Published since 1946
Secretary Zinke Signs Secretarial Order Prioritizing Big Game Corridors and Winter Range
On February 9, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke signed Secretarial Order 3362 to improve habitat quality of big game migration corridors and winter range on lands administered by the Department of the Interior (DOI) in the 11 western states. The order, which was signed during the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo in Salt Lake City, Utah, is intended to improve collaboration with state fish and wildlife agencies and private landowners to identify, conserve and restore priority winter range and migration corridors.
“We all know that animals go where animals want to go, and more often than not that’s dependent upon natural features like watersheds, rather than whether land is owned by the BLM, state, or private landowners. We need to manage appropriately. My goal is healthy herds for American hunters and wildlife watchers, and this order will help establish better migration corridors for some of North America’s most iconic big game species like elk, mule deer and antelope,” said Secretary Zinke in a statement. “American hunters are the backbone of big game conservation efforts, and now working with state and private landowners, the Department will leverage its land management and scientific expertise to both study the migration habits of wildlife as well as identify ways to improve the habitat. For example, this can be done by working with ranchers to modify their fences, working with states to collaborate on sage brush restoration, or working with scientists to better understand migration routes.”
The order will facilitate collaborative efforts with state fish and wildlife agencies and non-governmental organizations on conservation and restoration efforts for big game winter range and migration corridors. Together the partners will identify priority areas and work together on a potential range of actions including habitat restoration on degraded winter range and migration corridors (such as pinon-juniper encroachment into sagebrush or wildfire restoration), limiting disturbance of big game on winter range, avoiding or minimizing development activities that fragment winter range or corridor habitat particularly during sensitive seasons, and more. In addition, land management bureaus are tasked with working with state fish and wildlife agencies to use winter range and migration corridor data in the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool when updating land-use plans or for significant projects on federal lands.
“Big game populations have faced increasing challenges during their seasonal migrations and in the crucial winter period, and federal public lands play a critical role in the annual life cycle of mule deer and black-tailed deer,” commented Mule Deer Foundation President/CEO Miles Moretti who hosted the Secretary at the WHCE for the signing ceremony. “While big game species are managed by states, and we have worked closely with western state fish and wildlife agencies in support of their efforts, the Department of the Interior plays a key role in conserving these important habitats on the lands that they manage.”