Groundswell begins for big game migration protections, wildlife crossings as Governor announces vision

WYOMING — It seems protection of big game migration corridors through the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has fallen on Wyoming more than any other state. Or maybe it’s because the Cowboy State has taken the initiative more than Montana, Idaho, or Colorado.

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon. (Courtesy)

Wyoming leads the nation in research on the migration of deer, elk and pronghorn and in establishing policies for conserving them. But efforts to assist drifting ungulates in their sometimes record-setting seasonal migrations has often bumped up against not one but two separate industries.

Energy and agriculture concerns are often at odds with open space initiatives and other migration protections. But not always. Finding common ground and working together for a solution is what Governor Mark Gordon is hoping for by asking interested Wyomingites to come together to develop recommendations that will improve the state’s policies related to lands that, on the surface carry our treasured wildlife, but its sub terrain holds treasures of its own in gas, oil and coal.

“Wyoming is proud of its mule deer, its antelope, its elk, and its multiple use of public lands,” Gordon said. “Together I believe we must chart a steady course to ensure the state’s ungulate migrations, which are unique in the world, will continue for generations to come while continuing to build strong energy and agriculture industries. Wyoming is about solutions and our people have shown again and again our ability to find the way to ensure wildlife can coexist alongside responsible development.”

For example, Wyoming’s mule deer corridors in the southwest part of the state are the longest in the nation. They overlap public lands where there are key existing opportunities for oil, gas and other mineral resource development, as well as agricultural operations.

Taking the initiative

SOS Wildlife Crossing Swab Rig. (Courtesy)

Already some in the extraction business have stepped up on their own. Just recently, oilfield service provider SOS Well Services, LLC announced it is devoting money and effort in protecting wildlife.

Earlier this month, Chief Financial Officer of SOS Robert Schmid announced his company’s new “Wildlife Conservation Swab Rig.” The rig is boldly wrapped with a wildlife theme to draw attention to the cause, but more importantly a percentage of its annually generated revenue will be donated to the ‘Wildlife Conservation Fund’ in Wyoming.

“We have to make a difference today to protect the future generations of wildlife. With the money donated through the use of this new rig, we are off to good start,” Schmid said

In addition, SOS is teaming up with Muley Fanatic Foundation to raise additional funds. SOS is the main event sponsor for The Upper Green Chapter’s 5th Annual Fundraising Event to be held Saturday May 18 at the Sublette County Fairgrounds in Big Piney.

Why is SOS so gung-ho on wildlife? It’s just the right thing to do and we are all about giving back to the community, said company president Mike Schmid. Mike also happens to serve on the state Game and Fish Commission. The same Commission that recently approved $1.25 million in funding toward wildlife crossings.

In Jackson Hole, the Conservation Alliance has been pushing hard for wildlife. The nonprofit has fundraised for and launched research toward studying wildlife and in particular migration. The group is also advocating for a wildlife crossings initiative to be included as a SPET ballot item in the November 2019 election.

Governor’s vision

Gov. Gordon prefers small groups that work over short time periods. With that in mind, Gordon would like to see one representative each from oil, gas, and mining; agriculture; county commissioners; conservation groups; and sportsmen groups to serve.

These groups will meet in public and develop recommendations in the next three months. The schedule of meetings will be announced when the membership of the group is finalized. Groups and individuals can nominate people to serve by contacting [email protected].

Nominations are due by May 20.

Elk, deer, pronghorn all make seasonal migrations through most of Wyoming.

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