WETLANDS IN WYOMING

Wetlands are an important part of the Wyoming landscape. Wetlands are found between upland and aquatic systems. They are the places that connect land and water.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department manages many large clusters of natural and man-made wetlands, as well as smaller meadows and the areas along streams and rivers, on our Wildlife Habitat Management Areas.

Additionally, Wyoming has identified 9 priority wetland complexes around the state. These are areas with high densities of wetlands that support important plant and animal communities. Explore these priority wetland complexes to learn about conservation in Wyoming and recreational opportunities near you.

WHAT MAKES A WETLAND A WETLAND

Wetlands are defined by their hydrology, vegetation, and soil. This means:

• Wetlands have to hold water during at least a portion of the year.
• Wetlands have unique soil conditions because the soil is completely saturated with water.
• Wetlands support special plants, called hydrophytes, that are adapted to the wet environment.

Riverine Wetland Systems

Riverine wetland systems are common in the floodplains of rivers and streams. These wetlands are recognizable as emergent or shrub marshes, oxbows, and beaver ponds. Narrow riparian corridors are present to some degree along most watercourses throughout the state.

 

Isolated Playa Basins

These shallow wetlands are scattered across the state. They collect water in the spring but may dry by later in the season. These are frequently alkaline habitats, and the soils may appear white from accumulated salts. These wetlands often support unusual plant communities and are important for migratory birds, particularly shorebirds like American avocets and sandpipers.

Montane Wetlands

These wetlands are at high elevations. They were historically formed by glaciers in the mountains. Montane wetlands collect snow melt and include shallow lakes and marshes.


PLANTS AND ANIMALS OF A WETLAND

Wetlands provide valuable habitat to wildlife in what can be an otherwise dry and harsh environment. Many birds, mammals, amphibians and other animals require wetlands or riparian areas to survive, including as much as 70% of Wyoming’s bird species. Other wildlife use wetlands seasonally or during parts of their life cycle.

Wetland plants have special adaptations that allow them to thrive in wet environments that lack oxygen. One of the most common is the formation of large air spaces that help transport oxygen to the roots, called arenchyma. This may give plants a spongy, porous texture, and can be see by cutting a cross section of a cattail leaf.

Field Guide to Colorado’s Wetland Plants, by Denise Culver and Joanna Lemly
Identification, ecology and conservation information about wetland plants in the region. Developed for wetlands in Colorado, the guide translates well to Wyoming’s similar landscape.

Wetland Conservation

Wetland conservation and restoration in Wyoming is a collaborative and multifaceted effort. Game and Fish is a member of the Wyoming Bird Habitat Conservation Partnership, an organization that brings together private citizens and landowners, agencies, non-profits, and others to work together on conservation projects.

In collaboration with members of the Wyoming Bird Habitat Conservation Partnership, Game and Fish has developed the Wyoming Wetlands Conservation Strategy and regional wetland conservation plans. These are statewide and priority complex specific planning efforts that establish wetland conservation priorities, identify regional factors affecting wetland condition, and provide strategies for conserving wetland resources. Wetland condition assessments are also underway for Wyoming’s priority wetland complexes.

Conservation plans
Wyoming Wetlands Conservation Strategy
Regional plans
Assessment Reports

Wetland Articles
A Check-up on the Condition and Health of Wyoming’s Wetlands
By Holly Copeland, Landscape Ecologist, The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming
This short article summarizes a state-wide assessment of wetlands that mapped “wetland complexes” and determined their importance in terms of biodiversity, recreation potential, agricultural influence, condition, and vulnerability to future environmental changes.

Conservation Planning for a Migration Oasis
By Steve Tessmann, Wyoming Game and Fish Staff Biologist and State Conservation Partnership Chair
Learn about Goshen Hole, a wetland complex that comes to life during spring and fall, when it serves as a crucial hub for migrating birds.

Trumpeter Swan - Wyoming’s Wetland Conservation Ambassador
By Susan Patla, Wyoming Game and Fish Department Non-game Biologist
Trumpeter swans, the largest waterfowl in North America, have long been valued for their grace and beauty. More recently the resident population in the Intermountain West has proven to be an excellent catalyst for wetland restoration and conservation work.

Creating a swan habitat in a sagebrush sea is anything but black and white
By Susan Patla, Wyoming Game and Fish Department Non-game Biologist
A Wyoming Wildlife magazine story about the numerous Game and Fish initiative to create and preserve crucial swan habitat throughout Wyoming.

Volunteer/Landowners
If you would like to get involved as a volunteer or learn about wetlands first-hand check out our Visit Wyoming Wetlands page for opportunities and events.

If you’re a landowner interested in information on wetland management or voluntary restoration and protection options, check out our Resources for Landowners page to learn more.

RESOURCES FOR LANDOWNERS

There are many organizations and resources for landowners who would like to learn more about wetland management or voluntary restoration and protection options.

If you’re interested in managing, restoring, or protecting wetlands on your property, many options for funding and technical assistance are available, including for working lands. Organizations involved in wetland conservation can help answer your questions and find the right program for you. See the list of partners and resources below for more information.

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
NRCS offers a variety of conservation programs that benefit both agricultural producers and the environment. These include financial and technical assistance for restoration projects, as well as easements for both working and non-working lands. NRCS works closely with local Conservation Districts to deliver projects in Wyoming.

