Wyoming nonprofit protects Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain west wildlife, holds tourism accountable

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

America’s Rocky Mountain west ecosystem is thriving due to national efforts to preserve and protect the land — and everything on it.

New nonprofit Wildlife Tourism for Tomorrow has launched an initiative to ensure the safety of wildlife throughout Wyoming’s landscape, including popular areas such as Yellowstone National Park.

Wildlife Tourism for Tomorrow founder Taylor Phillips, in an interview with Fox News Digital, said the nonprofit engages the tourism sector in particular to give back to the environment that provides them with the resources to do business.

ROCKY MOUNTAIN WEST WILDLIFE: HOW TO SAFELY SEE BEAR, MOOSE, BISON AND OTHER YELLOWSTONE SPECIES

“This whole initiative was founded upon the disconnect I’ve seen over the years in the industry where we have hunters and anglers in the state of Wyoming [who] are footing a majority of the bill for wildlife management … and conservation as well,” he said.

Tourists are shown checking out Wyoming wildlife with Jackson Hole Ecotour Adventures. (Jackson Hole Ecotour Adventures)

Tourists are shown checking out Wyoming wildlife with Jackson Hole Ecotour Adventures. (Jackson Hole Ecotour Adventures)

Phillips explained that hunters and anglers who purchase licenses to hunt and fish across the state are funding the Wyoming Game and Fish department by doing so. 

There is also a tax on hunting rifles and other sporting goods. 

That is returned to the federal government and sent back to the state to contribute to wildlife management.

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK: STUNNING PHOTOS CELEBRATE 150 YEARS OF NATURE AND WILDLIFE

But businesses bolstered by tourism, such as restaurants, hotels and tour groups are “collectively not contributing” to the cause, Phillips said.

“Wildlife Tourism for Tomorrow is striving to … engage the tourism sector to support this asset and this resource that we need,” he said. 

A grizzly bear stands out on the Wyoming landscape. (Jackson Hole Ecotour Adventures)

A grizzly bear stands out on the Wyoming landscape. (Jackson Hole Ecotour Adventures)

Phillips referenced “great data” from the Wyoming Offices of Tourism, stating that wildlife is a “main driver of tourism” for the state.

“It’s time that the tourism sector as a whole steps up to financially contribute to and protect this asset that’s relied on,” he said.

Wildlife Tourism for Tomorrow officially launched in spring 2021. It has welcomed aboard 60 tourism businesses within the last six months, including real estate companies, hotels, restaurants and tour outfitters.

A woman views wildlife in Wyoming while touring with Jackson Hole Ecotour Adventures. (Jackson Hole Ecotour Adventures/Cloudveil Hotel)

A woman views wildlife in Wyoming while touring with Jackson Hole Ecotour Adventures. (Jackson Hole Ecotour Adventures/Cloudveil Hotel)

Phillips said he’s “super thankful” to also have the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Wyoming Office of Tourism and Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon’s office on board.

ON YELLOWSTONE’S 150TH ANNIVERSARY, 150 FASCINATING FACTS ABOUT AMERICA’S FIRST NATIONAL PARK

“We’ve gained about $100,000 and that money is going on the ground to help projects,” he said. 

“A lot of folks are really excited about it.”

These projects include wildlife crossings, research and habitat work across Wyoming.

A bighorn sheep stands in front of the Teton Mountain Range in Wyoming. (Jackson Hole Ecotour Adventures)

A bighorn sheep stands in front of the Teton Mountain Range in Wyoming. (Jackson Hole Ecotour Adventures)

“We’re slowly kind of evolving the funding mechanism,” he said. “I’m really excited to have the opportunity to bring the tourism sector as a whole to the table.”

Phillips said that his favorite project so far has been the Highway 26 wildlife crossings — a system of underpasses and overpasses that cut across the busy roadway located in Yellowstone National Park.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR OUR LIFESTYLE NEWSLETTER 

The new crossings allow wildlife to cross the road safely without facing danger from moving vehicles. 

The project sprang to life with help from various partners, such as the Wyoming Department of Transportation. 

“Whenever I drive that road, I am white-knuckled,” he said. 

“These animals are crossing the road all the time.”

“There’s bighorn sheep, there’s white tail deer, there’s mule deer kind of all over the adjacent landscape — and these animals are crossing the road all the time.”

Wildlife Tourism for Tomorrow is a flagship initiative under the Wildlife Fund, which is the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s official nonprofit partner.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

Phillips hopes that Wyoming’s wildlife funding can serve as a model for other states as the organization proves that tourism has the capability to put “big bucks on the ground.”