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Feds expand program to protect big game migrations

A large bull elk stands in tall wildflowers.
Ray Stainfield, U.S. Forest Service

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been working with private landowners in Wyoming to help preserve migration corridors for big game. Now those efforts are expanding to Idaho and Montana.

A pilot program of the Migratory Big Game Initiative started in Wyoming in 2022. Landowners could get support for restoration projects or removing fences and other improvements that allow big game to move freely, said Lane Justus of the Western Landowners Alliance, which helped with the pilot.

She said private land is often an essential part of migration corridors and winter range for elk and other animals.

“So it's important that we're able to support [landowners] in a way where they can maintain that habitat and maintain that area open,” she said. “And obviously, if they have to sell or if they're not able to meet the bottom line of their business, they're not going to be able to keep that land open, because most of the time, the highest bidder for any property is development.”

For this fiscal year, the USDA will provide over $20 million for projects in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho for perpetual conservation easements and other efforts, according to the agency.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

As Boise State Public Radio's Mountain West News Bureau reporter, I try to leverage my past experience as a wildland firefighter to provide listeners with informed coverage of a number of key issues in wildland fire. I’m especially interested in efforts to improve the famously challenging and dangerous working conditions on the fireline.

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