ROCK SPRINGS — Outdoor groups argue the Bureau of Land Management and Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments are planning to auction off oil and gas leases that conflict with state-recognized big game migration corridors, including the Red Desert to Hoback, the longest mule deer migration corridor in the world.
Wyoming's migration corridors promote abundance for big-game populations that provide hunting and wildlife viewing opportunities. Sportsmen and sportswomen are concerned about the leases moving forward before adequate stipulations can be put in place to ensure the corridors remain intact and functioning, according to a press release. Seven outdoors groups submitted comments to the BLM and plan to do the same for the OSLI sale. Sweetwater County also submitted comments to the BLM asking for the leases overlapping with Red Desert to Hoback migration corridor be deferred till the Rock Springs resource management plan is finalized, the release states.
Groups including the Muley Fanatic Foundation co-wrote a letter to the BLM Wyoming requesting it defers six parcels until a record of decision is made for the Rock Springs plan.
"Given the resulting impacts of energy development on public land throughout the west, the future management of federal public lands administered by the BLM with important wildlife habitat is of great interest to us -- as our mule deer herds are renowned for world-class hunting," the letter states.
Muley Fanatic Foundation President and CEO Josh Coursey said it is critical to get things right.
"Wyoming has been blessed with incredible wildlife and energy resources, and we need to take the time to ensure we strike the right balance for both to prosper," Coursey said. "Mule deer have been on the decline statewide for years, and we shouldn't be rushing these decisions that have longstanding implications."
"We need to maintain the decision space that we have now," Wyoming Wildlife Federation Policy Director Joy Bannon said. "Governor (Mark) Gordon's advisory group on migration corridors has been announced and meetings are scheduled. The deferment of these leases is the right thing to do until adequate policy can be put in place. Let's allow the state collaborative process to work."
According to the release, the OSLI stipulation for migration corridors creates uncertainty for how much development would be allowed and does not allow for no surface disturbance, even in the most critical portions of the corridors. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department and sportsmen groups have been asking for improvements for months to the stipulation, but OSLI has yet to make any changes.