CASPER — Gov. Mark Gordon is pulling together a citizen’s group to help find a happy medium between energy and conservation interests seeking regulatory certainty around migration corridors in the southwestern quadrant of the state, his office announced Tuesday.

In a statement, Gordon called on Wyoming residents representing industry, agriculture and conservation to find a state-level solution to maintaining migration corridors for the state’s deer, elk and pronghorn herds on federal lands recently targeted by the federal government for increased oil and gas development.

The group — which will include representatives of oil, gas and mining interests, agriculture, county commissioners, conservation groups and sportsmen groups — will have three months to produce recommendations for the governor’s desk, in an effort to study state conservation policies that “have implications on energy development that need to be understood.”

Gordon noted Wyoming’s pride in its big game and public lands, and he expressed a desire to preserve the state’s natural assets while maintaining its energy and agricultural industries.

“Wyoming is about solutions and our people have shown again and again our ability to find the way to ensure wildlife can coexist alongside responsible development,” he said in a statement.

Gordon’s efforts continue an initiative begun last summer by then Gov. Matt Mead in finding a balance between stakeholders in industry and the state’s non-governmental organizations and the interests they serve, creating a unique opportunity for both groups to develop a cohesive policy in a more collaborative setting.

“There’s been some nuance between what the industry wants, as far as wanting regulatory certainty,” said Dwayne Meadows, executive director of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation. “As the NGO community, we want some regulatory certainty that our deer herds are going to keep going, because we like to hunt and fish and enjoy the outdoors. I think that’s where we’re all at and it’s good that we can all sit down at the table together, because we don’t often do that.”

Wyoming has been at the forefront of conservation for migration corridors, going as far to implement an extensive plan to protect those corridors in 2016.

“We essentially have an operating compromise already that hasn’t really been proven not to be working,” said Pete Obermueller, president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming.

Recent developments in federal land management policy, however, have changed the conditions those plans were drafted under, creating an environment where finding balance is difficult — and often highly controversial. Extensive research from the University of Wyoming’s Migration Initiative has shown that the species utilizing these migration corridors are highly sensitive to environmental changes.

 

By Nick Reynolds

Casper Star-Tribune Via Wyoming News Exchange