Public Connects to Wetlands through Digital Outreach

Wetland habitat is arguably some of the most used and important habitat for wildlife in Wyoming. But, despite its importance, there was little accessible information and educational materials available on this valuable resource in the Cowboy state. In order to fill this gap, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department embarked on a communications effort in 2017 to help the public connect with Wyoming’s wetland areas, as well as how Game and Fish and its partners are working to conserve them.

“Our messaging is intended to raise public awareness and support for wetland protection and restoration in our state. Wyoming is an arid state with comparatively less wetland area than most other states. The importance of wetlands in Wyoming doesn’t come to the forefront of a lot of people's minds. Yet, 70% of our bird species are wetland or riparian habitat obligates and 90% of our wildlife species use wetlands at least seasonally,” said Steve Tessmann, Game and Fish Wildlife Biologist in Cheyenne. “Due to their scarcity and the extent to which wildlife depend on them, wetlands and riparian communities are inordinately important habitats in Wyoming.” 

To raise awareness, Game and Fish developed  a new website devoted to Wyoming’s wetlands.

Game and Fish targeted a variety of audiences for the website who might have a vested interest in wetlands--whether that be for recreation, enjoyment, education or business. The goals were simple: convey timely and engaging information to the public about Wyoming’s wetlands to explain why wetlands are important for their activities and also provide opportunities for educators, students, and the public to study and learn about wetlands.

The website serves as a one-stop location to learn about the designated wetland priority complexes in Wyoming. Through an interactive story map and video, hunters, anglers and wildlife enthusiasts can explore the state’s wetland areas. The new website offers guidance for waterfowl hunters and anglers who are looking for places to hunt and fish. These areas are part of Game and Fish’s Wildlife Habitat Management areas. Additional resources on the website include lesson plans for educators and activities for families, information for landowners, wetlands research and links to wetland conservation partners. 

“By providing opportunities for the public to use and enjoy these resources we will increase support for wetland conservation and restoration. The information also provides ways individuals can connect with and support wetland conservation initiatives and programs,” Tessmann said.

Since the launch in late-November, Game and Fish is seeing early traffic to the website. The website has seen just over 700 visits, 322 journeys through the interactive story map, and 330 views of the first wetlands video, featuring the Muddy Creek Wetlands. The website launch also generated media interest, including a story on Wyoming Public Media. This initial momentum is expected to increase as efforts broaden.

“The effort is young, but I’ve had people express surprise at the beauty and diversity of wetlands across the state. I think being able to show images and tell a full story helps people understand these systems are special and that they’re keeping our wildlife and landscape healthy,” said Noelle Smith, Wetland Specialist with Ducks Unlimited.

Smith is hopeful that this website is the first step in bringing the public closer to the resource. She also sees the website as a good touchstone for landowners who are interested in the wetland resources on their own lands.

“We hope to increase public knowledge of wetland benefits and connect the dots for landowners or others who may be interested in conservation activities. The website contains information ranging from guides for wetland management to contacts for organizations that specialize in wetland conservation on private lands,” Smith said.

The Wyoming wetlands website was developed as part of a collaboration between Game and Fish and Ducks Unlimited to further the public engagement in wetlands.