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BLM Defers Leases, Adds Stipulations in Wyoming Mule Deer Corridor
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and Wyoming Governor Matt Mead announced on July 31 that the Bureau of Land Management would defer oil and gas leases on three parcels totaling nearly 5,000 surface acres in southwest Wyoming. The deferrals will occur on proposed leases where 90 percent of the parcel is located within the migration corridor for the Sublette mule deer herd. In addition, remaining parcels that are less than 90 percent within the corridor would have lease stipulations in place to address potential habitat impacts on the corridor. The decision came through federal/state cooperation under Secretarial Order 3362 to improve habitat quality in big game migratory corridors and winter range. The decision was the first action under the order intended to minimize impacts within a state-identified priority corridor.
“Some North American big game travel over a hundred miles on their migration routes every year, and more often than not, those routes traverse Federal, State, and private lands. This is why it’s important that the Federal government work with the State to adjust management and development plans where necessary if they overlap migratory corridors or winter range,” said Secretary Zinke. “By combining lease deferrals, and lease stipulations, we can achieve the right balance on Federal lands. Thanks to innovations in technology, many times resource development can be done with little to no surface occupancy. Balancing the conservation of habitat and the responsible development of resources ensures the best outcome for the people and wildlife that rely on our Federal lands. I’m thankful to Governor Mead for his commitment to my vision for protecting big game corridors and multiple use of Federal lands.”
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) worked with the BLM to defer leasing on lands where at least 90 percent of the lease parcel is within a priority habitat. Within the Sublette mule deer herd corridor there were three parcels that met that criteria and will be deferred from leasing until the BLM completes the Rock Springs Resource Management Plan next year. The remaining parcels that intersect with the corridor will have a special lease notice attached that stipulates that the lessee or designated operator will be required to work with the BLM and WGFD to avoid and minimize impacts to maintain big game migration corridor functionality.
“The Mule Deer Foundation commends Secretary Zinke and the State of Wyoming for working together to develop a reasonable balance between conservation of big game corridors and energy development,” said MDF President/CEO Miles Moretti. “Secretarial Order 3362 called for cooperation between states and the Department of the Interior and this is an excellent example of how the state and federal agencies can collaborate for big game conservation across the West. MDF and our local chapters look forward to working on habitat restoration projects within priority corridors, stopover areas and winter range identified by the 11 western states through the Secretarial Order.”