Flights with Wyoming state officials and Wyoming Wildlife Federation over mule deer migration routes highlighted the importance of managing landscapes in Wyoming for connectivity, and featured sportsmen voices advocating for keeping oil and gas development out of priority corridors.
Part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, western Wyoming supports some of the largest and most diverse ungulate populations in North America. The longest ungulate migration ever recorded in the lower 48 was discovered in 2013 by a group of researchers at the University of Wyoming. Migration routes of mule deer were found to extend 150 miles from the Red Desert via the Wind River Range to its northernmost point of Hoback Junction in the Wyoming Range. The future integrity of these herds depends on their ability to migrate seasonally from low elevation winter ranges to high elevation summer ranges.
With increasing pressures from energy and urban development, these migrations are becoming more difficult. Habitats are being fragmented by roads, well pads, fences and other development. Recent science has found that well pads can have a significant impact on deer numbers, and can disturb migration and foraging behaviors, which has the potential to impact migration routes and herd health.
Existing RMPs do not recognize these migration corridors or allow for stipulations toconserve the associated habitats. Sportsmen and conservation organizations representing thousands of hunters and anglers in Wyoming and beyond are asking that oil and gas leasing within the migration corridors be deferred until RMPs are finalized or amended to reflect issues with critical winter range and migration corridors.