The Importance of Protecting the Red Desert to Hoback Mule Deer Migration Corridor

Earlier this month Wyoming BHA member Erik Kramer weighed in on the importance of the Red Desert to Hoback Mule Deer Migration Corridor and the current proposed lease sale parcels located within this range. This is the largest Mule Deer corridor on record, the integrity of this corridor is important for sportsmen and is critical to the health of our Mule Deer population in Western Wyoming. You can read Erik's letter below or by clicking this link. To learn more about this issue you can contact Brien Webster, the Colorado and Wyoming Chapter Coordinator for BHA - webster@backcountryhunters.org

As a sportsman and resident of western Wyoming, I understand full well the significance of the Red Desert to Hoback Mule Deer Migration Corridor. The habitat within this corridor plays a critical role in the health and sustainability of the iconic Sublette mule deer herd. The Red Desert to Hoback is the longest mule deer migration route ever recorded, spanning over 150 miles, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department considers it “one of the most critical mule deer migration routes in the West.” I urge Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to put a temporary hold on BLM oil and natural gas leasing for parcels within this migration corridor and take advantage of an opportunity to protect one of the most biologically and culturally important migration corridors in North America.

The BLM is in the process of revising an outdated resource management plan for the Rock Springs region, which contains a large portion of the Red Desert to Hoback Migration Corridor, including critical mule deer winter range. It is only in the last few years that we have come to understand and officially recognize the importance of this corridor and the many challenges facing the mule deer populations in our backyard. Waiting for the completion of this resource management plan ensures future leasing decisions will be made in accordance to the most up-to-date information and knowledge available to strike a balance between our wildlife and energy resources.

The second reason to defer immediate leasing decisions in this migration corridor is to allow Secretary Zinke’s order, Improving Habitat Quality in Western Big-Game Winter Range and Migration Corridors, time to be effectively implemented. This order was issued in early February, and many of the directives it established will not be fully implemented for another couple of months. Moving forward with leasing before Zinke’s order can be fully implemented could result in a missed opportunity to conserve the habitat quality of one of the longest big game migration corridors in North America.

Waiting for the Secretarial Order and Resource Management Plan to be finalized puts us in the position to effectively manage and shape the future of critical mule deer habitat in western Wyoming. In my opinion this is well worth the wait. When we have the chance to use a quality tool to conserve our wildlife resources it would be foolhardy to opt for the obsolete alternative. Sportsmen have a proud legacy of leading wildlife conservation efforts and we have utilized many different tools along the way — many of them new at the time — and we continue to demonstrate what we can accomplish through supporting effective wildlife management and habitat conservation tools and practices.

Secretary Zinke, protecting the integrity of the Red Desert to Hoback Migration Corridor would be a significant conservation win. Please defer these leases and allow stakeholders the opportunity to work towards a solution that doesn’t compromise critical mule deer habitat.

Erik Kramer

Moose

About Brien Webster