U.S. Departments of the Interior and Agriculture, State of Wyoming commit to enhancing wildlife corridors

h/t Karl Brauneis - Mule deer doe

(Lander, WY) ⁠— On Thursday, the U.S. Departments of the Interior and Agriculture announced their support for the State of Wyoming’s wildlife migration strategy, which is designed to improve outcomes for wildlife, honor private landowner rights, and preserve multiple-use opportunities. The announcement comes as Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland is in Wyoming with Governor Mark Gordon, where they met with local elected leaders in Lander and Tribal leaders on the Wind River Reservation.

Today’s announcement builds on years of successful collaboration among the Interior Department, USDA, and State of Wyoming, to advance conservation on public and private lands to support healthy wildlife populations and a strong economy. In February 2020, Governor Gordon signed an Executive Order to outline a strategy to designate and manage science-based wildlife migration corridors in Wyoming. As outlined in the America the Beautiful initiative, enhancing existing wildlife migration corridors and habitat connectivity is a priority for the Biden-Harris administration.

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“Wyoming is a great model for how to advance collaborative, proactive work to conserve and restore important wildlife habitat and migration corridors,” said Secretary Haaland. “We are eager to further the state’s efforts, and to leverage new and existing federal resources to support Tribes, private landowners, and others in this locally led conservation vision.”

“USDA is pleased to again to be a partner with the Department of the Interior in supporting conservation and restoration efforts of wildlife corridors and habitat in Wyoming,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “By working together at the federal, state, and local levels and with private landowners, farmers, and ranchers, we can leverage voluntary, incentive-based tools to achieve conservation outcomes that benefit producers, landowners, and wildlife. Programs such as Working Lands for Wildlife, the Sage Grouse Initiative and USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program grasslands priority zones covering migration corridors in Wyoming showcase the effectiveness of a collaborative approach for conservation outcomes while benefitting the rural economy.”

“Wyoming has been a national leader in the effort to develop a balanced, science-based approach to managing wildlife corridors,” Governor Gordon said. “Wyoming has always respected multiple-use and private property rights. My Executive Order does that, and this grant program does as well. I especially appreciate that this is a voluntary program that supports private landowners for their important stewardship.”

The agencies announced today $2 million in grants, through the Improving Habitat Quality in Western Big Game Migration Corridors and Habitat Connectivity program, for projects in the West that enhance and improve the quality of state- or Tribal-identified priority big-game habitat, stopover areas, and migration corridors on federal land, or voluntary efforts on private and Tribal land. The grant program, initially established after Secretarial Order 3362, is administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and receives funding from the Interior Department, USDA, and private partners.

Over the past three years, the grant program has awarded more than $9 million to 40 projects on public and private lands across the West. In Wyoming, the program has provided $1.8 million across five grants that will leverage programs like the Wyoming Wildlife Natural Resource Trust for more than $8.5 million in matching contributions to enhance migration corridors. The projects will support more than 4,000 acres of annual invasive weeds treatment, 110 miles of fence modifications, 280 acres protected through voluntary conservation easements, and 33,000 acres of habitat restoration through treatments such as shrub plantings, prescribed burns, and conifer removal.

To advance the state’s Migration Corridor Conservation Strategy, the Interior Department and USDA are committed to leveraging new and existing resources to support sound science and on-the-ground action. The funding announced today could lead to grants that would support the three existing corridors identified by the state’s advisory group: Platte Valley, Baggs, and Sublette. The agencies will also explore ways to better support American farmers, ranchers, and private forest owners in voluntary conservation efforts through existing farm bill conservation programs and other tools, such as the Partners for Fish and Wildlife program.

Wyoming’s Sage Grouse Initiative, Invasive Species Initiative, and Mule Deer Initiative, among others, provide models by which the federal family can coordinate tools and resources to advance good outcomes for wildlife and people.

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