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Congress funds efforts to map wildlife migration patterns

Stephen -

The United States Geological Survey has published two volumes on migration of ungulates, or hoofed mammals, in the western United States. The volumes highlight the needs of species such as connections between refuges, and threats like high-traffic areas and oil and gas development.

The Biden administration zeroed out funding for wildlife migration mapping in its 2023 budget. Advocates for mapping hope Congress will set aside five-million dollars so USGS can continue work with state and local stakeholders on developing maps for big game species in the West.

Matt Kaufmann, a wildlife biologist with USGS, points out that migrating species are facing more obstacles in the form of fences, traffic and development.

"The mapping gives us a roadmap to identify the threats that the migrations face, and also identify some of the conservation opportunities. And without a map, it's really difficult to proactively manage and conserve these migrations," said Kaufmann.

Kaufmann says migrating animals travel across privately owned land, public lands and tribal reservations, making management complex. But he says ungulate herds are important to western ecosystems, providing prey for large carnivores like wolves.

"Most of them are also harvestable game animals, and the harvestable surplus that is produced by migration provides millions of dollars in revenue to the state wildlife agencies that manage those herds, and also billions of dollars in tourism revenue to wildlife viewers."