Wyoming governor releases new executive order on migration corridors
Gov. Mark Gordon released an executive order to conserve the state’s extensive migration corridors Thursday afternoon during a signing ceremony at the Wyoming State Capitol.
February 14, 2020
Gov. Mark Gordon released an executive order to conserve the state’s extensive migration corridors Thursday afternoon during a signing ceremony at the Wyoming State Capitol. The new order aims to preserve the critical routes used by Wyoming’s migrating big game herds while also protecting the state’s energy economy.
Largely concentrated in southwest Wyoming, migration corridors have for centuries served as vital routes for hoofed mammals like mule deer, pronghorn and elk. But population counts for some of these migratory animals have tumbled. The loss of critical habitat, like migration corridors, has in part contributed to the species’ decline, scientists say.
The governor’s newest executive order enshrines protections for three existing mule deer corridors — Sublette, Baggs and Platte Valley — and provides guidelines for designating additional routes.
The crux of the executive order comes down to how the state formally designates the migration corridors identified by scientists.
Under the new order, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department would identify a potential migration corridor based on scientific data. An in-depth evaluation and risk assessment on the corridor would follow. After opening up the proposed corridor to public comment, the agency would present the identified route to the governor for consideration. Gordon could then launch an “area working group” chaired with local residents and stakeholders before determining whether to officially designate the corridor.
Gordon alluded to the work of the group in his State of the State address Monday, where he announced the designation of a “handful” of migration corridors throughout the state intended to respect the science of migration as well as the concerns of landowners in the southwestern corner of the state, many of whom had seen projects delayed for months — or even years — due to uncertainty over their environmental impacts. This has presented critical delays for the drilling industry at a time when it faces increasing challenges.
In a statement, the Petroleum Association of Wyoming said the order relieves some of that regulatory burden while, at the same time, recognizing that “oil and natural gas production is more environmentally conscious than ever.”
“We appreciate that the Governor meaningfully engaged members of PAW in the process of developing his Executive Order,” the Petroleum Association of Wyoming said in a statement. “We look forward to a thoughtful implementation that recognizes the need for balance and avoids further regulatory creep at a time when the state needs oil and natural gas revenues more than ever.”
In an interview following his announcement, Gordon said the underlying environmental or wildlife concerns that remain in the process will be given their due consideration while still balancing the interests of industry and landowners, whose concerns represented the impetus for the bill.