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Scientists, sportsmen and women explain why seasonal habitat and migration routes for big game species must be conserved.
To survive the varied seasonal conditions found across the West, big game must be able to move freely across the landscape at key times of the year to access nutritious food. Emerging science and recent technologies can pinpoint well-defined corridors traveled by animals during these migrations and measure how much time they spend in certain places along the way known as stopover habitats.
Research also shows that human development can disrupt the normal patterns of migrating ungulates.
Subdivisions, fences, roads, and energy development all contribute to the loss of big-game habitat and impede the migrations of these animals between the seasonal habitats on which they rely.
Like many other states across the West, New Mexico is in the first stages of mapping big game migration corridors with the most up-to-date GPS technology. This research will help guide policymakers as they make decisions about how to manage wildlife and human development.
Join TRCP to learn more about wildlife, habitat, and conservation policy.
BLM, USFS, and USFWS seek nominations from the public for high-priority landlocked or hard-to-reach parcels
Last spring, with the passage of S. 47 – the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act – federal public land management agencies were tasked with identifying parcels of public ground with no access or restricted access and developing priority lists for opening access to those lands.
Once parcels are added to an agency’s priority list, land managers can then coordinate with state and local governments, conservation groups, land trusts, and landowners to open access through voluntary acquisitions of land, road or trail easements, or various other measures.
As our partnership with onX has shown, access to public land can be a huge challenge for hunters and anglers. We found that 9.52 million acres of federally managed public lands in the West have no permanent, legal public access.
Details on how to nominate a parcel are below, but time is running out. Speak up today to strengthen our public lands legacy!
Lawmakers have outlined the below requirements for the agencies:
Reflections from a rookie hunter’s first day afield
When the alarm went off, I had already been awake for 15 minutes. I easily popped out of bed and started layering up. Ed told me it would be chilly and I needed to be prepared for the crisp, fall air.
My butterflies were surprisingly active for 4:00 am. It felt like Christmas morning growing up in Montana, but instead it was opening day in Colorado. And I would need to work a little harder for any gifts that might come my way.
The pickup and trailer were already loaded down with decoys, two different blinds, a sled, extra clothing, and Deke, a chocolate lab who would prove to be an excellent partner in the blind. This was Ed’s 1,000th (or so) hunt, but it was my first.
Earlier in the year, I had mentioned on a work call that I wanted to start hunting and TRCP’s chief scientist Ed Arnett generously volunteered to take me on my first excursion. I was nervous about how this might all shake out, but Ed patiently calmed my nerves in the days leading up to our trip.
After a short drive, we pulled up near the pond where we planned to set up and I asked if I could be put to work. I wanted to know how to do it all. I wanted the experience of hauling the equipment to the spot, wading through the water, setting up the decoys, covering the blind with brush, and sitting quietly as the sun rose.
It was a picturesque morning, and a stereotypical beginning to my first experience in the field. Moments after placing the spread, a HUGE flock of birds flew overhead just before shooting light—so there we sat, still under the blues and yellows of the morning sky, waiting for the next opportunity.
As we waited, Ed walked me through the best way to hold my gun in the blind and what would happen when and if the next round tried to land. There’s something about duck hunting that is quite different than what I understand about big game hunting: It’s more social. Ed and I swapped stories of our experiences outside, talked to Deke, drank our coffee, and waited for the birds to come in.
I was eager to bust out of the top of the blind and take my first shot at a bird. I had practiced by breaking clays in the days and weeks leading up to this hunt. If I had the opportunity, I wanted to make sure not to miss.
As with any good hunting story, there are exaggerations and compressions and extensions of time. So this next part falls into the category of true, but the full story has been shortened so you don’t have to read a play-by-play of two full days in the blind with Ed and me and zero action. (You’re welcome.)
“Ed!” I whisper–yell.
He calmly signals for me to hold. Then, seconds later I hear him say, “Take them!”
We pop up out of the blind. There are three mallards just about to land. I fire. He fires. One drops.
It’s definitely not mine.
Deke retrieves perfectly and my pulse is racing.
There was something magical about the whole experience. I could have been disappointed that I didn’t get my first bird, but I wasn’t. I was grateful to be outside learning from an experienced hunter, feeling an indescribable rush, and taking it all in.
Whatever anxiety I’d felt about taking on this challenge, developing new skills, and putting myself out there had evaporated with the morning fog. The biggest takeaway from my time in the blind was clear: the attention and generosity of a thoughtful mentor can make all the difference in the world.
It was a great reminder that if our community will succeed in addressing some of the most important conservation challenges—hunter recruitment among them—everyone has a role to play, no matter how big or small.
As we packed up the decoys one–by–one, I was thankful for such a rewarding first hunting experience and knew it wouldn’t be the last.
Stresses need for long-term commitment to see the conservation of vital big-game habitats
Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon signed an executive order this week prioritizing the conservation of big-game migration corridors.
The TRCP responded to the directive:
“We appreciate Governor Gordon’s leadership on big-game migration corridors with his Executive Order,” said Nick Dobric, Wyoming field representative with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We have incredible wildlife populations and hunting opportunities in Wyoming, and we hope that the Governor’s directives will help conserve these resources for decades and generations to come.”
During the summer of 2019, Governor Gordon tasked an advisory group of eight citizens—each representing various interests, including sportsmen—with devising a solution for migration corridors that would conserve the corridors while being consistent with multiple uses of the land. After three long sessions, the group recommended the governor could best address the issue through an executive order that would set up a process for more public involvement and limit development in designated corridors, with emphasis on stopover and high-use areas.
Subdivisions, fences, roads, and energy development all contribute to the loss of big-game habitat and impede the migrations of these animals between the seasonal habitats on which they rely. Land-use planning decisions on state and federal lands can have a determinative effect on the function of these habitats. This includes the proposed management objectives in the Rock Springs draft Resource Management Plan that is expected this Spring and will have implications for the Sublette Mule Deer herd, which depends upon the 150-mile migration corridor commonly known as the Red Desert to Hoback.
“This week’s action should be viewed as a renewed commitment, not a final step, to see migration corridors conserved over the long-term in Wyoming. Sportsmen are hopeful that the governor’s directives will be applied to the Rock Springs draft RMP, which overlaps with the designated Sublette corridor,” said Dobric. “We are counting on the BLM to support state management objectives for this deer herd and apply conservation measures that protect its future.”
Many of Wyoming’s big game herds depend on migration corridors in areas that have yet to be formally identified and designated. While the Order does not apply to areas outside of designated corridors, the science does support similar measures to conserve habitats and allow for multiple uses in other areas. Wyoming Game and Fish has been at the forefront in the West due to their efforts to gather the best science to inform their big game management. Years of captures and collaring, funded by sportsmen and others, gives the state a strong foundation for expanding its efforts so that conservation measures can be put into practice on the ground for migrating big game.
“Wyoming has been a leader of migration science, as well as the policy, for over a decade,” said Dobric. “The TRCP will continue to work with the Governor, state and federal agencies, sportsmen, and other stakeholders to implement this Order and ensure the continued functionality of big-game migration corridors.”
Photo courtesy: BLM Wyoming
In the last two years, policymakers have committed to significant investments in conservation, infrastructure, and reversing climate change. Hunters and anglers continue to be vocal about the opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations. Support solutions now.Learn More