Interior Secretary Zinke & Governor Mead Work to Conserve Big Game Migration Corridor

More mule deer might mean more opportunities for hunters in Utah next year. DWR biologists are recommending late-season limited-entry muzzleloader buck deer hunts happen on three new units in 2017. Photo by Jim Shuler
Interior Secretary Zinke & Governor Mead Work to Conserve Big Game Migration Corridor

WASHINGTON –  -(  U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and Wyoming Governor Matt Mead today announced the Department will prioritize the conservation of a mule deer migration corridor in southwest Wyoming through both deferred lease sales and lease stipulations.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will defer nearly 5,000 surface acres from potential oil and gas developments that intersect the designated Red Desert to Hoback big game migration corridor in southwest Wyoming. Additionally, a special lease notice will be attached to the remaining parcels.

”Some North American big game travel over a hundred miles on their migration routes every year, and more often than not, those routes traverse Federal, State, and private lands. This is why it’s important that the Federal government work with the State to adjust management and development plans where necessary if they overlap migratory corridors or winter range,” said Secretary Ryan Zinke. “By combining lease deferrals, and lease stipulations, we can achieve the right balance on Federal lands. Thanks to innovations in technology, many times resource development can be done with little to no surface occupancy. Balancing the conservation of habitat and the responsible development of resources ensures the best outcome for the people and wildlife that rely on our Federal lands. I’m thankful to Governor Mead for his commitment to my vision for protecting big game corridors and multiple use of Federal lands.”

“I thank Secretary Zinke for working with me and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to defer these parcels and to develop a special notice to companies leasing the remaining parcels that intersect the migration corridor,” Governor Matt Mead of Wyoming said. “This decision gives the public and those involved in the Rock Springs Resource Management Plan Revision time to work on steps that balance wildlife needs with energy development needs. Wyoming will continue to work with the Department of the Interior to strike that balance.”

Secretarial Order 3362 calls for the improvement of habitat quality in western big game migration corridors and working in complete collaboration with the states. Consistent with that Secretarial Order, WGFD worked with the BLM to defer lands in which at least 90 percent of the parcel is located within an identified big game corridor, in this case the Sublette mule deer herd corridor. Three parcels nominated for the September 2018 oil and gas lease sale in Wyoming fit the 90 percent criteria and will be deferred from oil and gas leasing until the BLM completes its Rock Springs Resource Management Plan Revision next year. For the remaining parcels intersecting the migration corridor a special lease notice was developed:

Special Lease Notice: This parcel is located within a big game migration corridor designated or currently under review by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. The lessee or their designated operator will be required to work with the BLM and Wyoming Game and Fish Department to take reasonable measures (see 43 CFR 3101.1-2) to avoid and minimize impacts to maintain big game migration corridor functionality, such as those contained within the “Wyoming Game and Fish Commission Ungulate Migration Corridor Strategy” (February 2016). The BLM will encourage the use of Master Development Plans for operations proposed on this lease parcel in accordance with Onshore Oil and Gas Order No. 1.

“The mule deer that use this migration corridor contribute significantly to the local economies and to the quality of life in Wyoming. We appreciate working together with the Department of the Interior in the interest of wildlife to conserve this migration,” said Scott Talbott, director of the WGFD.

BLM will continue to closely coordinate with the State of Wyoming before offering Federal lands for oil and gas lease in big game habitats, including migration corridors. Given technological advances in the oil and gas industry, the agencies believe subsurface resource development can be done without surface impacts to the mule deer migration corridor.

Determining appropriate areas to facilitate responsible energy development on public lands is achievable and important for America’s economy and ultimately, its security. Wyoming is one of the top energy producers on public lands in the country and in 2017, generated over $1.2 billion in mineral revenue alone for the American taxpayer. In addition, hunters contribute millions of dollars to local economies, from their home states to Wyoming, as they travel from across the country to pursue the herds of pronghorn, deer, and elk that roam the state.