Gov. Mark Gordon has selected seven members to serve on the state’s first local migration corridor working group to offer guidance on one of the most critical big-game migratory pathways in the region, located in south central Wyoming. The Platte Valley Local Area Working Group will hold its first public meeting next month, according to an announcement released by the governor last week.
The first local group will consist of seven members: Diane Berger, Chris Williams, Kara Choquette, Pete Obermueller, Joe Parsons, David Willms and Ed Glode. The team represents a range of interests, including agriculture, industry, wildlife, conservation, hunting and recreation.
The governor reached out to the Carbon County Commission for recommendations on the appointments.
The formation of the team comes almost one year after the governor issued an executive order to preserve Wyoming’s wide-ranging migration corridors, which are vital to the survival of mule deer and pronghorn. The order sought to balance the economic needs of landowners and industries too, and was informed after months of discussion led by a statewide advisory group.
In addition to deferring to guidance provided by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the new order called for the development of local working groups to help determine effective conservation opportunities and aid in the designation of new corridors.
By asking local residents on the ground for their opinions on the migration corridors, the state not only receives helpful feedback from working groups, but it also breeds greater investment in the corridors, the governor reasoned last year.
“These decisions really require a careful on the ground look and a balanced approach,” said Obermueller, president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming. “The Game and Fish Department is an excellent professional state agency. They have one mission and they do a great job at the mission. But to make really broad policy decisions that affect way more than just Wyoming wildlife requires other voices.”
Gordon’s unprecedented executive order, signed in February, aimed to establish safeguards for some of the world’s longest known big-game migration corridors, while also preserving economic activity across Wyoming.
“This Executive Order plowed new ground for the nation’s efforts to develop an approach for managing corridors and protecting our economy,” Gordon said in August when he announced he would be forming the first group. “This first local group will also be a leader and I urge people interested in serving to apply, especially those from the Platte Valley region of Carbon County or those who work or recreate there.”
Local working groups for the Baggs and Sublette corridors will also be formed.
Wyoming now has three designated migration corridors — Baggs, Platte Valley and the Red Desert-to-Hoback. But the executive order left open the possibility for other mule deer or pronghorn pathways to become officially designated down the road.
Wyoming is teeming with dozens of identified migration routes. Scientists have come to consider these ancient routes as critical habitat warranting state protection. Wyoming’s abundant sagebrush-steppe habitats coupled with wide open spaces and minimal human disturbances have helped preserve some of the longest intact migration corridors in the world here.
The state’s low human population has also helped conserve big game herds, as several migration routes have remained permeable and connected. Wyoming is home to roughly 400,000 mule deer and about half the world’s pronghorn population.
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