Inspire a Kid Camps 2023

Wow, it has been a busy year for The WYldlife Fund! Busy is good, right? We like to think so! We have a lot to catch our supporters up on, and we’d like to begin by filling you in on our second summer of Inspire a Kid Camp, which was, in short, INCREDIBLE.

The WYldlife Fund was honored to partner with Little Jennie Ranch in Bondurant, WY to offer another summer session of Inspire a Kid Camp. We first offered this camp to a group of 20 boys in 2022, and this year we expanded to offer a girls camp as well!

From June 19th-24th, 20 boys from Wyoming, West Virginia, and New Jersey gathered at Little Jennie Ranch for a week of learning and outdoor recreation. From June 26th-July 1st, 15 girls from Wyoming, California, and New Jersey did the same. We partner with Chestnut Mountain Ranch in West Virginia, the First Tee Foundation in California, and St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in New Jersey to bring these groups of campers to Wyoming. Our in-state campers are often connected to the program through their school guidance counselors. Additionally, we work with the Wind River Indian Reservation to recruit campers as well.

To apply for IAK, prospective campers must address essay questions such as, Why is Wyoming’s wildlife important to you?, What does being a “good leader” mean to you?, and How do you hope to impact your community in the future?, among others. As we read through applications, we try to select campers who show potential to excel beyond camp with the seeds of leadership and wildlife conservation planted during camp.

The goal of Inspire a Kid Camp is to inspire the next generation of conservationists through exposure to outdoor activities such as horseback riding, fly fishing, hiking, and archery; cutting edge wildlife conservation practices; and education on everything from Native American history, identification of flora and fauna, the operation of a working cattle ranch, and Wyoming’s historic ungulate migrations. “We hope to create a lasting legacy of conservation and respect for the natural world around us by passing this experience and lessons onto future generations,” said The WYldlife Fund President, Chris McBarnes.

The idea for Inspire a Kid Camp was born from the Hamlin Family, owners of Little Jennie Ranch, in 2020. The Hamlins desired to do something at the ranch for youth, so a partnership with The WYldlife Fund was established. Working closely with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), a curriculum was designed and the camp was born, its name coined after WGFD Director Brian Nesvik’s initiative, Inspire a Kid.

“IAK Camp 2023 was a huge success again at the ranch,” said Faith Hamlin of Little Jennie Ranch. “Not only do we get to see the students grow throughout the week, but each and every person involved is touched by this important work. Adding the girls camp has only gotten us more excited for the future of IAK Camps. We are already preparing for the best year of camps yet in 2024.”

The curriculum was created in partnership with the Wyoming Migration Initiative and multiple retired biologists from WGFD and the U.S. Forest Service, ensuring campers learned the most relevant information and the latest in conservation research.

Inspire a Kid Camp is incredibly unique in that it brings together three separate entities–a private producer (Little Jennie Ranch and the Hamlin Family), a nonprofit (The WYldlife Fund), and a government organization (WGFD). What’s more, the camp hosts an impressive array of nightly speakers for fireside chats, with the conversation focusing on leadership development. This year, speakers included WGFD Director Brian Nesvik; Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon; Dan Starks, Founder of the National Military Museum; Wyoming Game and Fish Commissioner Ashlee Lundvall; Mike Schmid, former Wyoming Game and Fish Commissioner and CEO of SOS Well Services; John Turner, former Director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Services; and Rhiannon Jakopak, research scientist at the Montieth Shop. That’s quite a roster!

It’s difficult not to overstate the immense value the campers receive from their week at Inspire a Kid Camp. Instead, we’ll let them share a bit about what the camp meant to them:

“Going to Inspire a Kid Camp has to be the highlight of my year. I was given the opportunity to meet so many intriguing people and pick their brains about all sorts of things. Doing all of the activities like horseback riding, archery, fly fishing, and more was incredible, especially because it was the first time I did pretty much any of those activities…I am extremely thankful for everyone I met and for giving me this opportunity…It was truly the best part of my year.”

-Jonathan Martinez, camper

“I have learned so much about myself and who I want to become…You have made me find my newfound peace, my independence, and a lifetime of friendships…This camp has meant so much to me that I hope every little girl or boy feels the love that I felt when I was there.”

-Kayla Palmer, camper

“As a girl who has lived in the suburbs near New York City all her life, this camp gave me the chance to explore some things I would never have thought about before. The team who made this camp possible were able to get some amazing and intelligent speakers to come and share part of their knowledge and experience with us. Although they did talk about so many different topics, they all had one thing in common: they loved nature and wildlife…I will be forever grateful for those who came and chose to spend their time with us. It truly opened my eyes to new topics and gave me a new understanding of what wildlife is and how humans interact with these animals.”

