Cattle graze the Thornock tract of Cokeville Meadows in the fall after haying. Cattle and haying help to open up areas of dense vegetation and make more nutrients available. More sunlight can reach the soil and jump start bugs and plants in the spring, which are important sources of food in early spring migration as well as for local wildlife.
Currently Cokeville Meadows is managed as a satellite of Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge headquarters, which is located 75 miles to the east. The Refuge recently opened to public access. Hunting regulations brochure lines out special refuge regulations in each area. A short walking trail offers wildlife viewing and potential photography opportunities at the information kiosk on the west side of HWY 30 approximately 10 miles south of the town of Cokeville.
Cokeville Meadows NWR is a relatively new and growing Refuge with limited staff. Management activities are diverse and often focus on working cooperatively with local ranchers to accomplish projects and management goals.
Lands that are newly acquired are posted with boundary signs and evaluated for wildlife use, habitat potential, invasive weeds, fencing needs, contaminants, and other items. Under Special Use Permits, local ranchers and Refuge managers mutually benefit by working cooperatively to reach Refuge habitat goals and project goals. Ranchers assist Refuge staff with irrigation of wet meadows and semi-permanent wetlands, water rights retention, maintenance of ditches and other irrigation facilities, while maintaining the vigor of wet meadow vegetation through selective haying & grazing. Cooperative agreements with local ranchers also helps accomplish a variety of important refuge projects such as weed control, conversion of marginal croplands to permanent native vegetation, fence maintenance and construction, as well as cleanup of old junk piles and old fence. Cooperative farming provides food and cover for resident and migrating wildlife. In exchange, ranchers graze, hay and harvest crops of equal or less value for their labor investment. Twenty five percent of total value of crops, hay, or grazed AUMs (Animal Unit Monthly) is collected and put toward annual PILT (payment in lieu of taxes) payments to the county. PILT payments are a way for counties to re-coup the loss of property tax revenue from land acquired by the Refuge. Refuge staff also work with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and other stakeholders to identify and achieve management goals and objectives. Refuge staff and biologists from Wyoming Game and Fish Department also conduct annual wildlife surveys.
Courtesy of the Cokeville National Wildlife Refuge website.