The state of Wyoming is leading the way when it comes to migration corridors for wild game and is poised to designate two more.
But the new corridors stretch across areas of western Wyoming where the Bureau of Land Management just offered a sale of 750,000 acres of oil and gas leases. The 150-mile mule deer corridor stretches from Alpine to Evanston, while the 180-mile pronghorn corridors goes from Grand Teton National Park, across a large energy development known as the Normally Pressured Lance, down to Rock Springs.
Nick Dobric with the nonprofit, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said mule deer populations are in decline and energy development along their routes is harmful, especially in areas called stopovers.
"This is where mule deer will spend 95 percent of their migration time in these certain areas," Dobric said. "And we think those are definitely the prime habitats to make sure there is no development whatsoever."
Dobric said Wyoming has been on the forefront of migration strategies, but that these policies should require more than voluntary compliance on the part of industry.
Doug Brimeyer is deputy chief of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and said the state designations don't mandate how the land is used but do offer the industry recommendations on how to reduce disturbances to the migrations. He said other states are following Wyoming's approach.
"The 11 western states have all developed action plans and priorities for identifying important wintering areas and migration corridors and I think Wyoming is still leading the charge on that with our work," said Brimeyer.
Wyoming has designated three other migration routes as well, and one of them is the longest in North America.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.