Wyoming is home to a truly astounding natural phenomenon. Every year, mule deer migrate over 150 miles from their summer feeding grounds in the Hoback River Basin and Gros Ventre Mountains to their winter range in the Red Desert. Along their migration path, these ungulates face harsh weather conditions, predators and challenging barriers such as highway crossings and thousands of miles of fencing. It is a remarkable undertaking, with exponentially more obstacles posed to the migration as development continues.
Proposed and recently sold energy leases on BLM land and state lands near the southern end of this migration and other corridors would create additional barriers for the deer to navigate through, further impeding the longest documented mule deer migration corridor. Collaboration between federal land agencies, conservation groups and energy development companies is a fundamental step to ensure the protection of this incredible migration event.
As a state that places immense value on hunting, fishing and countless other outdoor recreation opportunities, we are only as strong as our natural resources that surround us. Economic effects are already being felt as mule deer populations continue to decline, with shorter hunting seasons and fewer licenses being issued. We need strong leadership from our elected and agency representatives to do what is best for wildlife, and for all of us that place tremendous value on our robust wildlife populations.
Strong leadership and collaboration between stakeholders is imperative to protecting our wildlife. Upholding cultural heritage, economic development and ecological integrity is critical if Wyoming is to progress, and deferring proposed energy leases in wildlife migration corridors is a step in the right direction.