-Arielle Lopina, camper

“The camp was adventurous and I loved making friends. The activities were fun and the setting is absolutely ‘take your breath away’ beautiful!”

-Hadley Finn, camper

“The Inspire a Kid Camps create memories and relationships that go the distance. They create opportunities that our kids have never had before, and create leadership skills and work ethic. The Inspire a Kid Camps put smiles on faces and create positive memories in a life full of tragedy.”

-Bradley Clodfelter, camp volunteer from Chestnut Mountain Ranch

It’s clear that this camp is hugely influential to the youth who attend it, and The WYldlife Fund is honored to be able to offer it. We are thrilled to be a part of inspiring the next generation, and we hope to continue this camp for years to come. This would not be possible without the partnership between Little Jennie Ranch and the Hamlin Family, WGFD, and our numerous other partners–LJR Staff, Commissioner Ashlee Lundvall, Sporting Lead Free, First Hunt Foundation, Wyoming State 4H, and Chad and Samantha Haley. We are already looking forward to next summer! We encourage interested individuals to keep an eye out for the application process during the first quarter of 2024.

In the future, we hope to work with more private ranchers to spread these opportunities across the state of Wyoming. There is so much room to grow!

Want to get a closer look at Inspire a Kid Camp? Check out the below video from this summer’s boys session!

Inspire a Kid Camps are made possible in part through the generous donations from supporters like you. In the spirit of giving this holiday season, we hope you will consider making a donation to TWF to support the continued offerings of these life-changing camps. You can donate using the link at the top of this page. Thank you for your unwavering support! We can’t wait for next year!

All photos are courtesy of Della Frederickson.

WYDOT receives $24.3 million federal grant for Kemmerer wildlife crossing project

We have some exciting news to share in the world of wildlife crossings! But first, a bit of background:

According to Dr. Corinna Riginos of The Nature Conservancy, the annual number of wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVCs) continues to rise over time, with a current five-year average of 7,656 animals per year. The vast majority of these collisions (approx. 5,500) involve mule deer, whose numbers are already in decline. There are currently 21 big-game collisions every day in Wyoming, eight of which involve significant damage to vehicles and/or human injury. The total cost of WVCs in Wyoming average about $55 million per year. These numbers have doubled over the last 15 years, and we can expect them to double again by 2035 if we don’t address the problem. Further, the actual number of collisions and dead animals is likely twice the number that gets counted, due to undetected mortalities away from the roadside.

Since The WYldlife Fund’s inception in 2020, we have made it a top priority to help fund wildlife crossing projects and ensure the safety and survival of wildlife populations most negatively affected by roads. The first large-scale project we helped fully fund was the I-25 Buffalo-to-Kaycee Wildlife Crossing Project. Currently, this project is 90% complete and includes close to 20 miles of big game exclusionary fencing to direct wildlife–mainly mule deer–to existing underpasses.

Earlier this year, The WYldlife Fund began work to raise and pool private funds to support another wildlife crossing project: the HWY-189 South Kemmerer Wildlife Crossing Project.

There is a particular 30-mile stretch along Highway 189 in southwest Wyoming that has seen significant WVCs with pronghorn and mule deer, according to the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT). These collisions are causing population-level impacts to pronghorn and are disrupting migratory and winter-range movements of mule deer from the Uinta and Wyoming Range Mule Deer Herds. These herds were severely impacted during the harsh 2022-‘23 winter, with biologists reporting upwards of 70% mortality.

This wildlife crossing project would reduce WVCs and promote habitat connectivity for ungulates by directing animals to existing and new wildlife crossing structures. It will also ensure humans can more safely travel this highway, as WVCs are very injurious not only to wildlife, and it will create a plethora of jobs for Wyoming’s workforce. The project is a huge undertaking: to complete it, existing fences will be replaced and five underpasses and one overpass will be constructed. A similar 13-mile-long wildlife crossing project in nearby Nugget Canyon reduced WVCs by 81% while allowing 49,146 mule deer to safely cross the highway during a three-year period, according to Hall Sawyer, Research Biologist at West Inc. We hope to see similar statistics for the Kemmerer project.

