The Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s new Laramie Regional Office and Wildlife Forensic and Fish Health Laboratory opened for business in June, and the facility will host a commission meeting next week for the first time.
Located at 1212 S. Adams St., the new facility is about a quarter mile south of the old facility, which is about 50 years old.
Inside, a large conference room is big enough for public meetings, hunter education courses and meetings of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission.
“Before, we always had to go somewhere else in town,” Game and Fish spokesperson Robin Kepple said. “I can’t wait to do my first hunter ed class in here.”
The commission is scheduled to meet from Monday-Wednesday. A dedication is scheduled for 6-7:30 p.m. Monday, along with an open house to celebrate artwork in the building created by Wyoming artists.
In addition to office space for about 30 employees, the facility includes a large shop with three bays for working on vehicles, boats and trailers. In the back, it has a cleaning space for vehicles and ample secured storage for the department’s trucks, campers, trailers, boats, snowmobiles, construction materials and other equipment.
“We’re all pretty humbled by how nice it is,” Kepple said of the new facility.
A large portion of the 45,000-square-foot building is devoted to the Wildlife Forensic and Fish Health Lab, which was housed in the University of Wyoming Biological Sciences Building for more than 60 years.
Laboratory Director Kim Frazier estimated the new lab, at 19,000 square feet, is about four times bigger, with the space and upgrades necessary for coming federal accreditation requirements. The old lab space was too small for the necessary upgrades.
Frazier said most of the accreditation requirements are related to security. Access in the new facility is restricted, with further restrictions on those allowed to enter the forensic lab itself.
“We’ll be able to track who’s been in and out of the lab,” Frazier said.
Scientists in the wildlife forensic lab can identify 18 different species, as well as their gender, using DNA from samples such as gut piles, carcasses, antlers and blood. Their work gives law enforcement another tool with which to investigate wildlife crimes.
Inside the forensic lab, there’s space for secured storage for evidence, even if it needs to be frozen or refrigerated. Equipment used for DNA testing won’t be shared between departments, allowing greater validation of results and fulfilling another accreditation requirement. The facility has room for additional equipment without crowding.
“That lab we were in wasn’t the best for our equipment because it was packed in so tight,” she said. “It gets really warm. It’s nice to be able to spread everything out.”
The Wildlife Forensic and Fish Health Lab, one of the most advanced in the country, currently provides wildlife forensic, tooth aging and fish health services for 10 other states. Expanded space will allow scientists to provide additional fee-based services such as inspecting private fish hatcheries and aging more teeth from big game animals.
Frazier said features such as a new tank room for housing live fish will allow scientists to conduct more fish health research.
“It’s improved the quality of our work life a lot,” she said.
The 6-acre lot for the new facility was acquired by trading the old building and 3.9-acre lot to the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance. The Game and Fish Department was able to fund the project thanks to a stable financial condition caused by budget cuts in recent years, growth in fishing license sales and increased revenue from federal taxes on guns and ammunition. No additional funding was required from the Wyoming Legislature.