Wyoming Game and Fish Puts Politics Above Science By Delaying Migration Corridor Designation
By Mountain Pursuit, 4.12.18
Wyoming Game & Fish Department leadership has delayed identifying migration corridors for the Sublette Pronghorn and Wyoming Range Mule Deer herds in response to last-minute concerns raised by industry groups representing ranching, mining and oil and gas.
Mountain Pursuit strongly disagrees with the delay, and urges Department leadership to proceed with identifying and designating these corridors
“The Department’s decision to delay is disturbing,” explained Mountain Pursuit Board President Rob Shaul.
“The Sublette Pronghorn and Wyoming Range Mule Deer Herd migration corridors weren’t created out of thin air,” he continued, “but rather were identified after years of tracking collared animals, thousands of GPS data points, and detailed statistical analysis. The agency announced public meetings and asked for public comment starting in early February. These industry groups were given plenty of notice and time to share their perspectives when the rest of us did.”
“By delaying designation over these last minute concerns from industry, Game & Fish Department leadership has loudly pushed aside hard biological science because of political controversy.”
The Department alone has the authority to designate migration corridors, which is simply mapping and identifying them, under a “Ungulate Migration Corridor Strategy” approved by the Game and Fish Commission in early 2016. Industry and agricultural groups, as well as conservation and hunting organizations, were heavily involved in the drafting of that strategy.
“There is nothing new about the Department following a three-year old strategy to identify where big game herds move between their ranges,” Shaul pointed out.
The Wyoming Game & Fish Department, United States Geologic Survey, and University of Wyoming have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars funding ungulate migration corridor research throughout Wyoming, and the state’s efforts are pioneering the field throughout the West. The Department has already designated three mule deer migration corridors in the state.
Importantly, both herd populations which use the migration routes in question are far below population objective.
According to the latest statistics available on the Wyoming Game & Fish website, the Sublette Pronghorn Herd is 25% below it’s population objective of 48,000 animals, and the Wyoming Range Mule Deer Herd is 23.8% below it’s population objective of 40,000 animals.
“Migration route designation and subsequent protection are key to bringing these herd populations back,” continued Shaul. “Department leadership undercut its own field biologists and other researchers with its decision to delay designation.”
“The Wyoming Game & Fish Department has always prided itself on basing management decisions on science,” he concluded. “This delay jeopardizes the Department’s credibility and sets a disturbing precedent that should worry all of Wyoming’s hunters.”