Treasuring a Wildlife Landscape in Wyoming

The Wyoming Department of Transportation just announced it is spending the state’s general transportation funding on an important series of highway overpasses and underpasses that will reduce collisions between deer, antelope and cars along a busy highway near Pinedale, Wyoming.  This is one part of what I see as one of the most successful examples of a cross-jurisdictional effort to save a landscape scale wildlife need – a migration corridor.

Although there are about 2 million pronghorn antelope in the United States, some herds are more important than others, in particular the herd of a few hundred (and growing) pronghorn that migrate 150 miles every spring into Grand Teton National Park, across a complicated mix of private, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and National Park land.

In 2008, the U.S. Forest Service made history by designating the first National Forest ‘Wildlife Corridor’ to make management of the pronghorn’s migratory corridor a higher priority for Bridger-Teton National Forest.  “This migration is an important part of Wyoming’s history and we want to do all we can to maintain it,” said Kniffy Hamilton, Bridger Teton National Forest Supervisor.

In 2009, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation made a 5-year commitment to help fund the reduction of fence barriers to pronghorn movement on private and BLM lands in the area.

In 2010, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and WalMart, in partnership with The Conservation Fund and Wyoming Department of Game and Fish made the corridor a priority, by funding an easement on Carney Ranch that will keep a key bottleneck in the pronghorn migration route undeveloped and another 19,000 acres of nearby pronghorn habitat was also protected.

Now Wyoming Department of Transportation has let a contract to begin construction of a series of wildlife overpasses and underpasses that will allow the pronghorn to continue their migration without causing accidents and risking human lives on Highway 191.  Once completed, the highway will no longer have the potential to disrupt a many thousand year old migration path of pronghorn and mule deer.

When the Administration rolls out its ‘America’s Great Outdoors’ initiative in January 2011, one measure of its success will be whether we see more collaborative successes like the efforts that have gone into conserving the Path of the Pronghorn.

This post was written by:

- who has written 17 posts on dotWild.

Tim Male is Vice President for Conservation at Defenders of Wildlife. Tim directs a number of Defenders’ conservation policy programs, including Habitat and Highways, Conservation Planning, Federal Lands, Oregon Biodiversity Partnership, and Economics.

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dotWild is the blog of scientists and policy experts at Defenders of Wildlife, a national, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.