Union volunteers recently collaborated with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance to create a custom fence-crossing structure near Etna, Wyoming, that helps wildlife managers maintain healthy herds of free-ranging elk while protecting farmers’ crops from damage.
Volunteers from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 322 out of Casper donated 48 hours of skilled labor to install a gate-like “elk jump” along a fence that guides Wyoming elk during migrations between their high-country summer range and lower elevation winter feeding areas.
The volunteers reconfigured the fenceline, set poles, built a retaining wall and erected fencing. Lower Valley Energy provided a boom truck to aid in setting the poles during the project, which was organized under the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program.
Derek Lemon, habitat and access coordinator for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Jackson Region, said the structure will make it easier for managers to safely drive wayward Wyoming elk back onto the right side of the fence.
“An 8-foot-high fence runs roughly 20 miles along the boundary between public and private lands to facilitate elk movement from the mountains to state-run winter feeding grounds,” he explained. “When elk get on the wrong side of the fence, they damage crops and raid haystacks. In response, state game wardens are called in to push the animals back to where they need to be.”
Elk jumps, which serve as one-way gates, allow wardens to avoid chasing elk all the way to the end of the fence. “An elk jump is basically an opening in the fence with a corner and small ramp on one side, and six-foot drop on the other,” said Lemon. “The animals are willing to jump down to cross the fence, but rarely pass through in the other direction.”
Completion of the new crossing earlier this month considerably shortens the distance wardens must push elk back to public land. “This reduces stress on the animals and allows wardens to focus more time on other enforcement duties,” said Lemon.
“The project was on our to-do list, but we didn’t have the manpower to make it happen,” he added. “Having union volunteers and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance step in was fantastic because it allowed us to get the job done right away. It’s a win for the state, our wildlife and the local community.”
“When we learned of the need for this project, IBEW members jumped at the chance to help,” said IBEW Local 322 member Greg Moyer, who helped lead the construction effort.
“Union members are always interested in doing projects that improve the quality of life in our communities—and are particularly passionate about work that involves hunting, fishing, conservation and mentorship,” Moyer continued. “I’m grateful the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and Work Boots on the Ground exist to help us with this community involvement.”
“Wyoming’s wintertime elk feeding program dates back more than a century and is critical to avoiding winter die-offs from starvation,” added USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “The USA is proud to help union members assist the Game and Fish Department in maintaining an abundance of elk that can be enjoyed by all citizens.”