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New BLM policy will protect wildlife migration in future land-use planning 

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Bureau of Land Management

Working with local communities to preserve wildlife migration is at the heart of a new federal government policy.

Wildlife, plant and fish habitats are now considered a priority in federal land-use planning going forward, according to a new Bureau of Land Management (BLM) policy.

The agency wants to work more closely with states and tribes to support wildlife migration routes, something called ‘habitat connectivity.’

“They depend on being able to get from point A to point B,” said Matt Skroch, a wildlife project director at Pew Charitable Trusts and is helping see this policy through. “If there's an interstate highway or other forms of development that stand in the way, those animals are then restricted in their movements. And what that results in oftentimes is lesser populations of wildlife – animals that aren't able to really thrive.”

In order to avoid this loss of habitat connectivity, Skroch said the BLM, states and tribes will have to work toward not developing future energy projects in migration corridors. For example, a recent study showed that mule deer could not get to their best forage when their migration routes were disturbed by energy development.

Skroch said future renewable energy projects will need to be carefully planned.

“Those projects, as necessary as they are, have trade offs. And those trade offs may include the reduction or unavailability of wildlife habitat,” he said.

He said the new policy will help avoid federal permitting in these crucial areas. The BLM will also support existing executive orders in Colorado, Nevada and Wyoming that place protections on wildlife migration corridors.

He added that another way to help with habitat connectivity is removing old fencing or updating it to make it more wildlife friendly.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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