The buffalo and antelope were nearly gone from Wyoming at the end of the nineteenth century. Elk and bighorn sheep had been extirpated from entire mountain ranges. The outlook was bleak, and a dirge was sounding for Wyoming's wildlife. Then D.C. Nowlin arrived.

The former Texas Ranger had been smitten by Wyoming when he passed through the state on a cattle drive, so he sold his land in Texas and Mexico and started a cattle ranch near Big Piney. Appalled by the decline of game, he ran for the state legislature in 1899 and was elected. Immediately, he began drafting legislation to protect game by establishing seasons, bag limits, legal tackle for fish and the job of a state game warden. Albert Nelson was the first to hold the job, but he resigned in frustration when the courts refused to convict a poacher, and Nowlin took the job.

He was the state game warden for eight years, during which he established a fund for managing wildlife by imposing fees for hunting and fishing. The system he created, which also helped control hunting, is the same one that Wyoming and the rest of the states use today.

Nowlin knew he couldn't enforce the game laws alone. He hired three full - time wardens and twenty "special assistant" wardens that didn't get paid, only reimbursed for their expenses, and others who were volunteers. For­est and park rangers were deputized to help, and with an adequate force in place, he turned the tide on illegal hunting in a few short years. Even as the chief of the newly created agency, Nowlin traveled more than 1,000 miles o n horseback to see for himself what was going on in Wyoming's big game strong holds.

The first harvest-reporting system was developed under Nowlin to replace earlier guesses about how many animals hunters killed. Every successful big-game hunter was required to send a coupon from his license to Nowlin's office so that the kill could be recorded.

Not only did the game benefit from Nowlin's system, but the people of Wyoming did, too. Game under his model truly belonged to the people instead of the wealthy. Later, Nowlin oversaw the first reintroduction of elk from Jackson Hole to areas where they had been extirpated, an effort that involved trapping the elk and transporting them by sleigh and wagon over Teton Pass to a rail station in Idaho, where they could be shipped to other parts of Wyoming and the West.

Before he left Wyoming due to poor health, he was named manager of the new National Elk Refuge, where he served several years.

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