© 2024 Wyoming Public Media
800-729-5897 | 307-766-4240
Wyoming Public Media is a service of the University of Wyoming
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Transmission & Streaming Disruptions

Wyoming will potentially add protections for a fragile pronghorn migration route

Pronghorn near a gas well in the red desert.
Gregory Nickerson
Wyoming Migration Initiative
Pronghorn near a gas well in the red desert.

One of the longest pronghorn migration routes in the U.S. goes between the Red Desert and Grand Teton National Park. But, new research shows it’s under threat. So state officials are trying to find ways to keep it from disappearing.

According to a new report from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), there’s a ‘high risk’ of the Sublette Pronghorn herd’s migration route being lost. It specifically links this to housing and energy development. Additionally, herd numbers were devastated last winter because of harsh conditions and disease, with WGFD estimating a 75 percent death toll.

So, the department is considering an official migration corridor designation. Deputy Director Angie Bruce said it would add a step to developing state land in that corridor.

“We're meeting with their proponent, we're out there in the field, maybe shifting where that infrastructure goes, maybe aligning it with other infrastructure that's already out there,” Bruce said. “So we're not increasing the footprint on the landscape, and looking for ways to minimize and mitigate the impacts.”

Twenty years of research from GPS collar data shows about 75 percent of the herd is migratory, some traveling as long as 165 miles, which is also known as the ‘Path of the Pronghorn’.

WGFD had put a designation of the route on pause back in 2019 after significant pushback from the agriculture and energy industry – two sectors that are prominent in the area. As first reported by Wyofile, there’s since been quite a bit of development proposed and acted on in the area, including subdivisions, a 3,500-well gas field and most recently, a controversial auction that leased 640 acres of state land in the corridor for natural gas development.

So naturally, Bruce said she’s expecting some pushback with the designation process again.

“I think whenever you draw lines on a map, it brings some anxiety amongst folks, especially folks, such as private landowners or industry,” she said. “What does that line mean for them?”

A designation wouldn’t affect private property or existing energy projects. Only development on state land going forward.

The designation process has a lot of steps that are outlined in Governor Mark Gordon’s 2020 executive order that helped formally designate several mule deer migration corridors in the state. The final step in the process requires the governor’s signature, and it could possibly take years.

Before that happens the agency wants public input. Meetings will be heldThursday in Pinedale, November 29th in Green River and November 30th in Jackson.

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.
Related Content