#HabitatHero Mike Fenn: Leaving A Legacy For Wildlife In Wyoming

September 25, 2017

“As a family, we wanted to leave a little bit of a legacy, something that would be there forever,” says landowner Mike Fenn.

In western Wyoming sagebrush rolls across the wide-open horizon, stretching from the flanks of the Wind River Mountains down to the mighty Green River.

This rugged country sustains rural communities, ranches and wildlife. Sagebrush range provides forage for cattle, and habitat for iconic animals like pronghorn, elk, and the greater sage-grouse.

Ranchers here are voluntarily stepping up to protect and restore the country that supports their way of life.

Meet Mike Fenn, a landowner and business owner near Pinedale, Wyoming. He’s working with the Sage Grouse Initiative to conserve his working sagebrush rangelands.

“We like wildlife,” Mike says with a smile. “It’s kind of a priority for us on the ranch. We raise cows, but we try to do whatever we can for wildlife.”

Thanks to help from the Sage Grouse Initiative, Mike says that he’s been able to “grow better and more nutritious grass” to feed his livestock.

Along with cost-sharing grazing management practices on the Fenn Place, the NRCS and SGI also helped Mike remove an old windmill that provided a perch for predators that eat sage grouse (like hawks or ravens), and improve wetland habitat.

Perhaps most importantly, Mike put in place a conservation easement on the Fenn Place that protects vital sagebrush habitat and working ranchland from the threat of subdivision. Through conservation easements, NRCS provides an incentive payment for the retirement of future subdivision rights. Fenn participated in the former Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (now called the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program). The easement is held by The Nature Conservancy and permanently keeps the ranch intact as a working ranch.

“We enjoy the outdoors and open space and wildlife – being able to preserve a piece of that is important to us,” says Mike.

Check out this multimedia story about Mike:

Read more stories about SGI Featured Ranchers >

The Sage Grouse Initiative is a partnership-based, science-driven effort that uses voluntary incentives to proactively conserve America’s western rangelands, wildlife, and rural way of life. This initiative is part of Working Lands For Wildlife, which is led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.