Understandably, a project of this magnitude requires an extensive budget. Together, WYDOT and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department applied for a federal grant through the Wildlife Crossing Pilot Program, which is funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The WYldlife Fund helped raise close to $1 million to bolster the federal grant request, which was crucial given the highly competitive nature of the grant process. We also helped garner over 20 support letters for the grant application itself.

The partners who came together through The WYldlife Fund to donate this money are Genesis Alkali Wyoming, the Knobloch Family Foundation, the Mule Deer Foundation, the Muley Fanatic Foundation Blue Ridge Chapter, the Muley Fanatic Foundation Headquarters, the NextEra Energy Foundation, Project West, the Rocky Mountain Power Foundation, SOS Well Services, the supporters of the annual Golf for Wildlife Outing, Spire Storage, TerraPower, The WYldlife Fund, the Wildlife Barrier Breakers Coalition, Williams Energy, and the Wyoming Wildlife Federation. We are beyond grateful for their invaluable support. 

Now, for the exciting news we mentioned:

The Federal Highway Administration Award is part of $350 million available through the federal wildlife crossing pilot program. Approximately $112 million was allocated during this first round of awards, with WYDOT receiving more than 20 percent of the available funding for the Kemmerer project–$24.3 million, to be exact!

What’s more, the Wyoming Transportation Commission, Game and Fish Commission, Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, and partners contributed the remaining $8.8 million (which includes private donations to The WYldlife Fund), making the project fully funded!

“I am thankful and excited to have had the opportunity to work with WYDOT, Game and Fish, industry, foundations, and nonprofit organizations to secure this incredibly important funding source to conserve Wyoming’s iconic wildlife,” said Chris McBarnes, President of The WYldlife Fund. “Wyoming is showing the power of public-private partnerships which will continue to produce positive results for wildlife and advance the overall prosperity of our state.”

It has been a very exciting week for all of us, and we are thrilled to be able to share this news with you. Another win for wildlife!

Head here to read the full press release from the Governor’s Office, Game and Fish, and WYDOT!


The WYld Showdown Has Launched

The WYldlife Fund, Wyoming Craft Brewers Guild, and University of Wyoming’s Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources Team Up For WYld Showdown

Beer Coaster Game Aims to Raise Money for Wildlife Conservation

With the launch of the WYLD Showdown, consumers in breweries across Wyoming can participate in a bracket-style competition via a QR code found on beer coasters to raise awareness and funds that support wildlife conservation. Consumers will vote on their favorite wild animal by making small donations to participate. The WYLD Showdown is a partnership among The WYldlife Fund’s signature initiative WYldlife for Tomorrow, the Wyoming Craft Brewers Guild, and the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming. Through this initiative, The WYldlife Fund aims to create new ways to help all people take an active part in conservation funding.

“As a home for all people, The WYldlife Fund is proud to partner with The Craft Brewers Guild and the Haub School to showcase the commitment that Wyoming breweries have to the state’s wildlife resources” says Nate Brown, Operations Manager of The WYldlife Fund. “Great beer, made by great people, in great places across our state!”

Through the support of the Wyoming Craft Brewers Guild, these coasters will be available at breweries across Wyoming, giving those who enjoy the great beer that Wyoming breweries produce the opportunity to support wildlife conservation while enjoying their favorite beverages and supporting local businesses.

“Engaging in this program is a great chance for Wyoming breweries to showcase their commitment to their communities and wildlife conservation,” said Michelle Forster, Executive Director of the Wyoming Craft Brewers Guild. “We’re excited to see Wyomingites show their love for craft beer and wildlife all at once.”

By choosing their champion through these donations, consumers across the state can make a collective impact on wildlife conservation by helping fund on-the-ground projects. The idea for the WYLD Showdown came from Haub School graduate student Tyler Shreve’s thesis project that examines strategies to promote charitable giving in support of Wyoming conservation projects. College of Business economists, Todd Cherry and Alex James, were also instrumental in the project design.

Inna Willis, a former graphic design student at the University of Wyoming, designed the coasters for the WYld Showdown. As stated by Inna Willis, who is now working alongside Haub School graphic design and economics faculty Kayla Clark and Jacob Hochard in support of the initiative, “Anyone can support wildlife conservation, one beer at a time!”.

The WYLD Showdown coasters are now out at breweries across the state. The competition will last for several months. The WYldlife Fund’s signature initiative, WYldlife For Tomorrow is moving the needle for Wyoming’s wildlife conservation. Wyoming’s wildlife has suffered greatly due to several factors including habitat encroachment, invasive species, wildlife vehicle collisions, and most recently, the worst winter in modern history.