awareness of bighorns.
It is our prayer that this treasure will be sustained for future generations.
Scott, Chance, Tera, Toni, Jo, and Gary Butler