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Governor's Trailblazing Migration Order To Hinge On Local Control

Nearly 6,000 big game animals such as deer, pronghorn, elk, moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goats die each year from collisions with vehicles on Wyoming's highways and interstates.

Wyoming took a big first step toward blazing a new trail on managing big game migration corridors when Gov. Mark Gordon signed an executive order last week.
Dan Stanton, a biologist and sportsman's representative on the governor's advisory group on migration, said keeping paths open for deer, elk, moose and other game to travel between summer and winter ranges helps keep herd numbers strong.

"Migration corridors are the most critical piece for long term sustainability of the herds," he said. "And anybody that likes to see the wildlife and likes to see them in abundance should pay attention to how this process plays out."

The executive order establishes how corridors are managed, starting with key routes in southwestern Wyoming, and how other routes should be designated in the future.

All eyes will be on the Cowboy State as the plan is implemented, including from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. No other western state has a comprehensive migration management plan in place, and Stanton said Wyoming has an opportunity to be a national leader in protecting big game.

Stanton called the governor's order a balanced approach, designed to meet the needs of wildlife, which draws tourist dollars to the state, alongside those of ranchers and oil and gas companies.

Stanton said lessons learned in sage grouse planning, which also involved diverse stakeholders, helped lay the groundwork for the process going forward, starting at the county commissioner level.

"Letting those commissioners appoint groups to manage these corridors, help make decisions," he said. "I think that local control is something that's very important to Wyoming, but very important to the success of maintaining these corridors. You have to have the local buy in."

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Department of Transportation also announced plans to protect more of the state's big game last week. The new Wildlife Crossing initiative aims to keep the traveling public safe by reducing roadway collisions.

Each year, some 6,000 deer, pronghorn, elk, moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goats are killed on Wyoming's highways and interstates.