More about migration corridors . . .


G&F’s Bruce clarifies strategy components

In the wake of

recent community meetings about Wyoming

Game and Fish’s big-game migration corridors,

questions emerged that state habitat supervisor

Angi Bruce set out to answer.

The meetings, including one in Pinedale on

Feb. 27 with local Game and Fish employees,

were designed to introduce its proposed Sublette

Pronghorn Herd Migration Corridor and

the Wyoming Range Mule Deer Migration

Corridor. These follow the designated Sublette

Mule Deer Migration Corridor, or Red

Desert to Hoback migration corridor, and others

newly created in other counties.

People in the audience on Feb. 27 asked

why Game and Fish recommends deferral of

sales of oil and gas lease parcels with 90 percent

or more overlapping a migration route.

Bruce said the 90 percent was set by Game

and Fish for deferral and possible later sale

because reviewing parcels on a “case by case

basis,” might show leeway to locate infrastructure

in a parcel that won’t affect migrations.

As an example, with a 640-acre parcel

overlapping a corridor, about 64 acres is left

to work with for development.

“We had to make some sort of call on that,”

she said this week. “Ninety percent is part –

one part – of our strategy developed to evaluate

parcels. … It’s a way to look at it to see if

there’s enough space outside the (migration)

corridor. If a parcel is 100 percent in it, it’s

very difficult to put infrastructure (there). If

it’s 50 percent or more, there’s more than

likely enough space to put infrastructure (on

it somewhere).”

The wildlife agency for now “makes assumptions”

on how much disturbance migrating

wildlife can accept, Bruce said. A 2017

report by Western Ecosystems Technology’s

Hall Sawyer shows that mule deer want to

avoid development. Bruce said Game and

Fish just contracted WEST to reanalyze data

from collared animals and “bring back a disturbance

or density threshold,” possibly this

summer.

State Game and Fish and Bureau of Land

Management officials have been talking for

several months about refining the lease sale

process around migration routes, she added.

The current process is “an interim strategy.”

Game and Fish has no authority over landuse

planning and can only make requests of

the BLM, without a statewide amendment to

its resource management plans.

“They tell us they are forming a plan on

what an amendment would look like,” Bruce

said.

But Game and Fish can create the special

lease notice to inform lease buyers they need

to work with the wildlife agency.

The issue of Game and Fish advising the

BLM on parcels near and over migration corridors

was brought up in a Feb. 28 letter from

the Coalition of Local Governments to Gov.

Mark Gordon and new Game and Fish Director

Brian Nesvik.

CLG represents commissions and conservation

districts for Sublette, Sweetwater, Lincoln,

Uinta and Little Snake counties. In the

letter, chair Kent Connelly criticizes Game

and Fish for not coordinating more with

these “affected” local governments as they

requested in November 2018. He is critical

of the agency’s migration corridor strategy.

“… The Coalition noted that Game and

Fish strategy assumes land-management

authority over federal and private land that

it does not have,” he wrote. “The strategy

would close thousands of acres to energy development,

burden existing federal units and

lessees, especially in the (sage-grouse core

habitat) Golden Triangle and remove high

potential energy and minerals from future development

with no recognition to the costs to

the affected communities or state’s revenues.

… To be frank, southwestern Wyoming cannot

take one more blow to the economy.”

Bruce said Game and Fish is not acting as

a land-use planner. “With the designation of

a corridor, the intent is to make recommendations

only to the BLM and State Lands and

Investments Board.”

Private landowners are not required to

work with Game and Fish or BLM but, Bruce

said, “We would be available for technical assistance

on a voluntary basis.”

The agency hopes to offer some funding

for landowners to do more wildlife-friendly

fences or vegetation management along corridors,

she added.

Fencing was brought up at the Feb. 27

meeting by Sublette County Commissioner

Mack Rawhouser, who pointed out areas beyond

state highways’ over- and underpasses

and tall fencing contain some of the worst

sections for road-killed wildlife.

“There are more deer killed between Big

Piney and LaBarge (on Highway 189) than

anywhere else,” he said. “They go right

through there to their winter range. They migrate

to their winter range and you’re killing

them on the highway. I’d start at the winter

range and put a big fence around it.”

Game and Fish Commissioner Mike

Schmid, of LaBarge, said those conversations

are scheduled in the near future with Wyoming

Department of Transportation.

An April 2017 migration summit resulted

in creation of the Wyoming’s Wildlife and

Roadways Initiative Implementation Team

last January. The group has mapped stretches

where reducing collisions with wildlife is a

“top priority.”

One is south of Daniel where two to three

species cross Highway 189 while migrating.

The other, mentioned by Rawhouser, runs

from Big Piney to LaBarge and is used by

pronghorn, elk and mule deer.

Bruce said Game and Fish needs the public

and organizations to respond, preferably in

writing by April 1, comments and questions

about aspects of the Game and Fish migration

corridor strategy. She suggested sending

or taking them to Pinedale Region Supervisor

John Lund or Pinedale wildlife coordinator

Brandon Scurlock.

“People’s personal accounts and what they

are trying to express is so much better in writing,”

she explained.

The Pinedale Region Game and Fish Office

is located at 432 E. Mill St.; the number

is 307-367-4352.

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