New Publication Details Collaborative Efforts to Improve Wyomings Wildlife Migration Corridors
Wyoming's wildlife resources have received a significant boost in conservation thanks to agricultural landowners and other stakeholders partnering to maintain historic big game migration corridors in southwest Wyoming.
A new report by the Ruckelshaus Institute of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming, titled "Improving Big Game Migration Corridors in Southwest Wyoming," details the efforts of the Corridor Conservation Campaign (CCC), an initiative to address fencing barriers that big game species such as pronghorn, mule deer, elk and moose encounter on their historic migration corridors connecting their winter and summer ranges.
"Migrating animals in the state can come across a variety of barriers in their efforts to reach their seasonal ranges," says Diana Hulme, associate director of the Ruckelshaus Institute. "Given the varied land ownership patterns in migration corridor areas, public/private partnerships are important to maintain big game migration corridors for the health of our wildlife populations."
Maintaining migration corridors has become an important issue in Wyoming, particularly in Sublette County, a crossroads for wildlife migrations for a variety of big game species, and an area where energy and rural residential development have occurred at a rapid rate in the last decade.
As described in the report, the American Farmland Trust estimates that Sublette County is one of the most at-risk counties in Wyoming for the conversion of agricultural lands to non-agricultural uses. Rural development and the associated impacts, such as more roads and fences, can pose a significant threat to big game species, including pronghorn antelope.
Each fall, pronghorn migrate more than 100 miles from Grand Teton National Park to their winter habitat in the Upper Green River Valley, near Pinedale. It is the longest migration in North America and has taken place for the last 6,000 years.
The CCC was formed in 2008 by the Green River Valley Land Trust (GRVLT) to improve migration corridors such as the pronghorn trail. It includes a diversity of partners, including conservation organizations, industry, and state and federal agencies. Conservation efforts include working with private landowners and residents living within migration corridors to install wildlife-friendly fencing.
Extensive inventories of existing fences are also conducted under the campaign, and coordinators work directly with landowners on fencing options that meet their property needs. Fencing is then installed at no cost to landowners, thanks to the generous donations from industry, agency, and other project partners.
"We think of the Corridor Conservation Campaign as ‘common-sense conservation in action,'" says Jordan Vana, GRVLT's director of conservation. "It's efficient, effective and delivers immediate results. It's relatively simple to implement, easily replicated in other areas, and makes a real difference for the wildlife we all care about.
"And its brought together a host of non-traditional partners like sportsmen, environmentalists, industry and agencies, who've found common ground in a straightforward solution."
In addition to fencing barriers, migration corridors have also been impacted by human development. The report discusses a natural bottleneck within a migration route used by pronghorn antelope known as Trapper's Point, located north of Pinedale.
Between 1,500 and 2,000 pronghorn and upwards of 3,500 mule deer pass through this area each spring and fall. Over the years, the corridor has been significantly narrowed by development. Big game species that use this corridor contend with traffic and roadways while navigating between their summer and winter ranges.
The report also includes information on wildlife-vehicle collisions on roads in the state, and how the Wyoming Department of Transportation uses bridges and underpasses for animals that need to cross roads and highways during their seasonal migrations.
"Improving Big Game Migration Corridors in Southwest Wyoming" is a product of the Wyoming Open Spaces Initiative, a Ruckelshaus Institute program designed to support working landscapes for agriculture, wildlife, and sustainable communities through applied research, information, education, and community-based decision making.
The publication is also available online at www.uwyo.edu/enr/.