Bugle - Featured Articles | February 28, 2024

By: Paul Queneau

1,230 acres protected with access to
300,000 acres of public lands beyond.

Head west of Laramie, Wyoming, on Interstate 80 toward Elk Mountain, and so long as you don’t blink at the wrong moment, in 40 miles you’ll pass the exit to Arlington: elevation 7,707 feet, population 25.

If you’re an elk hunter, you’re less likely to miss the Medicine Bow and Snowy ranges that leap skyward to the south. Sheathed in sage, aspen and conifer, these mountains ooze with wapiti appeal that’s all the more enticing when you realize the land in view is permanently protected, and leads to 300,000 acres of public land at its southern border.

To access it, you must first cross private lands. Now a part of a cattle ranch, Arlington was built as a stagecoach stop on the historic Overland Trail in the 1860s and preserved as a National Register Historic District with 10 log buildings, many hand hewn, including a homesteader’s cabin, post office, combination dance hall/general store/blacksmith shop, milk house, icehouse and slaughterhouse. The buildings sit on private land and are not open to
the public.

This former townsite and the surrounding ranch have remained in the same family since the late 1800s. Dedicated to both historic preservation and wildlife conservation, descendants of the Pitcher family recently worked with RMEF to complete a purchased voluntary conservation agreement (VCA, also known as a conservation easement) to forever ensure 1,230 acres south of Arlington will remain wild and whole. The VCA is a stone’s throw from the 23,000-acre Wick/Beumee Wildlife Habitat Management Area to the west and adjacent to BLM and Medicine Bow National Forest lands to the east, west
and south.

In addition to providing vital winter range for elk, moose, mule deer, pronghorns and other wildlife, this parcel hosts six miles of perennial streams that sustain fish as well as a rich mix of willows, cottonwoods and robust aspen stands. Other VCA partners include the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, Wyoming Governors Big Game License Coalition, Bass Pro Shops and Cabelas Outdoor Fund, onX, Ducks Unlimited and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ Division of Bird Habitat Conservation.

The family also worked with RMEF and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department on a seasonal access agreement that will allow public hunters to drive the private Pitcher-Brokaw Road between Aug. 1 and Nov. 30 for the next 20 years to reach U.S. Forest Service land to the south.

“It provides 3.6 miles of vehicle road access to extensive federal lands beyond,” says Leah Burgess, RMEF senior conservation program manager. “It’s a popular access point for hunters and wildlife viewers, but the elk and other wildlife on the public land depend on private winter range like you find on the Pitcher family’s ranch to survive the long winters here, so securing this VCA is a big win for everyone.”