When Politicians and Biologists Work Together, Wildlife Wins
Wildlife Management in America is often driven by the best available science thanks to organizations like Safari Club International and the Safari Club International Foundation, who operate at the intersection of science-based conservation and political advocacy.
Actions recently taken by Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon perfectly exemplify the positive impact that collaboration between elected officials, wildlife managers, and researchers can have for ensuring the long-term sustainability of wildlife populations. Governor Gordon recently signed an executive order aimed at further protecting wildlife migration corridors throughout The Cowboy State. The order focuses specifically on mule deer and pronghorn antelope, designating three existing corridors for protection in perpetuity while also authorizing the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) to nominate new corridors for designation. The executive order was vetted by the Migration Corridor Advisory Group which was established last May by direction of the Governor. The Advisory Group worked closely with the WGFD, who is responsible for conducting research related to prospective corridors. Under the new EO, after a corridor is nominated for designation by the WGFD, they must pass a review process lead by local stakeholders before being approved for designation by the Governor. Loaded with information from wildlife managers and researchers and input from his constituents, the Governor will hold the ultimate decision on corridor designations.
The corridor designation process is driven by the best available science through the use of GPS collars that provide detailed documentation of individual movements, so the mapping of corridors results directly from how the animals are moving across the landscape. Researchers from the Wyoming Migration Initiative, a collaborative effort among the U.S. Geological Survey’s Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, the WGFD, the University of Wyoming, and many others, compile thousands of data points on a map to assess summer and winter range and, most importantly, the precise corridors delineated by the movements of the various herds year after year. Researchers can also identify patches of habitat where animals linger for longer stretches of time to forage, and the recent EO places more emphasis on protecting these high-use areas along the migration routes.
Ensuring migration corridors remain viable and connected is vital to conserving the states roughly 400,000 mule deer, many of which are migratory. Wyoming also supports half the world’s pronghorn antelope population, significant populations of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, and the second most elk of any state. Maintenance and growth of these big game populations is critical to the world class hunting opportunities the state offers.
SCIF has been providing substantial funding for the Wyoming Migration Initiative since 2017, and the research funded by SCIF is being applied by WGFD collaborators who work on the ground to help shape the management of mule deer and pronghorn across Wyoming, ensuring the populations remain robust enough to provide ample hunting opportunities.
Most importantly, the work of Wyoming's wildlife managers and researchers could provide a framework for increased science-based conservation of big game migration corridors across the country. SCI and SCIF are uniquely positioned to help foster such collaborations. Our organization has government affairs and conservation teams working on issues like this full time. Since 2000, SCI and SCIF have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on conservation projects, research, and political advocacy, cementing our status as First for Wildlife and First for Hunters.
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