As a tall, athletic kid from Indiana, Ashlee Lundvall came to Wyoming in 1999 seeking adventure. Lundvall’s first introduction to the West brought a tragic accident that changed every aspect of …
As a tall, athletic kid from Indiana, Ashlee Lundvall came to Wyoming in 1999 seeking adventure. Lundvall’s first introduction to the West brought a tragic accident that changed every aspect of her life, but it all only reinforced Lundvall’s love for the great outdoors.
Last week, Gov. Mark Gordon nominated Lundvall as the Big Horn Basin’s new representative on the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission.
“I threw my hat in the ring and turned my application in and couldn’t be more excited and more honored to be nominated,” Lundvall said in a Saturday interview. “I’m looking forward to not only serving Park County, but the entire state of Wyoming.”
Healing in the outdoors
A 6-foot tall teen in the Hoosier State can rarely avoid being quickly introduced to basketball. Lundvall was no exception, playing for Bethesda Christian in a little town just north of Indianapolis.
“Growing up in Indianapolis, it’s kind of hard not to be [in basketball],” she said. “I hit about 6 foot in the sixth grade.”
But Lundvall also had a love for the outdoors and the idea of going out West to work with horses and experience life on a ranch. The summer before her junior year in high school, she was invited to work on a Cody area ranch — an all-female camp at the time.
“It was an amazing opportunity and I had a blast, you know, with all the other ladies there, learning as much as I could and enjoying the great outdoors here in Wyoming,” she said.
On the morning of Aug. 2, 1999, the group prepared to go backpacking. Lundvall had some morning chores to take care of, so she woke early and headed to the lower corrals to feed some horses and cattle. She climbed up a hay rack to cut open a bale of hay when she lost her balance.
“I ended up landing on the handle of the pitchfork that I’d been using,” Lundvall said.
She broke her back, severely damaging her spinal cord. She was rushed to Cody Regional Health, where she was stabilized before being moved to St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings.
“It’s a call that no parent ever wants to get,” she said.
Lundvall stayed in Billings for weeks before being moved back to Indiana for rehabilitation. She was permanently paralyzed and has been in a wheelchair for the past 21 years.
Lundvall didn’t allow her disability to stop her, but at first she thought the outdoors would be inaccessible. However, she was determined to get out and, in the end, it was a healing experience.
“Getting back outdoors is really what saved me,” Lundvall said. “When I discovered the healing aspect of the outdoors, I made it my life’s mission to try to get as many other people as I could outdoors because I saw what I had done in my life.”
Making a home in Wyoming
Eventually Lundvall moved back to Wyoming, married Russ Lundvall and the two have a 10-year-old daughter, Addison, who just successfully finished her hunter’s training course. Lundvall keeps busy as a motivational speaker, outdoor writer, and disability advocate. She also has a Wyoming real estate license and works for DBW Realty. The family members are avid hunters — Ashlee enjoys hunting elk and is working on her fly fishing skills.
It’s a big change from how she grew up. She’s not from a hunting family and, as a young woman, had bought into negative stereotypes.
“Any negative stereotypes that I believed were from lack of education,” Lundvall said. “When I met and married a young man from Wyoming and moved out here, I quickly realized hunters are some of the best conservationists in the world. They don’t want to see animals wiped out and destroyed. They want to see them properly managed. They want to see them flourish.”
Lundvall has served on multiple boards and committees, including the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition, the NRA Outreach committee and is a national pro staffer for the outdoors brand Mossy Oak. In 2013 she was Ms. Wheelchair USA and she also volunteers for several groups with missions to assist disabled hunters.
Living her life publicly also went against the grain.
“I used to not be a huge fan of anything to do with politics,” she said. “But what I’m finding out is, that’s where the real decisions are made and where real differences can be made.”
Her nomination to the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission for a six-year term puts her right in the thick of the decision-making process for her greatest passion. But she’s not looking to move too fast.
“I want to get in there and hear both sides of the issues and try to educate myself as much as possible. It’s not going to be as cut and dried as people might think,” Lundvall said.
She will replace David Rael of Cowley. Gov. Gordon also nominated Kenneth Roberts of Lincoln County to complete the rest of Commissioner Mike Schmid’s term, and Mark Jolovich of Goshen County to fill Pat Crank’s seat.
Lundvall’s nomination is expected to be approved by the Wyoming Senate in the coming week. Her first public appearance on the commission will be at its spring meeting, March 16-17 in Cody. New officers will be elected and the budget for fiscal year 2022 is on the agenda.