Partners for Fish and Wildlife (PFW)
PFW restores, creates, and enhances terrestrial and aquatic systems on private and public lands. In Wyoming, PFW’s focal areas are the Laramie Plains, Goshen Hole, Wind River, Bear River, Green River, Powder Tongue River, Black Hills Mixed Grass, Little Snake/ Upper Platte, and Upper Sweetwater/Red Desert.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC)
The Nature Conservancy protects wetlands and other priority habitats across Wyoming primarily through easements and acquisitions. They are also involved in ongoing assessments of Wyoming’s wetland complexes, as well as innovative management techniques to improve riparian and wetland habitats.

Ducks Unlimited (DU)
DU works with partners and private landowners across the state to create, enhance, and restore wetlands. DU also protects high quality wetlands and associated wildlife habitat through easements, acquisitions, and planned gifts. For more information on conservation programs, contact DU's Wyoming/Colorado office.

Land Trusts

The Jackson Hole Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy and The Wyoming Stock Growers Association preserve lands of scenic, agricultural, and wildlife value through various easement options.  

Guides and Management Resources

Best Management Practices, Wyoming DEQ
Resources on best management practices relating to nonpoint source pollution.

Barnyards & Backyards: Rural Living in Wyoming, UW Extension
Articles on how to live better on your acreage. Topics include wildlife, water, and grazing.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department Habitat Extension Bulletins include information on the habitat needs of wildlife in Wyoming. They also offer guidance on a variety of wildlife friendly land management practices, aimed at landowners and land managers interested in increasing wildlife abundance on their properties. Some important bulletins on wetlands for landowners include:
 


Trumpeter Swan Habitat Creation Guide, by Susan Patla and Dave Lockman
This guide details considerations and prescriptions for the design, construction, and management of shallow water wetlands for spring through fall use by trumpeter swans in western Wyoming. It is designed for use by private landowners, wetland construction contractors, biologists, land trusts, and land managers.

VISIT OUR WYOMING WETLANDS

You can take a digital tour of the wetland complexes in Wyoming or visit one on the ground.

Game and Fish manages variety of wetland and riparian habitats across the state. Many of our Wildlife Habitat Management Areas (WHMAs) are home to large wetland complexes that support migrating waterfowl and other waterbird populations.

These are among the best places in Wyoming to hunt waterfowl or view diverse communities of birds and wildlife. Songbirds are abundant along riparian corridors which are perfect spots for birders, and anglers, to spend an early morning.

WHMA Activities Available
Table Mountain and Springer Hunting, Birding
Yellowtail Hunting, Fishing, Birding
Ocean Lake Hunting, Fishing, Birding
Soda Lake Hunting, Fishing, Birding, Audubon viewing hut and trail
South Park Hunting, Fishing, Birding
Chain Lakes Birding, Photography
Sunlight Birding, Fishing

Volunteer events/information
Join us to see wildlife management and conservation in action. Please check back frequently for upcoming opportunities.

FUN EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITIES

These interactive activities allow kids to learn more about how wetlands function as well as some adaptations that some wetland wildlife have in order to survive.

Build a Wetland Model
Build a Bug
Build a Beaver

How to Visit a Wetland Guide
Are you interested in visiting a wetland with your family or students but aren’t sure where to start? This guide will send you off in the right direction!

Wetlands Guide

Lesson Plans/ Teacher Resources
These resources offer a variety of lesson plans to teach students about wetlands and the wildlife within.

Aquatic Macroinvertebrate Lesson
Wyoming Wetlands Lesson Plans

OUR PARTNERS

If you’re looking for information on wetland regulations, data and conservation, visit the following organizations.

Army Corps of Engineers
U. S. Federal agency responsible for wetland regulation and permitting under the Clean Water Act.

Association of State Wetland Managers
The Association of State Wetland Managers is a nonprofit membership organization that promotes and enhances protection and management of wetland resources and provides training and educational resources.

Ducks Unlimited
Ducks Unlimited conserves, restores, and manages wetlands and associated habitats for North America's waterfowl.

Environmental Protection Agency
As the US Federal agency tasked with protecting health and the environment, EPA helps states and tribes build their wetland programs and offers information to the public. EPA jointly implements and enforces the Clean Water Act Section 404 program with the Army Corps of Engineers.

Intermountain West Joint Venture
The mission of the Intermountain West Joint Venture (IWJV) is to conserve priority bird habitats through partnership-driven, science-based projects and programs.

Natural Resources Conservation Service
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners conserve the nation’s soil, water, air and other natural resources. Their programs include financial and technical assistance for restoration projects, as well as easements for both working and non-working lands.

The Nature Conservancy
The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Nature Conservancy protects wetlands and other priority habitats across Wyoming primarily through easements and acquisitions.

Wyoming Bird Habitat Conservation Partnership
The mission of the Wyoming Bird Habitat Conservation Partnership (WBHCP) is to facilitate habitat conservation planning and projects to help achieve priority state, regional, and continental bird objectives.

Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality
The state’s regulatory agency charged with protecting, conserving and enhancing Wyoming’s land, air and water.

Wyoming Geospatial hub
Find geospatial data from numerous partners in the state.

Wyoming Natural Diversity Database
WYNDD offers the most complete source of data for species and vegetation communities of conservation concern in Wyoming.