U.S. Forest Service Designates Nation’s First Wildlife Migration Corridor
- Migration Corridor Photo
- Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS
Data from Wildlife Conservation Society helped raise awareness of “Path of the Pronghorn”
NEW YORK (June 17, 2008) – In a recently signed amendment, the U.S. Forest Service established the nation’s first designated wildlife migration corridor to protect the 150-mile round-trip movement of pronghorn in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. This seasonal movement of pronghorn between Grand Teton National Park and the Upper Green River Valley in northwestern Wyoming, which has been studied by the Wildlife Conservation Society over the past five years, represents the longest remaining migration of any land mammal in the lower 48 states.
By adopting the amendment to the Bridger-Teton National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan, the agency assures that future activities on Forest Service lands within the corridor will be compatible with the continued successful migration of pronghorn. Archaeological evidence indicates that pronghorn have traveled this invariant, ancient migration route, which is less than 150 yards wide in some places, for at least 6,000 years.
The amendment was signed on May 31, 2008 by Bridger-Teton National Forest Supervisor Kniffy Hamilton, who said: “With the signing of the amendment, we are pledging to assist the preservation effort of this corridor.” “This migration is an important part of Wyoming’s history and we want to do all we can to maintain it.”
The amendment applies to approximately 45 miles of the migration corridor located on Forest Service lands. The remaining 30 miles of the migration route occur on private lands and areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Conservationists hope the BLM will follow the example set by the Forest Service and pledge to limit the construction of fences, roads, and natural gas wells that could interfere with the migration. On private lands, voluntary conservation easements and construction of wildlife-friendly fences can facilitate wildlife movements.
"This represents a tremendous conservation victory and demonstrates that by working together we can find solutions to preserve our nation’s wildlife heritage," said Dr. Kim Murray Berger, a biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society who has studied the pronghorn migration since 2003. Globally, long-distance migrations are disappearing, primarily due to habitat loss and construction of roads, subdivisions, and other infrastructure associated with extraction of natural resources and human population growth.
Although pronghorn are not endangered, the population that summers in Grand Teton National Park numbered fewer than 200 animals in recent years. Because snow in the park is too deep to allow the animals to survive the harsh winters, obstruction of the migration corridor would result in the local extinction of pronghorn from Grand Teton. The Wildlife Conservation Society is part of a coalition of local, state, and federal agencies, conservation groups, and private citizens that has called for permanent protection of the migration corridor, known as “Path of the Pronghorn,” to prevent the animals from going extinct in the Park.
The National Park Service heralded the signing of the amendment as an important step in protecting the biological integrity of the ecosystem.
“We remain concerned about the long-term persistence of this migration corridor because it is a life link for our pronghorn population,” said Steve Cain, senior wildlife biologist for Grand Teton National Park, who partnered with the Wildlife Conservation Society on the 2003 migration study. “We would not have pronghorn if the corridor became impassible.”
Permanent designation of the entire migration corridor would mark another milestone for the State of Wyoming, which is home to the nation’s first national park (Yellowstone in 1872), national forest (Shoshone in 1891), and national monument (Devil’s Tower in 1906).
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